Uden, Jan 2020
A visit to Kamer 237 presents a small logistical challenge, in that their original game is minimum 3 players and The Concierge is designed for exactly two. I recommend finding a way to do both, such as bringing four people and taking turns even if each half of your group has to wait around while the others play. The venue’s lobby / bar makes a comfortable place to pass a schedule gap anyhow.
Kamer 237’s venue is styled as a hotel, and in The Concierge you’re applying for a job. The briefing informs you that your interview involves demonstrating your ability to run the hotel correctly under time pressure, in accordance with the wishes and instructions of the hotel’s manager.
As with their other game, I have to avoid mentioning some of the more interesting features of The Concierge for spoiler reasons. However, since this is a game for no more than two players, expect to be shown into a relatively small play area. There’s a lot packed into that area though, and it took both our groups a little while to find our feet. In fact, while the puzzles make excellent sense, this isn’t the sort of game that throws you a few easy quick wins to get you started – it expects you to hit the ground running. (My biggest point of confusion was due to not noticing that solving something had caused a change in the room.)
Pre-recorded hints often have the problem of being hard to hear clearly, or not sufficiently flexible to cope with some of the sticking points that teams may get stuck on. Whether through luck or good hint design, I didn’t notice either of those being a problem here. These are definitely not the kind of hints that are doled out sparingly only when the players need them, though. The ‘manager’ is a constant presence watching your progress, with grudging approval or acerbic scorn depending on how you’re doing.
Our host warned us frankly, in the in-character briefing, that our prospective employer was a hard man to like. If you’re feeling stressed then you may find that his needling comments and stern demands begin to grate, but get into the spirit of things and it’s great fun – we decided to respond with servile terror (“Yes sir! Sorry sir! We’ll try harder sir!”).
As a game for a smaller team, it’s perhaps not quite as ambitious than the venue’s first game; but it’s gloriously well designed, full of interesting puzzle mechanisms, and has rather more going on that it might initially seem. While it’s absolutely driven by puzzles, there’s a very strong element of story and character interaction involved too. Both our groups emerged a little frazzled, and I suspect it’s often a fairly stressful game to play due to a combination of a number of things. The puzzle style, the background music, the voice of the sarcastic manager, plus some unexpected wrinkles in how the game proceeds: all can leave you feeling frantically behind time. But although it was a bit of an adrenaline rollercoaster, the game knows what it’s doing, and by the finish I was thoroughly delighted with it.