Peterborough, Sep 2019
If you’ve played a few games at the Escape chain, you might feel you have a good idea of what to expect from the company. Be warned that Buried Alive is very much the exception. It’s a distinctive game built around a specific idea, and your enjoyment will depend heavily on how you get on with the game’s central concept. I don’t think it’s a spoiler to discuss that concept since it’s fairly clear from the website, as well as spelled out in the pre-game briefing, but if you’d prefer to play with zero foreknowledge of the game, stop here without reading on!
The game’s premise is that you’re trying to rescue a friend who’s been prematurely put in a mortuary coffin, before they’re permanently interred. The twist is that one of your group must volunteer to be the person in the coffin, and will spend almost the entire game there, lying in a box with no light.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that one person has to sit the game out waiting to be rescued. Every step of the game is built on interaction between the person inside the box and their teammates outside. The box is also mercifully larger and more comfortable than a real coffin, with a reasonable amount of space to wriggle around, and with a cushion and bottle of water provided. If the entire idea makes your skin crawl you should give this game a miss, but otherwise you’ll probably get on okay with it; and in case of panic, the gamemaster promises a rescue within ten seconds.
I played Buried Alive not long after playing a pitch-black escape room for the first time, and although the play style was quite different, there were also notable similarities. As with that one, solving puzzles is made much harder by the room setup, and as a result there are fewer steps than there would be in a normal game. The puzzles themselves are fairly typical fare for Escape, with padlock codes and several paper-based clues, but the ‘feel’ of the game is quite different – the challenge comes not from solving the puzzles, but doing so under the conditions of the room.
Your experience of Buried Alive will also be quite different depending on whether you’re inside the box or outside, although either way it’s inevitably a game built around verbal communication. For that reason I strongly recommend playing with a small team, preferably with teammates you communicate with well.
As with the pitch-black escape room, my rating of Buried Alive is unapologetically influenced by the game’s novelty factor. The setup is absolutely the most interesting thing about the game, much more so than its mostly run-of-the-mill puzzles (though the crumbling, dusty gloom of the Peterborough Museum vaults helps a great deal too). It’s not for the claustrophobic or for the very nervous, but for those comfortable with the idea, it’s a memorable and distinctively different escape room well worth trying. At least, it is if you’re inside the box – your teammates outside may find it a bit less out of the ordinary.