Escape 404: Resistance Review | The sudden outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic has made people sorrowful. Millions of patients were suffering and many of them have left us. The medical staff and volunteers stood up to protect the public, even though many of them were separated from their families for months to stay in the hospitals. Some of them have been infected and have even lost their lives during their work. How would we win this battle? What price would we pay?
Completion Time: 53:00
Date Played: 4th September 2021
Party Size: 2
About 404 Escape
Resistance is one of two current games available at 404 Escape in Selly Oak, Birmingham and is a room based on the struggles of the NHS battling with Covid-19. Getting to 404 Escape is easy enough by car (with ample parking) and the Selly Oak train station is 5 minutes on foot. Not wanting to pursue the responsibility alone, my buddy Atlas came along to take on Resistance.
Have You Washed Your Hands?
We were greeted instantly by our GM James who gave a succinct, yet informative safety speech as an introduction including relevant covid-19 guidelines. He then asked us to surrender our phones into a lock box. Another standard procedure.
The standout experience from this mandatory staple of escape rooms, was the requirement to put a velvet gown on each. These were our invisibility cloaks. The cloaks prevented the NPC (a doctor) from seeing or hearing us in-game. This aspect certainly got me pumped before we were blindfolded and led to the starting room.
An Unlucky Volunteer
The story is; we are a team of reapers who have entered the 404 hospital to locate a medical volunteer who has succumbed to the pandemic’s symptoms. Once found, our goal is to end their life so their soul can be harvested by our boss; covid-19. Yes you heard me right, the virus itself is giving us orders and signing our hypothetical pay checks.
The background music is suitably of a melancholy nature which fit the theme appropriately. There is also a heavy reliance on various voiceover acting for the narrative and one of the puzzles. Whilst the voiceovers are perfectly functional and propel the game’s narrative forward, the acting isn’t all that strong by the collective ensemble of voices, which takes some shine off the immersion and overarching theme.
The decor was on the whole, fairly impressive. There are three rooms in total to explore. The first and second rooms you enter, look and feel like a real-life hospital. The third room encountered is a little weaker decor-wise; a good chunk of the room is bare space, but it’s not a huge issue; it doesn’t take too much away overall.
“I Think We Broke Something!”
Each puzzle was idiomatic and worked well with the overarching theme of Resistance. That being said, the functionality and overall balance need refinement. A puzzle involving electrics (not dangerous!) caused Atlas and I much confusion; the colours of the puzzle were not clear enough to solve without a mandatory hint. We did discuss this with the GM afterwards, and they said they would edit it to make it clearer for future players; which I appreciate.
Side note: we also accidentally broke aforementioned puzzle! Thankfully, the NPC doctor, still in character; noticed the issue and came to our rescue to fix.
The puzzles on the whole, were not overly challenging which matched the 3 star difficulty rating the company has assigned it quite well. The exception to this however, was the ventilator puzzle in the second room, which spiked in difficulty by quite a fair amount; the instructions and method to solve was much more complex than anything else encountered in Resistance. I myself, struggled greatly with this specific puzzle; thankfully Atlas was on hand to complete it.
The Doctor Is In
There are 2 stand out factors in Resistance. The first was the NPC doctor played by staff member Jarrad. He played the part of NPC very well; having enough presence in the room, but not too much that the game becomes focussed upon them. I won’t spoil it for prospective players, but there is a part of the game that involves the doctor which sucked me right in. Big applause for Jarrad’s acting chops on that one.
The second is the sheer risk taken by 404 Escape to create an escape room with a difference. I had the pleasure of speaking to the owners prior to playing and they were very keen on creating games with a message behind them. Considering their future plans, it is a niche they are looking to exploit for their further creations.
Whilst I admire the thought process behind this concept, I’m unsure if it translates well into the fun factor that conventional escape rooms possess. The ending in particular, whilst an interesting idea; is quite heavy, especially when covid-19 is a real, ever-present danger affecting all of the globe. Atlas and I came out of the room feeling quite sullen. I was asking myself “Will players appreciate this? Will they want to feel this way?” The first thing that comes to mind when leaving an escape room should be one of excitement and accomplishment, and unfortunately, I didn’t feel that way when Resistance came to an end.
What Price Would We Pay?
The cost of Survival is at a flat rate of £17 per person for a team of 2-4 players. £2 of each purchase is donated to the NHS, which is a nice touch.
I’m a little torn about the cost however; it’s priced lower than most escape rooms in the area, but I don’t know if it’s of outstanding value on that factor alone. On the plus side, we did receive a free admission voucher each to Meeple Mayhem, their board game café sister company; a 10 minute drive down the road, and a bottle of hand sanitiser, which in this present day, was hugely appreciated.
Another consideration is the age rating on the website; 6+ (under 16s to be accompanied). Considering the strong moral and psychological themes and ending, I’d be cautious in recommending this to a younger audience.
I appreciate and applaud the risks taken by 404 Escape in creating an escape room with a social-political message; the NPC actor and innovation aspects are sure-fire highlights. Unfortunately, I felt that many factors outside of that missed the mark.
If you have an appetite for a thought-provoking escape room with a difference however, this might be worth your time.
Resistance can be booked by heading to 404 Escape’s website here.
404 Escape: Resistance | Review
RussBuilds is an independent escape game designer. Here, he is writing on video games and escape rooms in the middle of the UK.