The Blocks

by InsideOut Escape Games

You find yourself in a mysterious world in the middle of blocks and boxes. Is it a secret storage? Is it a hidden gateway? No one knows! One thing is for sure: you must be in the wrong place. The rumors say people keep disappearing and the blocks change places. You better find your way out before it is too late, it feels like somebody is watching you... Here anything might happen!

From the InsideOut Escape Games website
The Blocks

Review

The Blocks has a time limit of 60 minutes. We failed it, but only by a hair (though we did get many hints) with a group of two.

We’ll admit, we jumped the gun in judging this room. When we walked in and saw a single room with many obvious combination locks, we were somewhat worried about the quality. As it turns out, looks can be quite deceiving.

Although just about all the locks were of the combination, directional or key types, the puzzles we had to solve were nuanced and layered. Most of the time, we couldn’t simply solve one puzzle and unlock a corresponding lock. We also had to take other elements into account and bring them together to get the solution.

It took us a while to find out where to start. We searched the room, then had to deduce our way to getting the first lock open. Not in a frustrating way, we hasten to add. It was almost like an additional puzzle we had to solve first. We did, however, end up setting aside one particular puzzle that would have removed our guesswork for the subsequent puzzles!

Our host eventually led us to that puzzle’s solution with a series of cryptic clues after we kept hitting dead ends, and everything flowed logically with no need for trial and error once we worked it out. There were one or two puzzles where the solution was slightly ambiguous, and could have been resolved in multiple ways. Actually getting the solution wasn’t so much of a revelation as a “but it could easily be interpreted otherwise!”

The room didn’t have much in the way of technology, but that’s not a bad thing. The focus was on the puzzles, all of which had a high degree of thought and polish put into them. Most of the puzzle solutions were based on manual elements, which fit well with InsideOut’s retro look and feel.

The mood and atmosphere were also fantastic, helped in large part by our host’s commitment to her part. The décor also reflected the retro feel, but with a more sinister edge, and the background music fit perfectly. We certainly felt as though we might disappear at any moment!

We should note, there is minimal story apart from the standard “You are locked in this room and must get out in time before you disappear”. As such, there isn’t any theme that the puzzles tie into—it’s pure puzzle solving at its best. The final puzzle, however, brings together the solutions from the previous puzzles into a glorious finale.

…Not that we experienced it. Even with hints, we didn’t manage to complete this room in time, though we were close. We knew what we had to do to get out, but didn’t have the time to do it!

This room will appeal to those who are logical and methodical in their problem-solving, and prefer pure puzzle-solving to figuring out what to do next in the context of a theme or story.

Hint system

Excellent. A combination of slightly cryptic pictures slipped under the door (which get less cryptic if you’re as dense as we are!), and verbal hints from the host through speakers in the room. They knew exactly when we needed hints, and the kind of hints we needed—the clues were never too obvious unless we hit too many dead ends and were on the verge of frustration or our time was running out.

Difficulty

Challenging, though those who prefer pure puzzling might have less difficulty than we did. Puzzles are layered and it’s possible to have 80% of a solution while missing the last 20%.

Skills

None required. All the information you need to solve the puzzles is in the room, though very basic mathematical skills help.

What we liked

Realising that a particular puzzle that seemed to require complex arithmetic to solve had a simple answer if you worked out where to start
-pyko

A riddle that seemed far too cryptic but gave us a facepalm moment when we finally decoded it
-lexi

Visited on 02 Apr 2015 by lexi and pyko

At a glance

A low-tech room done very, very right. Head-scratching puzzles honed to an elegant simplicity, which all come together in the end.

Recommended?

Yes

Pros

  • Smart, layered puzzles that require you to combine a number of elements and have you scratching your head until that “Ah-hah!” moment
  • Atmospheric décor in the room
  • Creative hint system
  • Host who played to the room’s theme even when giving hints
  • Post-room walkthrough

Cons

  • One or two puzzles with slightly ambiguous solutions that just missed the “Ah-hah!” feeling

You will like this if...

  • You want challenging and well-designed puzzles
  • You like your puzzles pure and unadulterated by all that story nonsense

You might not like this if...

  • Story and linear progression of puzzles is important to you

Recommended number

Four people. There are many puzzles that can be solved simultaneously and we felt a bit too rushed with two. That said, the room is small so you’d probably feel crowded with more.

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