“Room Escape” is a genre of casual online game, originating in Japan, in which you wake up in a room and must search for clues and solve puzzles in order to escape it. Kate’s a big fan of this type of game, so when I found out that a live-action version was launching in Portland I snagged tickets as soon as I could.
“Spark of Resistance” (http://www.60minutes.to/) is an interactive game, or possibly a theatrical experience, which takes place in a small room in an industrial space on the Portland riverfront. Up to 8 players at a time are locked into this room, with a 60-minute clock to figure a way out. It was tons of fun and I’d recommend it for anyone who enjoys a challenging puzzle.
One thing that I don’t like about room escape games online is the arbitrary nature of the puzzle. It’s never clear to me why you are in this room or why, if someone wanted to provide clues to help you get out of it, they would be so ridiculously obscure about it. Also, puzzle escape games often devolve into “pixel hunting,” in which you have to click on absolutely everything in hopes of locating the one click point that reveals a hidden clue or tool.
“Spark of Resistance” isn’t arbitrary. You are given a clear plot (involving espionage and paranoia in an oppressive fictional country) and, as you are in a real room made of real things, there’s no pixel-hunting… you use your actual eyes and hands to search the walls and drawers for actual hidden objects. This made it a lot more fun than any online game. The props and devices in the room were well-constructed, engaging, and thematically appropriate.
The puzzles in “Spark of Resistance” are challenging, but not impossible (especially if you are familiar with the conventions of the genre, e.g. no clue applies to more than one puzzle), and the game masters are watching and will provide timely hints if you get stuck. Even with hints, though, we didn’t manage to finish the last puzzle before the 60-minute timer ran out. However, as we came so close, they let us back in and we finished in about ten more minutes. We were told that so far no paying players, and only one team of beta testers, has actually escaped in time — we came the closest of any paying team so far. (The game hasn’t been running very long.)
“Spark of Resistance” is a game for up to 8 players. If you have fewer than that, the remaining tickets for your time slot are available and may be purchased by other people, so if you don’t have a full team of 8 you might wind up playing with strangers. We found that with 8 people in the room we did get in each other’s way a bit, but on the other hand with 8 people we had more eyes on each puzzle, more people looking for clues and objects, and more parallel processing on independent puzzles. I think 6 would be ideal… I don’t think 2 people would have a chance of solving the entire room in time.
If you’re in Portland and enjoy logic puzzles, I’d definitely recommend “Spark of Resistance.”