Online, Jun 2020
Elgin Escape’s online game takes you, an freshly-minted and enthusiastic detective, into a boarded up old mansion that was the site of a murder that’s gone unsolved by all previous attempts… which frankly suggests that previous detectives didn’t put in much of an effort, because c’mon guys, the clues are right there. 😉 The creepy setting suggests a possible turn to the supernatural, but this is a murder story not a ghost story.
This is another linear game where each solution unlocks the next puzzle. However, it’s a little more sophisticated than most such games in its presentation and in the way it works, with well-illustrated depictions of the old manor and a system that’s built for team play from multiple locations. Purchasing the game gives you a code that each player in your team may use (and which I believe expires 24 hours after first use). Although there’s no built-in screen sharing or similar, the game keeps all players in sync in a different way: as soon as one player enters the correct solution to the current puzzle, a notification message pops up on their teammates’ screens and a few seconds later they’re automatically moved on to the following puzzle.
I don’t believe I’ve seen that approach taken elsewhere, and it worked fairly well, though of course there’s a risk of it whisking players on to the next stage while they’re still wanting to look at the previous one. I didn’t realise until the end, but the game also tracks which players entered which answers. That means you could play this competitively, with all players racing to be the first to solve each screen and enter its solution.
While the graphics quality is good, the scenery is often just a backdrop, with the actual puzzle content provided on the digital equivalent of a printed sheet; I thought the game was stronger in the steps where you could not just see but also interact with your surroundings in some way. (I’ll admit to struggling early on until I realised that in some places the game allows you to drag elements not just click on them.)
Although the plot is a murder mystery, it doesn’t feature a murder mystery style puzzle – by which I mean, you don’t have the task of constructing a theory for whodunnit based on a complex set of evidence. Rather, solve the puzzles and they’ll give you the murder story. That’s an observation to set expectations not particularly a criticism – I tend to like escape room style puzzles more than whodunnits.
Those puzzles were all self-contained, with the exception of a sudden change of style with one step that unexpectedly sent us outside the game to find answers. I found it a fairly easy game, which made it also quite fast paced. It featured more process than sudden insight – for most of the steps we knew what to do pretty much straightaway (because the puzzle made it clear, not because we’re geniuses), and it was a matter of putting in the work to do it.
I’d recommend this game for beginners more than for enthusiasts, who will find it fairly quick and unchallenging. Still, it’s an inexpensive game and a pleasant quick-fire series of solves to work through; and the unusual team-play system could give it extra legs as an option for enthusiasts who want something they can play competitively.