Online, Jun 2020
By the time you read this, the game will be only bookable on request, if it’s still available at all, since the venue has emerged from lockdown and shifted back to normal in-person bookings. The game appeared largely unchanged from its original version though, so even if remote bookings are retired entirely it will remain available for players in Florida.
The theme is detective noir, with a dead starlet in Hollywood, and you need to break into the main suspect’s office and rifle through until you find incriminating evidence – with the first challenge being to get inside.
As with many of the games currently available for remote play, the way the gamemaster handles the game makes an outsize difference in how enjoyable the experience is, and at least on our play-through Tinseltown benefited from a skilled host who navigated the room in character and guided our camera viewpoint well. His pre-game briefing instructions also struck me as particularly clear and helpful.
There’s no inventory system, and I’d have expected that to be detrimental to the experience, doubly so since we were playing with a large team of five and the game was quite non-linear. However, although I do think a good inventory system would be an improvement, I didn’t particularly find that it suffered from not having one. That may be because our group was proactive at scribbling down notes and sharing screenshots of items, though.
Under the glamorous premise this is still a game set in an office, and in most respects the decor isn’t going to blow your mind; and the puzzles are primarily (though definitely not wholly) a classic padlock-based style. Still, they flowed well, with the stumbling points generally due to things we’d missed not to logic weaknesses, and I liked the design of several of them. Games vary in how convincingly the puzzle content is blended into the setting and the story. Tinseltown has its fair share of puzzles that are placed in the game purely as puzzles, but it also has several clever puzzle ideas that, even where they resolved to padlock codes, were clued in a more naturalistic way.
What really worked well about Tinseltown was its style, in the way it managed to evoke its setting, not just with the story and the gamemaster’s characterisation, but with the whole look and feel of the game, which managed to convey a sense of being in an old movie even when on the far side of a video feed. That was the most stand-out thing about it; but it was also well designed and well run throughout, with a good finish to the game.