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Review: Dystopia and Utopia - Make Your Escape, Derby

Introduction

This is the first time I’ve written a combined review for two rooms. That’s because it’s the first time I’ve ever played two separate rooms that are set in the same ‘world’ and can be played back-to-back without a break. We played the dark and dreary Dystopia first before heading into the shining white and bright Utopia. So, I’m writing the reviews in that order.

Click here to skip down to the review of Utopia.

Dystopia

Room Story - from Make Your Escape

Beyond the great dome of Utopia lies a desolate wasteland. Disease has ravaged the population, resources are scarce and, for those still managing to survive, life is hard.

Yet, long condemned to the darkness, the Dystopians have become resilient and determined. No longer will they accept their fate quietly and no longer will the advancements of Utopia benefit only the few.

Besides, they've made some advancements of their own and Utopia might just need them more than they realise.



Key Stats

Room NameDystopia
VenueMake Your Escape
LocationDerby, UK
Date24/03/2019
Escape Time51:52
Team Size3
My Recommended Team Size2 - 4

Review

Dystopia and Utopia were the 4th and 5th games of our escape room weekend away in the East Midlands. Waking up bright and early in the nearby Cathedral Quarter Premier Inn, we headed over to Make Your Escape right in the heart of Derby City Centre to start our day of escaping.

We were greeted by our host in character, dressed in dark brown overalls busily sweeping the floor. After depositing our belongings, we headed into the room to receive our briefing – a tale somewhat akin to The Hunger Games series about our fight for freedom from the Utopian Government as part of the Dystopian Justice Movement.

We found ourselves in the musty entrance hallway outside a flat, with mouldy peeling wallpaper and a neglected feel. Here there’s a fun sequence of varied linear puzzles, revealing more about the Dystopian world and the characters within it. The theming of this area is good and the puzzles flowed really well. We loved the way these puzzles set the background for the game and gave you a great introduction before entering the main game area.

Entering the flat, we found ourselves in a similarly themed space – dark and musty with boarded up windows, filled with electronics and equipment used in the fight for freedom from Utopia. Make Your Escape have done a great job in theming this room and really making you feel that you’re in a dingy apartment as part of some resistance movement.

At this point, the game opens up and becomes non-linear with lots of different puzzles to complete. This was a game where observation was important, and we let ourselves down a few times missing some vital visual cues within the game. We needed a few clues (delivered via a screen) to keep us on track. We also got a little stuck on a puzzle where we didn’t realise we were missing some key bits, drawing some wrong conclusions from the things we had.

We really enjoyed exploring the space and immersing ourselves in the world they’ve created. It’s a great theme and they’ve executed it really well. Depending on whether you choose to play this game standalone or back-to-back with Utopia (which I highly recommend) - you’ll get a slightly different ending to the game. As we played back-to-back, the game ends with you infiltrating Utopia to begin your next game. I won’t say how – but it’s a really cool and dramatic sequence.

Utopia

Room Story - from Make Your Escape

In an alternate time-line, the world is divided between those who have and those who have not.

For those in Utopia, life is good and technologically advanced. Every need is catered for. Every wish fulfilled. Overseen by their benevolent government, the Utopians are protected from the outside dystopian world.



Key Stats

Room NameUtopia
VenueMake Your Escape
LocationDerby, UK
Date24/03/2019
Escape Time49:59
Team Size3
My Recommended Team Size2 - 4


Review

Following an exciting ending to Dystopia, we found our way into Utopia. The host instantly appeared as a different character, welcoming us to the gleaming, clean and polished world of Utopia. It’s a really great start to the game, as you’re fed the lies and spiel from your Utopian host about their perfect world. Having played Dystopia, you’re smug in the knowledge that you can see through the lies.

The contrast between Utopia and Dystopia is stark. Gone are the peeling walls, the low lighting and the feeling of oppression to be replaced by clinical white walls, high key lighting and a general laboratory type feeling. For anybody who has ever played Fallout 4 – think ‘The Institute’.

After a quick brain teaser type puzzle, we headed for our screening, complete with a number of electronic style puzzles that fit in well with the Utopian theme. After a few minutes figuring things out, we quickly found our way into the main space of the room.

The further you proceed in the game, you find yourself getting closer and closer to the heart of the Utopian government and its questionable leader. In the main game space, we took some time to get going as we found the starting puzzles in that space a little bit ambiguous – with information needed for later on providing a bit of confusion about what we needed to do. After some hints, we found our way and entered a steady flow of puzzle solving.

The puzzles in the rest of the game are heavily based around a large central console and feel akin to hacking into a computer system. This sounds like it could be boring and a little static – but they’ve actually managed to get a surprising amount of variety into the game. It also feels very on theme. It wouldn’t feel right rifling through cupboards or unlocking boxes. This is a high-tech civilisation, so it’s right that the puzzles suit this high-tech theme. For larger teams however, it may feel difficult to keep everybody involved. As a three, we were fine.

The pace of the game builds as you work your way to a satisfying and somewhat surprising ending to the game, heading out of Utopia with the satisfaction that you’ve played your part and done some good.

Summary and Ratings

Individually, Dystopia and Utopia are good games. But bringing them together in a joined up, epic 2-hour escape experience is genius. It’s something we’ve never experienced before and we immensely enjoyed. Make Your Escape have done a fantastic job of theming both rooms and crafting a believable world that you feel a part of. Dystopia gives you a perfect introduction to the story of the game, so that by the time you reach Utopia, you really feel that you’re a key part of the action. I very highly recommend that you play these two games and that you play them together, you won’t regret it.

The team were Becky, Daniel and Beth.


Dystopia

Overall We played Dystopia and Utopia back-to-back. Alone this is a good game, but set in the context as a detailed backstory to Utopia it’s a well themed room with great storytelling.
Difficulty The game flows well with clear signposting in most places and well-constructed puzzles. There’s quite a bit to get through though, and we did struggle a couple of times on where to go next.
Fun It was a very fun game from beginning to end. The feeling that you're part of some world and the development of the storyline was why we enjoyed it so much.
Puzzles The game has varied puzzles that often depend on your powers of observation. The puzzles were logical, well-constructed and flowed well. However, there wasn’t anything we’d describe as particularly unique.
Immersion This game is all about immersion. It’s really well themed from the moment you enter to the fantastic ending.
Surprises There are a few nice surprises along the way, with a great ending that definitely ramped up the pace.


Utopia

Overall We played Dystopia and Utopia back-to-back. Alone this is another good game, but played as a sequel to Dystopia it adds a whole other layer to the development of the story.
Difficulty The difficulty level for Utopia was comparable to Dystopia, with puzzles that generally flowed well and made logical sense. We did find that some information was given a little too early and wasted some time for us.
Fun Carrying on the story from Dystopia and seeing the other side was such a fun and cinematic feeling experience. We loved the transition between the two rooms.
Puzzles The puzzles in this game are quite electronic in nature and at times quite static and screen based. But the way they’ve done it makes it fun and well suited to the theme.
Immersion Like Dystopia, they’ve created a space that feels incredibly realistic and well suited to the storyline. You definitely feel that you’re in some creepy government-controlled future.
Surprises Yet again, like Dystopia, the key surprises come at the end of the game and they don’t disappoint.


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