Portal – Experience Maze Rooms’ Impossible

The Premise

Prominent inventor Leonardo da Vinci created a portal into the future. When he died, his work was lost to time. But now we are tasked with finishing his invention and taking the portal into the future, where we will complete the puzzles and return to our own time.

The Impossible Portal

Portal is advertised as being “impossible” on the Maze Rooms difficulty scale, so my friends and I were trepidatious going in. The first room, a Renaissance-inspired chamber for da Vinci and his inventions was dimly lit, making some of the puzzles difficult to see, but many were straightforward and definitely doable. Several puzzles were difficult only because they required jumps in logic that didn’t seem to make sense other than to make it harder for the participants. For example, a logic problem had to be solved in a certain order for it to work; even though we had done the puzzle correctly, the next event wasn’t triggered and we couldn’t move forward without our host stepping in to bypass it.

Once we recreated the titular portal, we were able to move forward into a futuristic room clearly inspired by the Valve Corporation video game. In this room, a station stood in each of the four corners and a massive Companion Cube in the middle of the room. Attempting to make up for lost time, we separated to tackle different puzzles simultaneously. However, the problematic design of the room gave no indication that the puzzles had to be solved in a specific order or progression was impossible. One of my friends spent a good chunk of time on a puzzle thinking he could finish it without help. When we finally got around to solving a different puzzle, it released something that would make his puzzle exponentially simpler and quicker.

The Puzzles

The puzzles of Portal themselves were pretty neat, especially with the two drastically different themes. It was just that the connections between the puzzles and the logistical leaps didn’t completely make sense. We understood the HOW of something but not the WHY. Also, on the positive side, there were no combination locks or lock-and-keys of any kind. The rooms were 100% tech-driven, which was a great surprise. But with a completely technological room, there’s bound to be mishaps, of which there were a handful during our game play. One device simply malfunctioned so we could not get the correct code; another required more force than we were accustomed to using in a “do not use force” room. The ending was also anticlimactic; when the door opened, we didn’t know if it was the result of something we did, or because our time was up (which it most certainly was).

The Role of Game Host

Often, when we talk about escape rooms, we review the theme and puzzles involved. Rarely do we talk about the game host, but they can be crucial to an experience. I have had some game hosts that went above and beyond in helping create immersion (Doctor Bob in The Virus; Hex Room) and I’ve had others that honestly ruined the experience (one host walked us through all the puzzles without us asking for hints). Unfortunately, our host at Portal was on the lackluster side. My friends and I were brought into the room before being told the story, so when our host was talking, we were distracted and already looking around for clues. Our host’s laissez-faire delivery was hindered further by her thick accent (which also made our hints difficult to understand). Without much enthusiasm, she left us to our room. When we were finished with the last puzzle, the door opened and our host greeted us with, “Why are you in the dark?” (At some point the lights got accidentally dimmed, which we didn’t realize.) Instead of a “Congratulations!” upon completing the room, we felt a little chastised for the lights situation. Typically, game hosts celebrate your finishing a room by taking a photo to commemorate the experience; ours didn’t offer. To her credit, our host gave us many more hints than the allotted three, allowed us extra time to finish the room, and went over all the puzzles we had questions about. But a host doing the bare minimum, without very much interest, is detrimental to a guest’s level of enjoyment.

The Overall

Portal was not indicative of other rooms I’ve done through Maze Rooms. I loved both the Jack the Ripper and Vampire rooms at various locations. I was also amazed by a different da Vinci-inspired room. In my opinion, Portal suffered the most from its design and the leaps in logic required to put two and two together to solve the puzzles; some seemed needlessly challenging.

Check out the “impossible” Portal or any of Maze Rooms’ other offerings here.

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