London, Jan 2018
The name of Clue Adventures’ second game emphasises its distinctive feature: it’s a game for exactly two players. Despite apparent demand for two player games there are currently no other London games designed for this number, and the majority of London games list a minimum of three. That’s because smaller team sizes work out more expensive for the players and less profitable for the operator, but enthusiasts in particular will be pleased to have a new option in the city for a team of two. This one places you on the ‘Lizzy Line’ in London’s tube network, solving puzzles set for you by a lunatic threatening to blow up the city.
2 Tickets is located in the same Mile End industrial space as Clue Adventures’ first game. The nature of the building means there’s limited sound-proofing, and I’d wondered how they were going to deal with noise leakage from their adjacent game. The solution used here is unusual: both players wear headphones and a microphone. That not only insulates from unwanted outside noise but also provides background audio for the underground setting, gives a channel for the themed hint system, and advances the story with messages from the madman. It’s a clever idea that I didn’t much enjoy in practice, because it led to communication difficulties when my microphone slipped away from my mouth and because it gave a distracting faint echo of my own voice when I spoke. But partway through we each slipped one ear out of the headphones, and that made it work much more smoothly.
Diving into the game, there was no shortage of puzzles to tackle. It’s a mostly linear structure but there’s a lot to get through – not as much as the vast quantity in Book of Secrets, but enough to give a stiff challenge to almost any team of two. Clues and information relevant only to later stages are available straightaway, but the story-driven structure is sufficiently clear that that didn’t cause any confusion.
That was helped by very clear direction about what to focus on. The game contains two types of puzzles, some deliberately left for you by the bad guy and others where you piece together his identity and attempt to foil his plan. The former are overtly labelled and tend to a ‘brainteaser’ style of puzzle, while the latter aim to be a little more naturalistic. Some items are also marked with a star sticker meaning you should take them with you at certain points in the game; that’s perhaps a little heavy-handed, but it worked well enough.
One of my very few criticisms of Book of Secrets was that I felt the operator gave clues too readily, and they’ve clearly taken that on board: at the outset we were given a choice of three hinting styles. The easiest is where the gamemaster hints whenever the players seem to need it. Enthusiasts may prefer the toughest option where hints are only given on request, or the middle ground where the gamemaster sends a ‘ping’ noise over the headphones to offer a clue, which the players can accept or ignore. It’s great to have that choice and I’d be happy to see more venues taking the same approach. Don’t be over-confident, though – this is not at all an easy game, and getting through everything in the time will be a challenge for almost any team.
The game set had me smiling as soon as I entered. It’s not a huge space and it doesn’t come across as ultra-slick and polished, with some simple laminated paper components mixed in with an array of custom technology. But it’s a fun space that’s clearly been built with a lot of care and enthusiasm, and Londoners will enjoy the decorations familiar from daily commutes.
Number-phobics may be put off by a mathsy feel to several of the puzzles – though some of them require less maths than first appearances suggest. But if that doesn’t bother you there’s a great deal to enjoy, with a wide variety of tasks that combines quantity with several clever ideas and pleasing custom designs, tied together by the set and by a narrative that manages to justify even quite abstract puzzle ideas. If you have a choice of team size I’d recommend the larger scale Book of Secrets over 2 Tickets, but the newer game shares the high quality of its predecessor, and is a great option for a pair of players.