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Resistance is (sometimes) futile

Before I dived back into the stress of Mystery Hunt, I took some time on a Thursday in Boston to check out Boda Borg. In talking about it with friends before I went, I described it as a bunch of escape rooms, but with a strong physical component. This proved to be fairly accurate, but my experience nonetheless wasn't quite what I had in my head.

The labyrinthine facility is a series of "quests." Players have their run of the place; unlike an escape room with a set start time, they can duck into any available quest they like at any time. Each quest is a sequence of at least two rooms; successfully navigating all of them opens up a box with a stamp that teams can use on their logs to prove their triumph. Completion of a room might involve solving a puzzle, completing a test of skill in a limited time, touching a few sensors simultaneously, or, often, simply reaching the other side of the room without touching the floor.

I was part of teams that completed 8.333 of the sixteen quests: Farm, Step Up, Pirates, Platoon, Rats, Dansa Pausa, Coach, all three segments of Quiz Show (Grab Bag, Entertainment, and Sports; I'm counting them as one-third each), and the initial Tough portion of Tough Tougher Toughest. I was pretty pleased with that total, though I'm disappointed a few more eluded us. Rats was probably my favorite, with Platoon being the most satisfying to finally get after repeated failure.

Unfortunately, the quests are unforgiving; any misstep by any teammate will cause a failure, and the entire team must exit through a side door and start all over. Players can try as many times as they like, but frustration and fatigue are bound to set in eventually as teams repeat the same rooms again and again only to meet with failure after a scant few more minutes of struggling. What's more, sometimes we couldn't even tell what caused our failure. I think particularly of the Spider quest. After two fairly grueling rooms, the third room involved negotiating the space without touching the floor. On at least two occasions, we reached the end of the room confident we'd succeeded, only to see the failure symbol on the screen. Motivation for trying again gets sapped quickly when you don't know what you're doing wrong, especially when it takes so much effort just to get back to that point.

Another criticism was about the Quiz Show questions, many of which were very poorly written. Misspellings ran rampant; what's more, sometimes they were genuine mistakes, but other times they were the reason an answer was right or wrong. I recall at least one question that had more than one plausible answer. In short, they really need a solid editing job. Also, a few of the rooms broke while we were in there and had to be shut down temporarily. With so much automation in these elaborate rooms, things are going to break once in a while, but it's still frustrating to waste time on an impossible task.

Overall, though, I had several very fun and very tiring hours there and would recommend it to anyone who likes escape rooms, doesn't mind sweating a fair bit, and enjoys tacos. (Oh, right, did I mention the all-you-can-eat taco bar you can enjoy when you need a break?) Just make sure you get the kneepads. Trust me on this one.

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  1. We posted someone to keep an eye on the monitor and call out the exact moment it turned red, which was helpful to figure out the hidden traps. If I was running the game I’d have an audio alert that gives a clue as to the type of infraction, but the silent red is clearly part of their strategy. (Maybe they like that it creates a screen watcher role?)

    I considered sending them a note “Can we help you make Quiz Show better?”. I like the set design but with those questions it’s the second worst quest (after Step Up).

    Did you figure out Infra or Pirates? We solved both but can’t really explain why; there’s a middle step in both cases that’s a little obscure.

    • For Spider, the monitor in the last room wasn’t visible until you got to the end, so we had to make all that effort before finding out that we’d failed at some point.

      What was your beef with Step Up? Yeah, there’s not much to it, but it’s a nice little exercise.

      We never got past the first stage of Infra. They shut it down later in the day, so it’s possible it was broken while we were attempting it. We did get Pirates with a small hint. I think the room we were stuck on was a bit buggy; we were doing the right thing and it didn’t seem to work all the time.

  2. Actually the silent red isn’t strategic — it’s growing pains. Not all of the sound effects have been implemented yet, but all the rooms should give clear buzzing sounds when you fail and down the road all should have sound effects that turn off as well so it should be clear. FWIW, I’m 95% sure I know why you’re failing in that room of Spider. 😉

    The feedback on Quiz Show is both heard and fair. We’re working with the parent company to get our questions updated as soon as possible.

    Thanks for taking the time to share your experience!

  3. I totally get it…but while we sometimes give hints for early rooms (after someone has tried and is really stuck) we never give them for a room with a stamp. You’d hate me if I told you.

  4. My husband and I are obssed with boda!!! We are currently stuck in the third room of Pirates, the last room of platoon, and the last room in jungle. If anyone could shed some light I’d be more than happy to pass ok some hints 🙂 We have completed, tough, tougher, toughest, Farm, Rock n Roll, Step Up, Dansa Pausa, Quizzical, Spook House, Alcatraz, Roll & Rock, Spider, & Rats 🙂

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