ESCAPE ROOMS CARDIFF – Press Start

We were waiting eagerly for this room to be ‘released’ for quite a few months – nearly a year in fact! The release date kept getting pushed back, with it finally opening the booking portal around 3 months beyond the original date (I believe). Obviously this meant there was a lot of hype, but did it live up to the expectations…

The team with our imaginary game boards!

The Set

“Press start” is described as the climbing inside an old arcade machine. The set was certainly impressive, although it certainly erred more on the side of a space ship than an arcade machine.

The room was superbly decorated, with high quality decorations and props. Everything felt purposeful and well thought out, and very solid. I definitely felt immersed in the room – as if we had been transported onto a spaceship.

The game

Unfortunately I was less impressed with the game.

For a start, it was extremely linear. We worked out that we only completed 7 or 8 puzzles in total, and although one or two did require some teamwork, for the most part it was frustratingly limiting.

The game also did not get off to a great start for us. There were certainly some teething issues with the initial puzzle. Although we quickly identified the puzzle and what was required, the nuance of how to solve it was not clear, and we were in fact told we had done it incorrectly a number of times, despite it being correct. The puzzle itself was a great concept, but needs a bit of finessing.

We also had issues with the next puzzle – again, we had quickly figured out what was required, but the input location wasn’t clear at all, or even obvious when we had found it. Without giving too much away, this was a physical puzzle that gave no indication that you were doing it correctly until you had already exerted a reasonable amount of effort. Again, I thought this was a good concept, but needs a bit of refining.

The next few puzzles flowed well, with clear links between the puzzle, solution and where to enter it.

However, these puzzles meant we entered the final ‘phase’ of the room with only 17 minutes to go. If the first two had worked better, I predict we would have had at least double that.

The final phase started off as well as the initial room – a puzzle with multiple solutions, but only one of which was ‘correct’. Again, this was incredibly frustrating and meant we wasted a lot of time until we found the ‘correct’ answer.

This was meant to give us a 4 digit ‘code’, but we could only find 3 – leading us to guess the final answer. This should never need to happen in a room. The puzzle after this also triggered the next puzzle before we had completed the previous one, which I take to be a glitch that needs fixing.

However, I did enjoy the final puzzle as it incorporated parts from the whole game, tying it all together nicely.

Suffice to say we did not particularly enjoy our time in this room, and were greatly disappointed. However, credit to the team – the set design was fantastic, and I can imagine it would be a good room once these bumps are ironed out (although probably still too linear for our tastes!). The hint system was also a lifesaver – a monitor which showed picture clues as well as text (although the GM should have been a little more on it with clues at the start!)

Let this be a lesson to everyone – the more Beta testers, the better!

Outside the room

The location has a reasonable waiting area, and the staff are friendly (although not the best at knowing when to deliver hints). That said, our GM acted wonderfully diplomatic when faced with a group of grumpy people after the room!

Accessibility

This room isn’t accessible if you have motor issues – it is up a step of steep stairs, and you will need to crawl to enter the room. There is also a physical puzzle, that certainly requires a couple of your team members to exert some effort!

It is fairly dim in places, and even I struggled to identify some colours in this dim area. On this topic, there are a few puzzles which require you to be able to identify colours, and use sounds to indicate whether you are correct or incorrect.

It also wasn’t the largest room, but had air conditioning to ensure it didn’t get overheated.

Was it worth the money?

We paid £21pp for a team of 4. I don’t think it was worth this for the experience we had – particularly as they advertise a 10% discount for returning customers, and yet failed to give us this when we asked.

Give it a few months, and it may be more worth it.

TL;DR

Pros; Hints, nice staff, set

Cons; Puzzles, linearity, technical issues

2 thoughts on “ESCAPE ROOMS CARDIFF – Press Start

  1. Agreed on all your points – my review of Press Start is up today but in a nutshell I felt it was all style and not much substance. It makes me sad since I’ve thoroughly enjoyed all of their other rooms and I’ve often touted them as the best venue in Cardiff, and I’ve been building myself up for months for Press Start.

    I wasn’t a fan of the final puzzle — in an escape room context, it felt like a bit of a cop out that led to a lacklustre and anticlimactic ending to the escape. We ended up booking a second room at another venue later in the day just so we could capture that feeling.

    I’ve yet to see a tech-heavy room pull off anything more than “looks great, doesn’t play very well”. Give me a combination lock any day!

    Like

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