RATING: 4 Keys RESULT: Win REMAINING: 23:15
I’ve robbed so many banks, yet I’m still broke. You guys, I think I need help managing my money.
Gear up for the diamond heist of the century with your team of professional thieves. It’s a heart-pumping job that must be completed in the cloak of darkness in order to have any chance to enter undetected. Will you be able to escape without a trace and strike it rich beyond your wildest dreams?
It’s no secret that “bank robbery” is one of the more common escape game tropes on the market. Let’s get that right out of the way to start; but it’s equally important to stress that even a less original theme can yield way to a highly enjoyable game from time to time. Thankfully for our team of overly experienced bank robbers, this is one of those times.
What the story itself lacks in originality is made up for by it’s execution – that cloak of darkness mentioned earlier? Well, it’s a pretty big cloak – because it covers the entirety of the Central Bank, shrouding it in the black of night. It’s amazing how immersive things can instantly become by just handing players a simple flashlight and making them rely on it for the duration of their heist. Without question, this is the vehicle by which Central Bank both engages its players and casts them in an active roll of this storyworld. Nothing feels more criminal than sneaking around a bank with only a flashlight in hand to guide the way. Although my attorneys have asked me to stress that this fact is merely an assumption.
At first impression, Central Bank starts off in a modest, rather plain space just outside the vault door. A small window teases of what might be beyond – our epic diamond payload. Naturally though, we’re not equipped to get through such a fortified portal – without, that is, a little help from the secrets kept in the bank manager’s office. Cue our next break-in.
Central Bank quickly opens up into a multi-room experience – in fact, one that occupies a surprisingly larger footprint than that first impression could have ever implied. It’s second room – the manager’s office – is the most elaborate, but still somewhat modest by the standards set by others at the venue.
But herein lies the magic: Fox in a Box shows a clear understanding of the timeless theatrical adage “light it with darkness.” If you’re not familiar, it basically means exactly what it sounds like – darkness makes imperfections literally disappear. Darkness transforms a space, taking it from something that, with lights on may feel bland, but under the guise of a small handheld flashlight is a rich environment full of hidden mystery waiting to be uncovered.
It may sound too easy, but simply flipping off the lights in this room makes all the difference in quality of experience, resulting in a truly immersive – and truly believable environment.
Puzzles are tricky to discuss with this one – so let me start by stressing that we genuinely enjoyed every second of Central Bank. There is no puzzle step that is illogical or lacks intuitive flow from one moment to the next. The game progresses at a satisfying pace, making it a perfect experience for newer players while still an enjoyable one for the more experienced members of your group, like us.
So – why tricky? Well, again, let’s preface by reiterating we really did have fun – but Central Bank’s puzzles, with a few notable exceptions rarely feel like they would organically exist within a “bank robbery” storyworld. Yes, there are a few well-rooted ones dealing with currency and international exchange rates and such – but the majority of Central Bank’s steps are in the “puzzles for puzzles’ sake” territory.
But here’s the thing – in this case, they are really fun puzzles for puzzles’ sake.
It almost feels weird to give Central Bank 4 Keys. We had a blast in this game, and there’s no question that it’s one that remains easy for us to recommend, even as the industry has grown around it over its years. For us, the simple fact is that we uphold a certain clearly set criteria when rating a game – and among those items, story matters. It’s difficult to give 5 Keys, based on our rating system, to a game full of puzzles that do not organically fit within any sort of connected narrative – even if, again, to be clear, they’re highly enjoyable, legitimately fun puzzles.
One might suggest that it’s a good problem to have for a venue when your quote “lowest scoring room” is still so satisfying. Central Bank is easy proof of why we think so highly of Fox in a Box as a brand – because when choosing a game at this location, there really is no wrong answer.
So, yes, we got the diamonds, and escaped into the streets of Los Angeles, dirty stinking rich. Not pictured: I’ve already wasted every penny on waffles and roller coasters. Oh well. Time to rob another bank.
Location: Los Angeles, California
Number of Games: 6
GAME SPECIFIC INFORMATION:
Duration: 60 minutes
Capacity: 6 people
Group Type: Private / You will not be paired with strangers.
Cost: $99+ for 2-3 people (Price varies by group size, minimum 2)