The Adventure is Real – Agent Venture (Review)

Kara’s Note: This review is brought to you by me! 😀

Location: Your Home via the Magic of the Internet!

Players: 4-5 (We recommend 4 players)

Price: £8.00 – £10.00 (About $9.89-12.36 at the time of this writing.)

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

Your mission, if you choose to accept it…

Theme:

From the The Adventure is Real website:

Become a team of secret agents, and execute a daring heist from the comfort of your own home. ​ With a live cast, and digital clues to guide you, all you need is a computer and phone to play online. Can you and your friends pull together to save the day and expose the crimes of an evil corporation? Every Secret Agent needs a world class support team, and this time, that’s you.

First Impressions:

We were excited to once again partner up with the Escape the Roomers for this heist game! When they emailed us about choosing a character role (with specific tasks that we would be individually doing), I was a bit apprehensive. It was not a game format I have personally played in our recent string of online games, and I did not seem to clearly fit any of the role descriptions we were provided. But, I was determined to do my part!

High Points:

We were introduced to the game by our “on-site” avatar, Agent Venture, who started off by going over all the player roles and setting up the format of the game. To my great relief, the description for my character role – the Hacker – was actually quite on point in creating expectations. We had all received a link to our character’s materials, and after hearing our Agent’s explanation, I found it easy to navigate the files due to their helpful instructions and formatting. I also really appreciated how easy it was to figure out what information was needed on each page and what information from the puzzles would produce the answers my team needed from me.

This was a choose-your-own adventure type of game-play, and our experience was largely guided by our own decisions. This provided quite a bit of flexibility of options, and (after discussing the game afterwards) the creators seemed to have been fairly thorough about the different avenues we could choose. Thus, this game design allows for multiple re-plays if you are interested and want to see the different ways the story can lead.

Of course, this takes a lot of adaptability on our game master’s part, and our Agent Venture turned out to be a fantastic guide. He was crucial to making this online experience immersive and I thought he did a fantastic job. He reacted naturally to any decision we made without seeming to miss a beat, and provided game-relevant roadblocks if we ever came up with something that would not work – all the while staying in character. It is definitely not an easy thing to do! He provided us with some great and funny interactions, and showed us through quite an enjoyable story.

This game design also encouraged (read: required) a lot of teamwork and communication from each player since our characters had distinct sets of knowledge and abilities. Though it was a little bit of unknown territory in the beginning, we quickly realized what type of information each of us had and were able to put our different pieces together to figure out what to do. Our Agent was good at helping to guide us if we need any help interpreting or putting ideas together as well.

I found my character’s role to be quite balanced in terms of playtime and the puzzles I had to work with. For the first two-thirds of the game, our team’s decisions led to a large reliance on the Hacker. I really appreciated the difficulty curve, as I am not used to these type of puzzles and was happy for some simpler ones to introduce and get me used to the solving method. (I do admit needing to screen share on some of the harder puzzles though.) When we got to the last third of the game, I was happy that the Hacker’s involvement became more of a supporting role. Prior to this, most of the Hacker-specific puzzles involved a lot of the same solving method, but the latter puzzles allowed for more varied support to the other characters without excluding me completely.

Agent Venture

Pondering Points:

As all choose-your-own-adventure, roleplaying type of games are, your experience will be – you guessed it – heavily based on your own choices and your character role. While this certainly produces many positives, it is important to keep this interactive design in mind with how it might affect your game experience.

I actually lucked out quite a bit in choosing the Hacker character because I seemed to have the most involvement throughout all the game activities, even if I was just providing support. I think this could have been just as easily something another teammate could have experienced instead if our team had made some different choices. However, given my involvement in the multi-player component puzzles, I wonder if the others could have had more “screen time”, even with the Hacker-heavy activities. Admittedly, it is possible I just took a long time to solve things so the downtime for my teammates was more noticeable. Though, this did give them the opportunity to read over all the materials their characters were given.

One thing everyone missed out on was seeing what everyone else could see in their character’s materials. Of course, I definitely understand why the game is setup in this way (and it helps provide a really great and unique experience!), but as the Hacker I didn’t get a lot of the interesting story information that I think my teammates were privy to. And apparently, had we chosen different routes along the way, we could have unlocked some more fascinating details about the non-player characters. (Though, this does add to the re-playability incentive!) If your team dynamic is compatible with it, I might suggest taking advantage of screen sharing with any of the characters – at the very least at the end of the game to see what type of information each of you are/were working with.

Verdict:

Agent Venture was a fun and immersive game, and provided a great platform for each player to make their own unique contribution. I would certainly recommend them for anyone looking for a outside the box way to connect during the pandemic or across long distances! Book your time guiding Agent Venture here!

8/10 (Great)

Full Disclosure: The Adventure is Real provided our team with a complementary game.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BrainXcape – Room 228: Do Not Disturb (Review)

Location: Your Home via the Magic of the Internet!

Players: 2-6 (We recommend 2-4 players)

Price: $49 for up to 2 devices, $15 for each additional device

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

You may never want to leave!

Theme:

From the BrainXcape website:

Locked in the hotel by a madman. Trapped and tormented me for days Thank god you picked up. Please, tell me what to do.  Help me, HELP ME.

escape-room-nyc-horror-hunted-Hotel-4

First Impressions:

BrainXcape is one of those spots we’ve heard a lot about, and really have wanted to check out, but haven’t gotten the opportunity yet. Luckily, even though we’re stuck at home due to COVID-19, we are able to virtually travel to New York and try out their new virtual escape!

escape-room-nyc-horror-hunted-Hotel-3

High Points:

Room 228: Do Not Disturb has a beautiful set, the same one that is used for their Haunted Hotel live game. In fact, this is one of those games in which we would love to be there live, as the whole experience from a set design standpoint was astounding! This game is completely different from the live version, allowing even those who have visited before to enjoy a brand new run of puzzles and story. The game itself is very immersive, and almost feels like live interactive theatre, as no pre-game rules or briefing was included, and our experience started with the in room avatar reaching out to us for help in escaping his captivity. The avatar was our only line to the game world, with no dedicated game master beyond them, but he assisted in searching the room and helping reveal certain key points by subtly guiding us around. They played an excellent character, though at times I did think it felt somewhat less interactive than we were used to. The inventory system is great, and ties into the immersion of the room as well by also providing some backstory on the hotel, as well as integrating into puzzles seamlessly. Game flow was mostly linear, and it was fairly intuitive, minus some late game interactions, and all the puzzles followed a stream of logic that didn’t fall into the territory of enormous leaps or red herrings. The immersive theatre nature of the game was definitely the selling point however, as most puzzles felt secondary to the storyline.

escape-room-nyc-horror-hunted-Hotel-1

Low Points:

Though the climax of the room was interesting, the game just ended, cutting off our zoom meeting and falling sort of flat overall. One of the best part of escape rooms is having a chat with the game master or owner after to ask questions about the rooms and generally debrief with your team, but in this case, we were suddenly cut off. The puzzles included were fairly simple, and there weren’t a huge amount to work through, so as an experienced group, we blew through the experience quickly. This game, as it stood when we played it, would probably be great for new players, but enthusiasts might be disappointed with the simpler nature of this game. One escape room cliche was used a few times, and wasn’t terribly well clued, leading us to perform a few aimless actions in order to get certain parts of the game to trigger.

Verdict:

Room 228: Do Not Disturb is a fun diversion built specifically for a virtual audience, and we had a fun time working through the puzzles, but I would recommend a few more interactions and some debrief time after the game in order to round out the experience for more experienced players. New players are going to have an excellent time here, but I’d recommend enthusiasts go in with tempered expectations overall. I do think the game is still worth checking out for the story and room design alone, however. Book your time in Room 228 here!

102313406_3177108572309385_5556798459492660616_o

7/10 (Good)

Full Disclosure: BrainXcape provided our team with a complementary game.

 

 

 

Mystery Mansion Regina – Night Terrors (Review)

Location: Your Home via the Magic of the Internet!

Players: 2-10 (We recommend 2-5 players)

Price: $26.25 CAD per person (About $19.33 USD at the time of writing)

Time to Escape: 75 minutes

Sweet dreams…

Theme:

From the Mystery Mansion Regina website:

After finding one of his childhood drawings, Alex is suddenly plagued by nightmares of the “Sleepyman.” Seeking to rid himself of these nightmares, Alex turns to a hypnotherapist.

Playing the role of his subconscious, you will need to help Alex figure out what is causing his nightmares… before it’s too late.

nightterrors1-orig_orig

First Impressions:

Night Terrors was one of those games I’ve had my eye on since first seeing that it was being advertised in one of the many Escape Room Enthusiast groups I’m a part of. The creepy theme and promise of a seventy five minute room is always an easy way to capture my attention!

nightterrors2_orig

High Points:

I was thrilled to find that Night Terrors was designed exclusively as a remote escape game. While a lot of games being offered remotely are existing live games that have been adjusted in order to cater to a remote audience, I’ve not seen very many games of this sort that were built from the ground up to be played online. This ensures that every puzzle is integrated excellently for a zoom call, and the story line is set up brilliantly in order to immerse players within the world of The Sleepyman. From the word go, we became Alex’s subconscious, greeting him when he awoke in his nightmare, guiding him around in order to discover the many puzzles, and disturbing him with eerily accurate Old Gregg impressions. Alex remained in character the full time, delivering an immersive and character driven experience, despite our constant joke cracking, and we had a great time leading him through his nightmare, uncovering old memories, and unlocking the secrets he thought he’d forgotten! Points during the game where Alex recovers specific memories are well implemented, mechanically and thematically, and there were always astounding new surprises to find within the creepy bedroom. Atmosphere is excellent, and ensures that players are kept on their toes, waiting for the next horrific shoe to drop. The climax of the room is fantastic, tying off loose ends and keeping us guessing until the end.

The game flow of this room is astounding, with subtle cluing and excellent gating that ensures players remain focused on the task at hand, while providing an excellent challenge throughout.  There are certainly enough puzzles to keep a team busy for the full seventy five minutes, and while the game is mostly a linear experience due to the nature of online escape rooms, I never felt like there was a moment in which we weren’t engaged. Interactions are insanely clever, with some fantastic thematic touches here and there, as well as a penultimate puzzle that ties together a few bits we thought were just presented in passing to keep things spooky. Even the linear game flow focused through a single GM allows for moments of teamwork, which is always a triumph of design, and honestly, even times where I tried to step back a little to watch others work, I still felt fully involved with the game. A few of my favorite puzzles included small hints as to how they worked, and deducing their importance provided some great moments of revelation! On the whole, working through this room was immensely satisfying, and will remain one of my favorite escape adventures during this quarantine.

nightterrors3_orig

Low Points:

Really, the only thing I can think of we weren’t quite so keen on in this room was there is a particular clue that is somewhat vague, and seemed to communicate one thing to us, when the opposite was true. This led to us spending a fair amount of time spinning our wheels until we finally took a clue to clarify things. We spoke with the owners however, and they seemed interested in clarifying this clue in order to ensure it wasn’t confusing.

Verdict:

I’d love to see the world of The Sleepyman explored more, and would jump at the chance to play another room that relates to this story, as the puzzles were just as clever as the story! Night Terrors is one of the most immersive remote games available to date, and highly accessible to new players while simultaneously delivering a challenge worthy of a veteran group. I absolutely recommend giving this game a shot as soon as possible. Book your time within Alex’s nightmare here!

9.5/10 (Excellent)

Full Disclosure: Mystery Mansion Regina provided our team with a complementary game.

 

 

 

Trapped! – Operation X-13 (Online Review)

Location: Your Home via the Magic of the Internet!

Players:  We recommend 2-4

Price: $59 for the first 2 connections, $15 for each additional connection

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

…we’ll do it live!

Theme:

From the Trapped! website:

You have discovered the enigmatic Cybortek corporation has been developing a formula, known as secret formula X-13, which they plan on using to genetically engineer normal people into killing machines for mercenary groups around the globe. You have learned the secret formula is being stored in their headquarters before it is sent to their secret lab for manufacture. Can you sneak into their headquarters and steal the formula while there is still time?

First Impressions:

We were invited by our fellow reviewers at Escape the Roomers for this, our first full scale live online escape room! We had played a live online escape before with YouEscape and had an excellent time, so we couldn’t wait to see what an actual room would be like to play remotely.

received_2549710622821193070211433944252651.png

Special thanks to Escape the Roomers for inviting us on this adventure!

High Points:

The singular greatest thing about Operation X-13 during our remote experience was, hands-down, our in room Game Master/Avatar, the “Recruit.” The game was a great time on it’s own, but the inclusion of so much personality and character from our GM truly made this room special. He added so much humor to the game, (following even our stupidest requests, up to and including, “parkour that chair!”) subtly delivered in room hints to us via what I started to refer to as “idling animations,” and truly felt as though he was a part of our team. Throughout the experience the Recruit was well integrated, bolstering the story, immersion, and interactivity greatly. Another fantastic thing about this remote experience was the streamlining of the searching elements within the game. While we are naturally horrible at finding things in a room live, we figured it would be even more difficult to uncover hidden objects via a Zoom call. Luckily, the Recruit was able to pull those items together for us naturally, allowing for us to enjoy the puzzling without an arduous pixel hunt. In a time sensitive game that could be made so much more complex by the online element, it was great to have this streamlining present in order to ensure things were only as complicated as they needed to be to present a fun challenge.

trapped-escape-room-operation-x-132

The game flow is fantastic, and while it can feel a bit linear due to the limitation of there only being one camera within the room, this is alleviated via the amazing inventory system, which includes 360 views of each room in the game, allowing players to digitally search for new puzzles and items to look at, even while other things are happening on camera. Puzzles are woven superbly into the world of the game, and everything makes logical sense, with no red herrings or leaps to be found. All reveals and satisfying moments of revelation are just as effective from the comfort of our home as they would be live, and that in itself is a triumph for the designers! Actions that would usually require physical, in game interaction have been streamlined as well; incorporated digitally to allow players the freedom to take these puzzles on individually. There are loads of surprises, and a few interactions we would never have guessed would show up in this sort of adventure, all of which culminate in an immersive experience beyond what we figured to be possible for an at home game. It is obvious that a lot of care has been taken to ensure that this isn’t just an experience hastily put together for an online platform, and every element of the game fits naturally within the remote experience.

trapped-escape-room-operation-x-13

Low Points:

There wasn’t much I could denote as a weak point during this experience. The only minor quibble we had was that the ending wasn’t quite as climactic as it could be, but short of actually being in the room, this experience delivered the feeling of being in an escape room fantastically.

Verdict:

Operation X-13 is an amazing experience for enthusiasts stuck at home, and I highly recommend checking it out! Boasting a fun story, well crafted puzzling, and a truly entertaining in room GM, I couldn’t have asked for a better first remote escape room experience! Book your time investigating Cybortek with the Recruit here!

9.5/10 (Excellent)

Full Disclosure: Trapped! provided our team with a complementary game.