Before we go into the review for Materia Medica, I like to start by giving compliments to one of the best game master we ever had. He’s animated, energetic and super chatty. Even the boring safety briefing at the start was fun to watch with him presenting. We do believe that having an enthusiasted and engaging game master will brighten up an otherwise run-of-the-mill escape. Of course, he followed the SOP to a T, asking us if we need clarification on any puzzles, clues after the game and made sure we’re satisfied with all aspects of the game before we leave, even entertaining us with a we-fie together. We always stress that post-game experience, including a debriefring is very, very important for a good experience. So, Breakout bosses, you found a keeper here! Meet Michael, the star game master for the day (this was the 3rd game we played, on Deepavali holiday)!!
Materia Medica is Breakout’s take on a Chinese theme. We do not get the usual kungfu or Chinese zombie themes here (done to the death already), but a rather bookish theme of Chinese traditional medicine (herbs, acupuncture). We were on a mission to steal the recipe (formula in pharmacy speak) from a renowned Chinese physician, to the greatest meds that will be one cure for all maladies plaguing mankind.
And so we infiltrated the apothecary. Chinese characters filled the game as important elements in puzzles, however, you do not need to understand the meaning of the characters in order to solve the puzzles (just observe the shapes). Important clues are still in plain English. There were less physical puzzles here compared to the Secret of Hocus or the War for Rembrant, so there were less down time for our team mates who were not actively involved in working the puzzles. We do find having too many physical puzzles in a game may be a handicap to a great team experience. A physical puzzle would most likely accomodate 2 players at a time, leaving the other players having nothing to do while waiting for them to succeed. We see the first use of a rope-n-ring trick puzzle here, which is a novelty compared to the usual locks we get. Staying true to the “traditional” setting, you won’t see any high tech gizmos here, but rest assured it’s not all locks and keys. Breakout continues to shine in the aesthetic department, everything felt in place in a Chinese physicians studio, down to that hidden room containing the darkest secret. Although it is not a horror theme, the ending will leave you feeling a little grim. Do pay attention to the seemingly unimportant clues lying around.
We escaped in time, with a less than perfect ending, and hence did not achieve our goals. Yes, you get alternative endings here, with possible failure even if you managed to escape. Remember, the goal is not only to escape.
Going back to the point of debriefing, it seems like SOP has been changed to instead of having mandatory explanation for every puzzle in the game, the game master will only to give clarification upon request and feedback from the players. I like that the game master made a point to ask us which puzzle that needs to be clarified. This will probably save some time from having a full run-down, but we still get the answers that we need.
So, we still had a great game today with Breakout, and we would recommend Materia Medica for all. We felt a little sad now because we finished all the 6 available games from them. When is Perpetual coming….
Image from Breakout.