Online, Nov 2020
NorCal Escapes closed the remote version of Condemned 2 a couple of months ago, shifting back to in-person play; I got to play it as a one-off thanks to the TERPECAs voting season. However, it sounds like they may begin offering it again, depending on the lockdown situation, and if they do then you should take the chance to play this excellent game while you can.
It’s called Condemned 2 because it’s a sequel. Apparently in the original game you were escaping from a puzzle-obsessed maniac; in this one you’re imprisoned by his equally murderous acolytes. Before the game started our host offered us a choice of difficulty level – which is always a good sign, though curiously the two options were described as guaranteed victory or zero hints no matter what. Our group agreed pretty much unanimously that we actually prefer something between those extremes, and the host was entirely willing to accommodate – if you’re offered the same choice, don’t feel constrained to only the two options offered.
Condemned 2 has a 75 minute time limit. This is a reduction from the 90 min in-person version, but it feels packed with a bumper load of puzzles, a flurry of solving that keeps presenting you with one new section after another. When played in person it actually uses a split start, which naturally can’t be used for remote play; however, they’ve reconfigured that structure very cleverly to make it work for this game style. Some of the more physical or skill-based puzzles have been removed, but in some cases replaced with new ideas and surprises that take advantage of the remote format.
I thought our host handled the avatar role very well; for example with a task involving physical assembly, he hit the right balance between not waiting for painfully detailed directions and not just doing it all himself. It helped that there was a separate cameraman, whose silent presence was unacknowledged and I suppose technically immersion-breaking, but easy to suspend disbelief for.
While this game is far more about the puzzles than the horror, there’s a certain amount of gore and threat, so I guess might not suit players who hate that kind of thing. It’s an easy recommendation to most others though – with the exception of players living nearby, since although the remote game is excellent I suspect the physical game would still be my first choice. Oh, and if you do play remotely and beat it, ask your host if you can be shown the failure death sequence.
Disclaimer: We played this game on a complementary basis. This does not influence the review or rating.