Price Range: £15 – £23 Per Person
Duration: 60 Minutes
Website: Other World Escapes
Human Sacrifice: 10/10
You are your colleagues are going in search of the mythical Elixir Of Life. Drink it and, presumably, you’ll live forever. Hurrah! To get your hands on the precious substance, however, you’re going to have to dick around with some ancient artefacts and desecrate your way into a Mayan temple. Luckily for you, a previous explorer (whose ultimate fate, albeit unknown, was probably nothing good) has left a series of helpful clues for you to follow… although there is a worrying mention of “sacrifice” in his notes.
That’s the general premise, but if you want a little more detail, Other World Escapes provides a full-on backstory for your adventure on their website. It isn’t required reading in order to know what’s going on when you arrive at the room, but it does set up the world of your adventure quite nicely. The fact that you are emailed an ending to your story based on your performance is a unique and amusing touch.
There is also an overarching story that ties together the various games offered by Other World Escapes. It concerns a mysterious dimension-spanning organisation known as The Syndicate, as well as an abundance of portals. The details are a little nebulous, though. You, as a player, may be being hunted by The Syndicate… or you might be working for them. Either way, the shadowy organisations was kind enough to put together a health and safety video message for you, so perhaps they’re not as malign as they might at first sound.
This game is recommended for two to seven players, and the website warns that teams of two might find it a little tricky. It’s actually not a difficult room, and any competent team of two should be able to handle it fine. Teams of five or larger will probably find that there’s not enough to keep them all occupied during the game, and may end up tripping over one another in some of the smaller areas.
The props and scenery in Mayan, for the most part, aren’t super-authentic. The ancient tablets are obviously made of fibreboard, and nobody’s being fooled by the assorted rubber skulls. In places it does look a little scant, and the use of obviously-modern combination locks for all of the many lock-based puzzles is a little jarring. That said, the presence of a variety of cuddly creatures suggests that Mayan favours fun and laughter over immersion, so perhaps focussing on the quality of the scenery is rather missing the point.
The puzzles are all clever but fairly low-tech – the kind of thing that really could have been whacked together by members of an ancient but intelligent civilisation. Things generally depend on ropes, pulleys, knots and pegs – as well as the aforementioned combination locks. There is a small amount of automation, but this is basically a generation one room.
As well as the usual range of escape room brain teasers, there are a noteworthy couple of physical challenges thrown in to the mix. When it comes to these there’s very little to figure out, and instead you’ll be relying on your aim, co-ordination and ability to work as a team. Pleasingly the physical challenges are all pitched just about right – tricky enough that you have to focus, but not so hard that you’ll spend ages stuck on them. They make a fun break from the more cerebral tasks on either side.
The puzzles in Mayan flow pretty neatly – there’s a fair bit of hunting around to do at the start, but once you’ve scoured the room the puzzles unfold in a logical fashion. It’s linear to begin with, but later on there are a couple of things that can be done in parallel if your team has had enough of one another’s company.
Worthy of mention are two standout moments from the game. The first is a puzzle involving scents – something that I, as an individual with no discernible sense of smell – was wary of at first, but which actually worked incredibly well, and was very satisfying to solve. The second is an interactive moment that arrives near the climax of the game – and which, while it isn’t really a puzzle, is a lot of fun, and definitely requires you to make some decisions as a team.
This game uses some lighting and sound effects, but it’s nothing to write home about. If you’re in the mood for something spectacular though, keep an eye out for Other World Escape’s forthcoming Abyss room, part of which will involve the use of virtual reality.
There is a distinct lack of a visible timer inside Mayan – instead you rely on a quarter-hourly audio cue to clue you in on how long you have left. This doesn’t work particularly well, and the absence of a countdown means that you may well feel pressed for time when you’re not, or unduly relaxed when you have only minutes remaining.
Hints are given by your local, friendly death god in the form of a booming voice from above. They’re straightforward and helpful, telling you what area to focus on without directly giving away the solution. The god in question does have a tendency to chime in a little early when you’re getting things wrong, which can be annoying if you’re one step away from solving the puzzle yourself.
The venue has all the usual facilities, including toilets and a lockable place to stash your stuff. The waiting area is a rather attractive lunar void, although (like most lunar voids) it’s kind of dark and not all that comfortable, so you likely won’t want to spend too long lingering there. Thankfully the game is extremely centrally located in Southampton, and you should easily be able to find food, drink and a friendly pub within a few minutes’ walk.
Mayan is a great room for beginners, and a bit of fun for more experienced players. It’s a standard room, but has a few unique and fun touches. It’s easy enough that most players should be able to conquer it without breaking a sweat.