RATING: 4 Keys RESULT: Win REMAINING: +24:00*
Escapology raised their scenic standards a great bit – for the first room, anyway. Unique game play that dares to breaks the escape room norm definitely gets our attention.
The story of Budapest Express is clear from the moment you step into the room, and stays strong until the moment your game ends. You’re traveling aboard the famous trans-European Budapest Express, when a sudden commotion draws your attention. There has been a murder on the train.
The conductor enlists your help to catch the suspect, urging you to hurry or lose him or her forever when the train stops at the next station in an hour. What follows is a real-life game of Clue mixed with a race against the clock, creating a unique experience for Escapology.
The first room of Budapest Express is without a doubt Escapology’s most beautiful game space. The attention to detail, decor and authentic-style wood work are stunning, and makes huge enhancements to the story-driven flavor of this game.
Unfortunately the following rooms are much less spectacular. Not bad by any means – but much more “standard square box” feel than the epic opening statement. This doesn’t necessarily detract from the game play experience in any notable way, but it certainly does not add to it.
Believe it or not, I don’t entirely view this as a bad thing – but instead look at it as vast, impressive signs of improvement. While not quite ready for their 5th Key just yet, Escapology continues to show major leaps forward in both scenic and story immersion in each new game they open. Based on this – I’d expect them to just keep getting better.
Budapest Express makes clear effort to keep all of its puzzles on theme and consistent with its story world – and while that sounds like an obvious thing to do, it’s just not as common in games as I’d like to see. For that reason they deserve great credit in this game.
Without giving too much away, each puzzle builds upon the murder investigation, and in the end your faced with literally a giant game of real life Clue (my favorite board game growing up!) where you’re tasked to figure out the suspect, the weapon and the location of the murder, but here you’ve also got the added urgency of doing it before the train stops and he or she gets away forever.
One thing to keep in mind that’s a bit different about this game – to stay true to the murder investigation theme – the locations where you find objects can be of importance. Keep that in mind during the discovery phase or you can create a near impossible attempt at success in the end (without asking for hints, at least.)
Budapest Express is without a doubt another huge step forward for the Escapology brand. A clear recognition that story matters, that scenic enhances story and that puzzles should be different from past games the venue has done – it leaves one with excitement to see how the location will continue to grow and evolve into the future.
We were fortunate to be invited to play one of the first beta tests of Budapest Express (hence the asterisked escape time running past 60 minutes – we were told to play through any hiccups that might occur, and we did face a few as any game will in its very first runs.)
With all of their noticeable improvements, there is still one fundamental problem I have with Escapology that I find myself wishing would be changed every time I visit – and the honest truth is it would be the easiest thing to change. Escapology has – at least currently – the single worst hint system of any escape venue I’ve visited. Rather than microphones or radios or monitors or tablets, their staff freely and frequently enters and exits the room during your game, completely pulling you out of the moment and frankly at times causing a huge distraction. At times, they come in for no reason other to say “keep up the good work!” There’s only one other venue in the US I’ve personally seen operate this way – and there’s good reason why others do not. While not quite the single reason Escapology misses their 5th Key, this in truth is certainly the largest that must be overcome to bump the quality all the way to the next level.
That being said, Budapest Express is definitely a game worth playing (as are their other two “newer” games.) Definite improvements continue to be a show from a company who clearly wants to grow and better themselves!
Location: Orlando, Florida
Number of Games: 7
GAME SPECIFIC INFORMATION:
Duration: 60 minutes
Capacity: 6 people
Group Type: Private / You will not be paired with strangers.
Cost: $30 per person