Project Avatar

By | June 19, 2020

Online, Jun 2020

Rated between 3.5 and 4 out of 5
Toby says:

There are now quite a number of avatar-based remote play games available around the world. Project Avatar is not like the others. For a start, this isn’t an existing escape room adapted for play over the internet; it’s constructed as a new experience designed for this format. More importantly, it’s not exactly an escape room – the creators describe it as a live video game, and that’s a very accurate description.
Our game began with a sequence that gave a run down of how it worked, which was very clear, and also an introduction to the plot, which was not. Something about healing fissures in time and space – it was designed for visual coolness rather than coherence, but didn’t matter much to the game.
Once the game began it rapidly became clear that we were navigating a large space, which continued to expand as we progressed, and which could have become highly confusing. Fortunately the game provided a map that overlaid the view on request, and which automatically filled in as we explored. Similarly, the cluttered environment would have been a nightmare to try to explore thoroughly over Zoom, or even in person – but each room had a graffiti tag telling us how many objects of interest there were to find, and most of the important objects were themselves similarly highlighted.
That might sound like a lot of hand-holding, and by escape room standards it was. It was also absolutely essential to making the experience work well, separating out content from decoration, avoiding what could have been a tedious process of systematically checking every piece of junk we found just in case it was important. In addition to the visual highlighting, our avatar was quite pro-active in encouraging us away from anything unimportant and keeping the game moving. As with many video games, there was a fairly well-defined path for us to follow, and although we had plenty of agency moment by moment, we were expected to follow that path, and were helped in the right direction if we showed signs of getting too far off course.
Not having ever been an escape room that members of the public can enter, the set for Project Avatar is gleefully free of all sorts of practical constraints that normal games have to live with. The environment would never have passed normal health and safety requirements, and our avatar happily broke and smashed his way through obstacles. While that was a cool novelty, that wasn’t what sold me on the game; rather, it was the energy and humour that our avatar brought to his role, playing the part of a computer game character with visceral enjoyment. I certainly didn’t expect this to be a funny game, and yet it was, through deliberate sly self-parody.
It was glossy and funny and confusing and really very light on puzzles. There were only a handful of simple things to solve, with much more of the game consisting of exploration and search (and the quantity of search would rapidly have become tiresome if our avatar had been less entertaining in the way he did it). At several points I felt as much guided by the avatar as in charge of guiding him. A pretty dreadful two-second lag hampered communication, and would have been a much bigger problem except that a lot of the time we didn’t need to convey anything sophisticated, and just pointed the avatar in a direction and let him do his thing. The camera bounce might be a problem for some, though our teammate most prone to motion sickness coped with it fine.
As an escape room there’s not much substance, though there’s a great deal of style. It’s closer to a scripted experience that you interact with to progress than a game you have to solve. It plays exactly how the company describes it – as a video game, but via a live feed instead of a digital world. It’s a different type of experience, and takes advantage of that to do several cool things that you wouldn’t find in a ‘normal’ escape room converted for remote play. The technology was a limiting factor, and the style won’t suit those who put puzzles over visuals – but it’s cool and different and entertaining, and has potential to appeal to some who might not be interested in a traditional escape room. 4 / 5
Pris rated this:3.5 / 5
Disclaimer: We played this game on a complementary basis. This does not influence the review or rating.

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