RATING: 5 Keys RESULT: Won REMAINING: 29:36
Boarded up windows in a nondescript office plaza wouldn’t typically be very inviting – and, well, let’s be honest they’re not at all inviting here either, yet they hide one of Tampa Bay’s coolest games.
The year is 1115 and The King of Heves has died in battle. Leaving no heir to the throne but always anticipating this day, a secret chamber was created. Only the noblest and smartest in the land will be able to pass the test and be eligible for the throne. Will you pass ‘The King’s Challenge’?
Once the hourglass turns (literally) the narrative nature of this game is a bit on the light side. Beyond the connection to solving puzzles to prove your worth, at the end of the day you really are just here to solve puzzles. However, Medieval Adventure quickly becomes proof that in rare instances, story can come secondary to a truly fantastic escape gameplay experience.
First impressions – for better or worse – often go a long way with us, and as such, we didn’t have the loftiest hopes for what might lie within Medieval Adventure’s rooms after arriving in the venue’s parking lot to find their business marquee is, in fact, several pieces of plywood stuck into the three windows with “ES,” “CA” and “PE” literally and crudely written across each of them respectively in black spray paint. Needless to say, that’s not the least bit of a professional entry statement for your business, and as such, we expected a rather scenically low quality experience in the game as well.
Thankfully, Medieval Adventure proves you cannot always judge a book by its ratty, beaten-up cover – or in this case by its reclaimed plywood. Vinyl wall graphics lining the space – while not exactly my thing from a design perspective – do help to evoke the mood of stone textured walls. Not nearly as much as texture would, mind you, but I give credit where credit is due for not simply leaving the space as plain white drywall.
The real wow factor here, though comes in the puzzle fixtures – each hand made out of stained wood and actually internally lit, creating a truly elegant feel that both fits the theme while also feels polished and much more high budget than their $14 exterior marquee.
And speaking of those hand made fixtures – puzzles are where Medieval Adventure truly shines, and what earned it the 5 Key distinction. First and foremost, to be fair I should stress the puzzles here are certainly on the easy side, and we finished with almost a full half hour remaining – however – the half hour we spent playing was an absolute blast. Nearly every single step in this game is a physical puzzle.
And while there are some who will argue that a game should always be a mix of mental and physical, and even some others who may not prefer physical puzzles at all, I firmly disagree. I’ve long said that the things that become memorable in an good escape game are the physical puzzles – the ones where you need to build something or move something or turn something. It’s simple human nature that you’re going to be much more likely to remember carrying out a physical action than you are to remember solving a riddle or brain teaser. That’s not to say those types of puzzles are bad or don’t have their place in a given game — simply and clearly that they are typically not what you’re going to go home and tell your friends about.
I’ve said for a long time that I’d love to see a game that is essentially just physical puzzles. Medieval Adventure essentially fits that bill. Every step of this game was fun, enjoyable and intuitive. And to me, the simple truth is that every puzzle was one I eagerly wanted to work on. Oftentimes in games there is what we call the “passing the football effect” where certain puzzles are not suited for certain members of our team, so we pass them on to the one who excels at them while standing back and watching. Perhaps it’s just that physical puzzles are more my wheelhouse, but there was no puzzle in Medieval Adventure that did not engage me from start to finish.
Though the polish of Can You Escape? as an outward facing brand may at times be questionable at best, there’s no denying they have a very solid product in Medieval Adventure. The truth is as a designer myself, the plywood windows were almost low-rent enough to make me say “nope” and get right back in the car. First impressions are of the utmost importance in this industry, and one should always portray themselves and their brand as professionally as possible.
Upon arriving, I certainly never expected to want to return, but the quality of this game has left me eager to learn more about their product offerings. Is Medieval Adventure – which was purchased from TRAP, a successful Hungary-based escape game company and not designed in-house – indicative of the quality of the Can You Escape? brand, or is the spray paint plywood more in line with what you’ll get in their other games? Right now, I honestly do not know the answer to that – but I do know this – even if it ends up being the outlier, Medieval Adventure is a fantastically fun game that is certainly among the best in the Tampa Bay market.
But seriously, please show some pride of ownership by ordering an actual marquee. Please.
Venue: Can You Escape?
Location: Tampa, Florida
Number of Games: 4
GAME SPECIFIC INFORMATION:
Duration: 60 minutes
Capacity: 6 people
Group Type: Public / You may be paired with strangers.
Cost: $28 per person (a minimum of four people is required when booking.)