RATING: 2 Keys RESULT: Loss REMAINING: X:XX
Don’t you just hate it when you go in for a checkup and end up summoning the antichrist?
Our doctor is missing! He went missing a few weeks ago and we haven’t heard from him since. It seems like he got caught up in a cult that obsesses in “unlocking the mind”. Also, they apparently believe in otherworldly monsters that are bent on world domination. Help us try to find our doctor and figure out exactly what’s going on!
Essentially, you’ve gone into your optometrist appointment only to find he’s decided to call out of work due to joining a satanic cult. Man, this is turning out to be a great day.
Over the course of the game, you’d discover how Dr. Gordon Shephard went from regular optometrist to occultist. It was different. It was quirky. It was downright bizarre at times. There’s no denying this was an original story, and not one you’re likely to see anywhere else.
My favorite thing about it was the twist on the ending. If only I’d listened to the instructions given to me in the game to “trust no one,” I might have saved us all from a lifetime of servitude to the demonic forces of evil.
Until Combo & Key, I’d never seen a game that utilizes the reception area as an escape room, and it’s very clear why. This was one of the few games I’ve played by myself, which was pretty much as awkward as it sounds. However, I can’t even imagine how much more awkward it would have been had there been people getting information or signing waivers staring at me while I struggled to solve puzzles from behind the caution tape that divided the area that was “in play” from the lobby itself. While it’s understandable to want to utilize as much space in your location as possible, a physical wall and door into a game shouldn’t be a suggestion, it should be a requirement.
For such a large office, the room was also relatively empty, including a few drawers, a locker unit and two desks. While nearly everything was eventually used, some extra decorations to make the area look a little more like a doctor’s office and a little less like a kindergarten classroom wouldn’t have gone amiss.
For an optometrist, Dr. Shephard had a glaring lack of any sort of eye-related tools or equipment. Even the chair pictured here (which was used on the venue’s website) was notably absent from the game itself. The only evidence I could find of the good doctor’s practice was a case for contact lenses and a container of artificial tears.
The second room (which, it should be noted, required you to walk through the lobby to get to) was even more barren, containing nothing but the game’s final objective and way more blacklight writing than I ever cared to read. I’m sure it had something to do with the story, but to be honest, at that point in the game I really didn’t care.
On one hand, I got to watch–and actually dissect, frame by frame–a creepy video of someone walking down a set of stairs into a long, dark corridor that reminded me of the ending for The Blair Witch Project.
On the other, I decoded no fewer than three pictograms and also had the pleasure of adding, subtracting and multiplying numbers that were found in several different children’s books.
Most frustrating of all, however, was a “dual puzzle track” system which both lead to the same place. This meant that there were several puzzles I never even saw or solved. I was afraid I had skipped several steps and had to resort to asking my game master for assistance, only to be told that I didn’t need to worry about them. While a neat trick on the surface, I can imagine this caused a lot of headaches for players who were busy solving unnecessary puzzles when they were quite nearly out of this nightmare.
Prior to playing at Combo & Key, I was intrigued by their focus on the stories of their rooms. While it’s no lie that this game did indeed have a unique story and many puzzles that logically connected to the narrative being told, there were simply too many glaring issues to earn it a higher rating. Thankfully, the owners seem to have known this, as this game is no longer operational. Fear not, though! Dr. Gordon Shephard and his demon baby live on in a sequel game.
There’s really not much to say that hasn’t already been summed up in the sections above, but I will say that The Case of the Missing Doctor was the worst scenic design I have ever seen. I have been to enough mom and pop locations to know that it is possible to set up amazing games on a budget. There is simply no excuse for a sparsely decorated room that struggles to tie back to its theme. While the desire to tell a unique and compelling tale is clear, completing forgoing everything else in the room because of it is unacceptable.
Combo & Key describes themselves as a pair of people with a passion for escape rooms. In the future, I can only hope that they show the same amount of fervor while decorating their rooms as they do with crafting their stories.
Venue: Combo & Key
Location: Beaverton, Oregon
Number of Games: 2
GAME SPECIFIC INFORMATION:
Duration: 60 minutes
Capacity: 6 people
Group Type: Public / You may be paired with strangers.
Cost: This game has permanently closed.
We thank Combo & Key for inviting us to play this game. Although complimentary admission was generously provided, that in no way impacts the opinion included within this review.