Online, Sep 2020
Omescape’s game has you up against a murderous serial killer, who is also one of the world’s leading artists. If that sounds strange and incongruous, well, this is a strange and incongruous game – in all the best ways.
I’m going to avoid describing some of the most important features of the game, because it’s more fun to discover them while playing. In fact, if you’re the type who prefers to know as little as possible about a game and I’ve already convinced you to try this one, then stop reading here and go make your booking. I played it with no idea at all of what to expect, and it was all the better for it.
For those who like to have a bit more of an idea what a game is like, the main thing that I think is reasonable to state up front is that it’s actor-led with elements of immersive theatre. If possible you’ll want at least some people in your team who enjoy off-the-cuff interaction with actors. In that respect it’s similar to 60out’s Miss Jezebel, though without the raunchy content. In fact, there are significant similarities, including the premise of infiltrating the house of a murder suspect and also the gleeful out-of-the-box originality of puzzle ideas. There are even what I strongly suspect are a couple of deliberate nods to that game as hidden Easter eggs.
However, it’s not simply an imitation or knock-off of Jezebel. Omescape’s game has some highly distinctive innovations of its own, and could only exist as a remote avatar game – it simply couldn’t be run for an in-person team. Again, you’ll need to play it to find out why. I can say though that it managed an unusual level of tension and immersion – I was genuinely nervous about attempting some actions and about the risk of getting caught, and found myself making suggestions that clearly couldn’t work in the escape room context but which made sense in the narrative situation.
Assassin Artist is far more scripted than you might notice while playing it. It didn’t feel scripted – in fact, it felt like we had wildly more possible actions available to us than normal, and were being encouraged to go off the deep end with our brainstorming. Afterwards, in retrospect, it turned out that the crazy ideas we’d had that had actually worked were broadly the same crazy ideas with which other teams had solved the game. But during the game itself, I had the exhilarating sense of being unconstrained by normal expectations about what was sensible – while also finding that many of our weirder ideas worked.
It has to be said that Assassin Artist is also one of the most expensive remote avatar games currently available, depending on your team size, and I’m sure that’ll put many players off; there’s an argument that no game that’s played through a computer screen can be worth that price tag. Which is fair enough; but this one has a much better chance than most of changing your mind about how involving a livestream game can be, and as an experience I’d recommend it ahead of a great many physical rooms. The creators have clearly played a number of other top recommended remote games, learned from them, and added in some great ideas of their own; it’s this sort of evolution of the format that suggests that remote play games will be an interesting sub-genre even when everyone’s playing games in person again.