Online, Dec 2021
The second of only two Christmas pop-ups I played this year, An Elfin Mistake is available for in-person play, but since I didn’t have the chance to nip over to Wales I played it as a remote avatar game; and on careful consideration, that might actually be the best way to play it.
Like many play from home games, this one uses the Telescape platform. Avatar games began using that as a digital inventory system, to help players keep track of items they found and allow them to view those items more closely. Here there aren’t so many items to keep track of at once, and the platform is primarily used to add interactivity to the game, with a number of puzzles solvable digitally. We also entered all padlock codes into the Telescape interface, often getting digital versions of whatever we’d unlocked before our host had released the physical items.
That might make it sound like the digital elements led the gameplay, but that wasn’t how it felt to play – thanks to the energy and exuberance of our two hosts. In full elf costumes, they were a non-stop flurry of jokes and laughter, and ensured the experience was lively fun throughout. I recommend treating this game as silly fun rather than efficiently rushing through it; we messed around to the point that we came within a few seconds of falling it.
It hits plenty of familiar Christmas themes running through its series of puzzles, with no grating logic leaps. It would have worked well played in-person, especially one particularly physical puzzle – but I suspect it may work better online nonetheless. That’s partly because of very skilful digitisation, managing to minimise the frustrations of avatar play and give players as much control and agency as possible, but mostly due to the excellent hosting, which added a whole lot of fun and giggles.