Location: Your Home via the Magic of the Internet!
Players: We recommend 2-4 players
Price: $60 for up to 4 players, $15 per additional player
Time to Escape: 60 minutes
From the Red Lantern Escape Rooms website:
The year is 1988. You and your high school pals are trying to find out what happened to a classmate who’s gone missing at Hardin House—you know, the house with all the locks and puzzles? The house where a famous archaeologist disappeared without a trace a few years back? The house where people see strange lights and hear odd noises? What could possibly go wrong!?!
I’d seen references to The Hardin House Mystery around some of our usual Facebook group haunts, and it seemed like an interesting take on the escape room genre. With photographs of what looked to be a 70s or 80s style home, and an audio based set up, I was interested to see how Red Lantern Escape Rooms approached this genre of at home game, as we’ve only played a couple other of this type before. We were joined by Lee Ballan, creator of one of our favorite lock down experiences, The Pyramid, and we were looking forward to puzzling through this mystery with him!
The Hardin House Mystery started off with a quick tutorial about how we were going to interact with the game during our adventure. Basically, this game is set up like a somewhat more audio visual Dungeons and Dragons session, but without the dice. A picture of the house or the room of the house we were in would be displayed, and we could ask our Game Master to search whatever we tagged on screen, and as we located pivotal items or areas, a yellow circle would appear to let us know what it was, and sometimes would zoom in on particular points. We could also find hidden easter eggs, which, for us, became a highly entertaining, and often times hilarious obsession! The stage was further well set by including great background sounds and an 80s soundtrack to die for! The whole experience reminded me of one of my favorite Point and Click adventures of late, The Displacement, in that this game uses photographs of real places to deliver a superbly plotted and puzzle heavy experience. Our Game Master’s GMing skills were brilliant, and his enthusiastic descriptions and willingness to improv and play in the space with us was much appreciated. In fact, in true tabletop RPG GM fashion, he was flexible rewarded our crazy ideas when they made good sense. Another game this reminded me of was Gone Home, as the exploration of the titular Hardin House and the slowly evolving story line were a lot of fun, and incredibly interesting. Bits of foreshadowing abound, and each reveal is more satisfying than the last!
Puzzles are great, using each room to their fullest, and hiding clues in plain sight to great effect. The game is mostly linear, with each room tasking players with finding all the important areas and items, which then require some outside the box thinking and puzzling in order to make the connections and arrive at the fantastic ah ha moments that led to opening the door to the next room! All interactions were highly intuitive, and the difficulty curve ramps slowly up, allowing for some easy wins at the beginning for players to find their footing, but introducing some challenging and superbly clever end game puzzles later. Though the game is linear, we traveled through the experience at a good clip, never feeling like any one thing took up too much of our time. Overall, The Hardin House Mystery is easily our favorite audio based escape room we’ve experienced thus far!
I really don’t have anything critical to say about The Hardin House Mystery. The game went off without a hitch, and our Game Master was brilliant. We had an awesome time, and afterwards couldn’t come up with one low point.
I can certainly say without a doubt that The Hardin House Mystery is the most well designed and perfectly implemented audio escape room we’ve done so far! From start to finish, we were engaged with the story, puzzles, and a unexpectedly joyous hunt for easter eggs. I recommend checking this one out without reservation, and am certain absolutely anyone can have a fantastic time within the mysterious Hardin House! Book your time unraveling the secrets of this 80s adventure here!
Full Disclosure: Red Lantern Escape Rooms provided our team with a complementary game.