Online, May 2020
This was the first remote livestream escape room I tried, and so I waited awhile before attempting to write a review – with an entirely new format, inevitably a lot of your initial impressions reflect the format not the individual game, and it’s only with some time and some points of comparison that it’s possible to give a useful view of the game itself. That turned out to be a sensible decision, because Fuzzy Logic’s system for running remote games is effective in ways that I only fully appreciated after playing a cross-section of alternatives.
In this game you’re sneaking into that most nefarious of places, a veterinarian’s office, in search of your mysteriously vanished pet. Or rather, your friend the gamemaster is doing the sneaking, while you direct him from the safety of your living rooms.
In all honesty I suspect I wouldn’t be too excited about this game if I’ve played it physically, with the whitewashed vet’s office being a fairly vanilla set design and a set of puzzles based around padlock codes and falling squarely in familiar mainstream escape room puzzle design – although that said, the puzzles were solidly designed with several creative or fun ideas, and it seemed like a thoroughly enjoyable game, just not one likely to make a lasting impression. However, in the new world of remote livestream games it impresses for being run in a way that minimises most of the disadvantages of playing over a video link.
Part of that is their use of the corporate project management tool Trello as an inventory system. That might sound like a curious choice, but it worked remarkably well. Firstly, simply having an inventory system at all makes a huge difference in a remote play game – it allows all players to look at whichever items or part of the room they want to focus on, without having to grab control of the camera and avatar. Secondly, using Trello kept everything nicely organised, meaning I was paying attention to the puzzles not to trying to keep track of what we’d found. And any updates as we opened locks or used items were immediately reflected in the inventory, without needing to refresh the page, keeping it always current. Photos that showed overviews of the room we were in helped further, as did a list of the lock types we had access to.
All of that required a second host in the background invisibly keeping our inventory system in sync with our progress, so it must be a labour-intensive option for the venue, but it paid off in terms of a smooth player experience.
The other factor that really helped was our gamemaster. According to the game’s story he was on our team, the friend who’d drawn the short straw to be the one to actually lead the break-in, and he managed to genuinely give that impression – that he was just another one of us players, albeit one who was a bit clueless and needed us to help him find things and solve puzzles. That made it feel a bit less like I was one step removed and having to inefficiently feed everything I wanted to do through a remote helper, and more like we were solving communication puzzles where the exchange of information and instructions was an intentional part of the challenge.
Remote play is a brand new format and companies are still at very early stages of figuring out what works well and what doesn’t; Fuzzy Logic are an example of doing it well, and I’d happily sign up to play more of their games.
Disclaimer: We played this game on a complementary basis. This does not influence the review or rating.