RATING: 1 Key RESULT: Loss REMAINING: X:XX
In space, no one can hear you scream. Which is lucky for your game master, because this room is really going to put that theory to the test.
While in space during a simple extraction mission, you and your crew find yourself stranded on a lost ship. Something is wrong, this is not just a simple mission… and you most definitely are not alone.
Pandorum’s story doesn’t give you a whole lot to go on, which arguably builds the suspense of the room as you try to find out just exactly what went wrong. Essentially, you’ve found a ship, you’ve decided to board it, and there’s no crew to be seen.
If you’re not going to give me much to go with at the beginning, I’m expecting a lot to be revealed as I play through a room. The vagueness of the backstory given to you on the website and in the pregame video, however, doesn’t give way to anything more than a simple jump scare during the entire course of the game.
Unfortunately, the story of Pandorum doesn’t have any sort of twist. Or resolution, for that matter. Since most people will find themselves unable to even get to the part of the game where any semblance of a story appears, allow me to sum up your journey through Pandorum into five words:
Crew got eaten. You leave.
For what it’s worth, the scenic quality of Pandorum is certainly the best part of the room. Well, the second room, to be precise. Most of the gameplay takes place here, and it really does look like a hallway on a spaceship. Closer inspection, however, reveals that much of the decorations are pre-made vacuform panels. From a distance they look great, but when you start feeling around and getting up-close and personal (as this game forces you to do), they’re less than impressive.
While it is nice to see some of the continuity from room to room (the placement of doors and the trails of blood on the floor), I do feel like the other rooms of the game were left rather bare. This holds true most of all in the final room of the game, where a little use of screens, buttons and keyboards could have gone a long way.
Unfortunately, I was not at all impressed with the “cause” of the crew’s disappearance. Ordinarily, I scare extremely easily, and the reveal of this particular jump scare did absolutely nothing for me. It didn’t move. It didn’t make noise. We didn’t need to kill it or get away from it. Instead, you open a door, and it’s just… there. For lack of a better term, it felt extremely anticlimactic.
Let me be clear: There is nothing wrong with a game being difficult. I have not escaped from rooms in the past, but still enjoyed them. However, when our time ran out in Pandorum and our game master generously allowed us to continue playing, I simply sat on the floor and hoped that my teammates would be able to finish it on their own. In the end, our team of four needed several more clues and prods in the right direction to complete the room, which took us an extra twenty minutes or so over the allotted hour.
Coming from someone who regularly complains about games being too easy, I was excited to step into the world of Pandorum. While I was promised a challenge, however, I mostly found frustration. Don’t get me wrong; Pandorum certainly had some difficult puzzles. Some, I even enjoyed. Unfortunately, they were overshadowed by some truly horrendous–and downright unacceptable–design choices.
The largest problem of the room is its lighting. An abandoned spaceship is, of course, dark, which is why you are given (and must find) light sources as the game goes on. The problem comes, however, when you are instructed to only use the red and green lights on your headlamps. This seems like an innocent enough request at first, until you get into the meat of the game and begin to realize that more than half the puzzles and locks in this game use color codes. As a whole, we spent at least ten minutes of our time simply trying to figure out what color various props and stickers were. Is it white? Is it yellow? Is it orange? It’s difficult to tell when they all look the same thanks to your red light. The worst part of all, however? The reason behind the ban on white light is due to a design flaw that allows you to see a code without solving a puzzle simply by shining your light onto it.
Another major design problem comes with a puzzle that has you match pieces of soundwaves to a larger key that you hold in your hand to tell you where four color-coded blocks go. Not only was this puzzle not working properly when my group played (our game master had to come in and open the lock for us), but I also discovered multiple correct answers for the puzzle, depending on which parts of the soundwave you used. Unfortunately, this turned a puzzle I might have enjoyed into one we struggled with for well over ten minutes.
There is a fine line between challenging and tedious, and essentially every puzzle in Pandorum crosses into the realm of the latter. In the first room, you will have the riveting task of combing through multiple sheets of paper to find no fewer than three codes for locks in the room. Not only was this task so monotonous that we sat on the floor to do it, but after finding one crew member’s “code”, we simply started punching in every four-digit number we could find on the papers into the locks rather than do the calculations ourselves. Guessing was, unfortunately, a repetitive theme for this room and a “tactic” we were forced to use rather often due to how few players we had an how many steps some puzzles had to them. Many of the puzzles simply didn’t warrant the time or attention needed to solve them, especially when they went to things as easy as toggling switches that could only go in two or three directions.
Pandorum, to me, feels like someone tried too hard. There was far too much much focus placed on making the room difficult, rather than making sure it was fun for the players. It’s sad to see The Escape Company’s Orlando location struggle to create a quality product that matches what was promised when they first opened, especially knowing that many of its owners and employees are fans of Escape Rooms themselves.
I wouldn’t classify any other room at The Escape Company in the same vein as Pandorum. It seems like the quality of each room has gone downhill since they first opened, making me wonder just what’s going on behind the scenes at the location. I’ve seen many venues get better as time goes on. The Escape Company is the first I’ve seen get worse.
In the end, Pandorum’s flaws are simply inexcusable. I cannot recommend this game to anyone in good conscience until its many, many flaws are corrected. In its current state, there is simply nothing fun about this game, even for those of us that have been looking for a challenge in the Escape Room market.
Venue: The Escape Company
Location: Orlando, Florida
Number of Games: 5
GAME SPECIFIC INFORMATION:
Duration: 60 minutes
Capacity: 8 people
Group Type: Public / You may be paired with strangers.
Cost: $32 per person