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.