|Game experience: GOOD
| A nice variety of puzzles
The two game modes (collaborative or competitive)
|No immersion in the classical sense|
The escape café “Bledard-sur-Seine” is a recent creation by “Happy hour escape game”. It has a very unique format in the world of escape games, with puzzles arranged across six large boxes, that you have 90 minutes to solve. Each of those boxes illustrates a specific location appearing in the comics “Bledard-sur-Seine” by L-Kim, that describes satirically a small imaginary suburb from Paris; and the walls of the rooms are also decorated with graphics from the comics. Solving each box will give you some insight into the organization of Bledard-sur-Seine, that you have to assemble together. Drinks and light snacks are available for you to enjoy while you solve the puzzles.
Because of this special format, immersion is not really a relevant parameter here. This does not mean that it is totally absent: the whole thing is unified by this general Bledard-sur-seine theme. However, you do not play a role, and the room does not pretend to be something else than what it is, therefore the game does not aim at immersing you the same way as a classical escape game does.
Happy Hour’s classical escape games (such as Professor Zoltan’s virus or Police Academy of Palamento city) tend to include a large variety of fun manipulations, sometimes only loosely related to the theme of the room; this escape café is, in a sense, the natural outcome of this style when you deprive it of its most immersive elements: there are many varied puzzles – more than in any escape game I have played! The puzzles are quite fun, and it must have been an interesting and challenging exercise to design puzzles with the constraint of fitting them in a box. Note that a couple of puzzles are actually directly imported from their other escape games – but the large majority of them are different. Surprisingly, given the reduced format, there is even some searching involved! (yes, in a box)
We had a pleasant welcome and the gamemaster, although not playing any Bledard-related role, was friendly and attentive, and he helped us a couple of times to make sure we would not become frustrated when stalling on a puzzle.
You can actually play the room in two modes: collaborative (everyone playing together), or competitive (e.g. 2 players vs. 2 players). We chose the latter, and I’m glad we did so: independently of the competitive aspect, there were more puzzles to find for each of us. Once you finish a box, the gamemaster will reset it so that the other team can solve it. My teammate and I solved the boxes in 60 minutes, and the other subteam beat us by 5 minutes – the gamemaster gave 2 hints to each our teams.
Because of this variety of format, there are several ways to play at the escape café: at a relaxed pace while enjoying a drink and some snacks; or trying to solve all the puzzles as fast as possible. Needless to say, since we were playing in a competitive mode, we did not take many breaks!
As much as I value immersion in escape games, I find it interesting to experiment new formats, and we all had a fun time solving those boxes. Paradoxically, although this game breaks some classical codes of the genre, it can be a good introduction to the world of escape games, making you discover many classical mechanisms without the disorientation of a whole different atmosphere under stressful time pressure. Thus, it would be adequate for beginners who want to discover at a relaxed pace some classical mechanics of escape games; but also for experienced players who want to discover a new format, and maybe turn it into a competition. Also, because of the transportable format of the boxes, it is ideal for companies who want to move their escape team building activities in their own office.
Interestingly, this format pushes the boundaries of the definition of “escape game” or “escape room”; indeed, there is no “escaping” here, and no simulation of a “room”, but rather a collection of puzzles to solve. So maybe it could be called a “puzzle game”? But you might object that some “escape rooms” also do not require to escape, but rather to solve a mystery. So maybe such escape rooms should be called “simulationist puzzle games”, where the escape café would be a “non-simulationist puzzle game”? If you have any insights on the question, do not hesitate to share!
Game tested in April 2018
You can find here an interview (in French) of the creator Martine Pick Lakshmanan