Online, Jan 2020
This venue appears to have a remarkable location – Casa Loma is a rather splendid Toronto mansion used as a location in a dozen different movies, and it’d be quite a place to go play an escape game. Playing remotely via avatar meant we missed out on most of that, though as far as I can tell the game’s physical location is there beneath the mansion.
In the game’s story you’re guiding your avatar into a long-abandoned spy base, to investigate a mysterious signal that it’s just started emitting. Since this base is supposed to have been closed off for decades, the game is more or less a World War II setting as far as the props and decor are concerned, despite being officially set in the present day. Although in fact part of the base is an old tailor’s shop, meaning a surprising amount of the game was based around that theming – which was unexpected, but added variety and was nicely done.
Station M was notable for how much random bric-a-brac was present in the room – and for how they managed to avoid that being a distraction. Needing to sort through mounds of knick-knacks and distraction items can be off-putting in a physical game, and could be much worse when you’re bottlenecked by the camera window; but the venue have a system of marking items of interest with a red ‘M’ symbol. That arguably reduces immersion, but is very much worth it for the clarity it adds; and it meant the game could use a relatively cluttered environment without it getting in the way.
Our avatar was energetic and nervous (in an in-character way), though sometimes seemed a touch too stubbornly in need of our direction. The Telescape inventory was mostly used well and eased gameplay, though had a minor annoyance I’ve seen in a number of remote games: that’s where you have a set of items, each with a piece of information, all of which needs to be used together. Players usually end up clicking into and out of each item repeatedly before giving up and transcribing the information to paper, which introduces unnecessary friction and distracts from the main part of the game, where if playing it person it would be easy to arrange the items next to each other to make the information easy to extract.
The narrative was present in the gameplay, though could have been easy to overlook had the intro video not set the scene; and our host’s acting helped connect the puzzles into a story-based experience. The result was a solid and enjoyable avatar game.