I've seen the film and read the book of The Shining but I don't have the T-shirt. I do have the escape room game though. Escape Rooms in real life are amazeballs. The physicality of them is immersive and the rules of the game are clearly set by the environment. It's a hard act to replicate with cards and tokens, and yet the Exit and the Unlock Games have had huge success with this. They play with the rules of games as we know it in interesting and thought-provoking ways... mostly. You see, occasionally a puzzle is a bit too obtuse, a bit too much of a stretch of logic. They include hints and tips though so it usually pans out. How will the Outlook Hotel fair? Here's Jonny (Nick) to let you know!
Look at them Shine
Opening The Shining presents you with a lot of envelopes containing more components to be opened when the game instructs, some cards, two cardboard standees and some room tiles. The quality of components is average to poor, with the standees being particular cheap cardboard. You handle these a lot, in theory, so it's noticeable.
These standees will very much be the focus of your attention as they detail the actions Wendy and Danny can take, and provide part of a code you will be able to look up in the storybooks. Wendy can 'use' and 'look' and Danny can 'look' and 'shine' but it won't be long before Danny can 'shine' through his mother, Wendy's, eyes too. Each of these actions has a single digit number printed on the base of the standee. When you want to look or shine you simply place the standee in front of the three-digit number printed on the tile or card. Using items is similar but you will instead be combining two cards and/or tiles with the standee to create your number.
It's a clever system that leaves no doubt as to the areas and items that can be interacted with but in practice, I found myself simply working out the codes rather than physically moving the standees as intended.
Shine Bright Like a Diamond
The Shining is at it's best when the narrative and puzzles combine to present logical solutions to the drama unfolding in the Outlook Hotel. Unfortunately, The Shining has very few of these moments. In fact, I confess that I didn't even make it halfway through the game. But, how then Nick, you say, can you review The Shining, having not even completed it. Good question which hopefully the rest of this review will address. In short, however, this is a one and done game. It can be reset but all the puzzles and their answers remain the same. I spent most of the alleged 90 minutes per act on the so few puzzles that I felt thoroughly demotivated by it all.
Part of the thrill of escape rooms is, at their best, they make you feel clever. Even when you need a hint there is a head-slapping as you realise how clever the puzzle was and how you 'should have' got it. In a thematically fitting twist, The Shining had me smashing an axe through doors in frustration.
I'm no genius, but I'm not entirely without wit, yet The Shining's tasks gave little guidance and when they did the guidance was riddled with mistakes too. At one point I looked up a hint to be presented with a paragraph that made no sense to my place in the story. A quiet trip to Board Game Geek showed this was one of many typos. This can be frustrating in any game, but in a story-driven escape room, it's literally a waste of my time.
Fittingly my experience with The Shining was horrific. It's a real shame as the system seems like it could work really well and I hear good things about the Scooby Doo version. But here at the Outlook Hotel it's pretty grim, and not because of the blood-filled corridors and driving snow. Without the satisfaction of the puzzles, the cleverness of the standees wears off pretty quickly as you start to notice more things you might have ignored.
If there hadn't been previous successful escape room style games maybe this could be forgivable but even this series has got it right in the past. It's hard to recommend The Shining to anyone but die-hard fans of the IP or escape room games, that have played everything else. Even then it's with the caveat you check the file on Board Game Geek that lists all the errors. You literally need too.
While my overall impression is not great I did enjoy the parts of the story I read, but I get the feeling that if they were surrounded by a more capable game then I may find them forgettable too.