When: 25 July 2015
Team: Four people (three friends)
Location: Park Mall
I have to admit, I was initially a little sceptical about Meltdown. It was organised by an independent group (instead of an escape room operator, for instance) with no public track record, and the introductory puzzles on its Facebook page seemed worryingly simple. But my fears were unfounded. Meltdown – Rescue Mission proved to be a well-paced experience with a good mix of satisfying puzzles.
In terms of format, it’s closest to the Real Escape Game series, with some first-level puzzles that feed into a larger metapuzzle and eventually segue into an endgame. In terms of immersiveness, it’s also in the same ballpark — a far cry from Encounter’s still unmatched The Dormitory.
Yet in taking cues from the REG series, Meltdown also managed to surpass it, in my opinion. My usual REG grouse is that puzzles are unimaginatively placed around the room or handed to us on sheets of paper, with no real sense of place. With Meltdown, you did get puzzle-panels and a question/answer sheet, but the puzzle-panels were incorporated much more naturally into the game’s storyline and setting, and were visually more impressive. The idea of having ‘unlockable’ clues and areas was also pulled off well.
Overall, that was one of Meltdown’s greatest strengths — a faithful and consistent dedication to story and theme. Nothing felt too arbitrary or out of place. But the puzzles themselves were also commendable, varying both in difficulty and skills required, and with some clever twists. The endgame was particularly impressive: rigorous, site-specific, clearly clued, and with an exciting eureka moment.
There was also a semi-optional side-quest, which made my team face the decision of whether to sacrifice a team member for a faster completion time, or just keep at it until we solved it. I thought that was an interesting element, although some other teams managed to solve the side-quest without reaching the endgame, which meant that it probably didn’t add much to their experience.
Perhaps my only real complaint would be that the small room size, although very convenient for puzzle solving, also made it easy for teams to notice what other teams were doing. (I think my team inadvertently tipped off a few others for one puzzle, just based on where we were looking.) But that’s a purely logistical quibble. Meltdown – Rescue Mission was a polished, fun, and satisfying experience, and we’re definitely looking forward to whatever the organisers bring us next. Apparently they might be organising something else later this year…
Result: Completed the mission, with the fastest time overall.