Combining the escape-room prowess of SCRAP with the gaming colossus that is The Legend of Zelda series, Defenders of the Triforce finally landed in London last weekend after months of touring the world’s premier cities. Themed after one of the best-selling games in the series, Ocarina of Time, Defenders of the Triforce poses teams of six heroes against one another in a race to find the Master Sword and defeat Ganon. Unlike the traditional escape room set-ups, Defenders of the Triforce serves more as a role-playing adventure puzzle, hosted by a group of characters to aid, assist, or just amuse you.
It’s no secret to those who know me that I am a huge Legend of Zelda fan. The intricate, dynamic narratives and the impeccable ability to pair pure, lighthearted joy with challenging, dark themes are historically characteristic of the series and have fascinated audiences worldwide since their inauguration in the ’80s. My prejudice and admiration are important to note, as affect aspects of the reflections of both myself and my team.
As a group of five, we had a good deal of variety in terms of experience. None of us had previously attempted an escape room, and only three would call themselves real Legend of Zelda fans. One member, in fact, knew little more than the name of the protagonist. This, however, did not impact the experience as much as one may think. Ultimately, the main downfall of our team was the desire to rush through things and to beat other teams.
We were initially taken aback slightly by the sheer number of tables, as around 30 were dotted around the Islington Assembly Hall set-up with a binder and stationary. Surrounding said tables were several booths – Zora’s domain, Kokiri forest, Gerudo Village and a pot-smashing range. Upstairs in the grand circle of the Assembly Hall was also the temple of time, which adventurers visit later.
To an extent, the experience was really let down by the venue. A bar with barely covered beer taps and a blue chiffon-sheathed Zora’s domain certainly isn’t how many fans picture Hyrule, but for an experience touring so many countries in such a little time, there must be great difficulty in securing more suitable premises. It’s definitely something I would recommend to future organisers, though.
We donned our green caps and settled in to watch the introductory video, presented by an enigmatic Sheikah host. Whilst cheesy, it was a wonderful opportunity for fans to share a moment of nostalgia, and for newcomers to understand what the Legend of Zelda is all about. Finally, we were ready to start our journey.
An adventure through time
The scrabble of plastic sheets erupted across the hall as my team scattered the given resources across our table. As well as several square puzzle sheets relating to the first clue we were tasked to solve, we also found a rupee bag and an instruction sheet. These first few puzzles were certainly not hard to complete, but we immediately realised this may not be the conventional ‘find and retrieve’ structure often found in escape rooms. Instead, we were tasked with riddle after riddle, which, after solving, would reward us with Rupees or quest items.
This familiar RPG system certainly encourages players to forge onwards with their journey and having the chance to interact with the cast as you solved puzzles added to the role-playing feel of the event. However, whilst some actors were committed fully to their characters, there were other lacklustre performances which impacted further the immersion.
As the quest continues, the clues and puzzles become increasingly abstract and cryptic, never straying too far off the beaten path…
As the quest continues, the clues and puzzles become increasingly abstract and cryptic, never straying too far off the beaten path, however. An incredibly commendable and well-thought out element of the whole experience is how the much loved time travel feature of Legend of Zelda games was brought into a real-time, real life experience. Without spoiling too much, adventurers must use the powers of the Ocarina of Time in order to accomplish certain tasks.
Once the hour is up and the (mostly) successful heroes have returned to their seats, the show-master reveals the solutions. Mumbles of “I told you so” ripple around the audience until only the sword-wielding heroes still stand. The lights dim, and the presenter wields a full-size Master Sword, making the plastic blades we hold seem comically benign. Finally, the ultimate battle of Ocarina of Time begins.
In the cheesiest of moments, the winners all thrust the final blow into Ganon’s final form, Ganondorf. Overlapping the following scene between Zelda and Link is an incredibly poignant new dialogue, which felt like a clear ode to real-world politics and society, giving a palpable boost to the departing guests.
There are some serious pros and cons to this experience. On the one hand, the immersion is flaky at times, the execution impacts the experience significantly, and somehow the seemingly low prop budget makes the ticket price seem somehow excessive.
But, on the other hand, there are also some incredible feats and features which elicit pure joy. Reaching into the magically puppeteered Jabu-Jabu’s mouth to retrieve the next puzzle. Smashing pots against a target in a Goron firing range. And, of course, raising the Master Sword from its pedestal.
All-in-all, the experience was definitely worth it, and my team had a lot of fun. Were the tickets slightly cheaper or the venue slightly better, it would definitely be worth its weight in rupees, however.