Online, Sep 2020
Interest in play-from-home remote experiences seems to be holding up; and companies continue to find new variations on escape game format. This Manila-based company’s approach is new on me: it takes what’s essentially an old-school Flash-style escape-the-room computer game, and runs it as a team game over screen share with a live host.
Before booking this it’s best to be clear on what it and is not. It’s not an avatar game; it’s a computer game which shows the titular Cabin one interior wall at a time, illustrated in fairly simple computer graphics; you jump from one viewpoint to another via left/right/forwards buttons. You’re not even directly controlling the game yourself – you can’t interact with the screen share except by telling the host what to do and where to click. All of which probably sounds like a disappointing disaster; and yet I did find it quite fun to play through.
Much of the enjoyment was because we were playing it as a team. A fair chunk of the game could be completed solo without a host – and played like that would have been very forgettable. But this game is tailored for team play in a couple of ways. Firstly, each player is assigned a distinct role and given a PDF of information specific to that role. This was a little artificial, and just meant that particular prompts had to be handled by a particular player, but increased the feeling of teamwork nonetheless. It also had a cooperative section that needed a minimum of two players to get past.
In addition, the game is intended to be half escape room, half murder mystery; you spend part of your time unlocking doors and drawers, and part gathering clues to identify which of five suspects is guilty of murder. Interaction with these suspects is another way in which it goes beyond a simple point ‘n’ click, in that their replies are typed by a live human, and therefore more organic than you’d get from a normal computer game.
That also meant that the characters’ replies were painfully slow, at least by my impatient standards. The limitations of the technology showed in other ways too, such as the cumbersome process involved in the communication section. Also in the way that we shared a viewpoint; I’d have far preferred it if we could have each interacted with the game directly and been able to explore individually, while linked by audio. That would have made the game more dynamic and would have made much more effective use of the role assignments.
And still – even though the gameplay system was often crude and limiting, and even though the escape room puzzles were pretty basic, I didn’t at all hate it. I’d like to see the approach done in a much more sophisticated way; it has potential. As it was, it was a lively ninety minutes of entertainment, kept amuing by being a group experience and by the excellent soap opera silliness of the plot.