Online, May 2020
Casino Mortale is a story-driven game, and that’s made clear from some time before your actual booking slot, thanks to in-character emails and other details provided to introduce the story and its characters. It’s a somewhat convoluted story, where the core mission is straightforward (infiltrate the manager’s office and find a set of deeds that will establish ownership of the titular casino), but with a cast of several different characters with interlocking relationships and ambiguous motives.
In fact, one of the things that most impressed me about this game was that despite the number of dramatis personae, by twenty minutes in I felt I had a completely clear grasp of who was who and what was going on – at least, of the details that the story had released by that point. The pre-game information helped there, but more importantly the puzzles were all wholly integrated into the narrative, as a natural part of the game world not just themed puzzles in a room.
Sky High’s inventory system is based on QR codes. Each interesting document or item had a QR code on it, and on finding one the avatar would inspect it closely in such a way that the QR code ‘just happened’ to be directly in her camera’s view; we could then scan it to get an image of the item. Using a rather old phone with a poor camera, I had difficulties scanning a couple of these, in one case not being able to get it to work at all; but my teammates had no such problems. Trying to navigate between the items found on a phone would have been a confusing pain, but I transferred them all immediately to computer, and with that approach it was an easy, clear way to keep track of the information we’d discovered.
The number of remote play games I’ve tried is still fairly low, but our avatar in Casino Mortale took an approach that seems unusual and distinctive: she kept her connection muted for almost the whole way through the game, communicating with us by hand gestures wherever possible and only resorting to speech where absolutely needed. Curiously this had the effect of increasing immersion, for me at least – it fitted with the idea that we were sneaking around where we shouldn’t be. And a separate unmuted feed from our mission controller meant the game wasn’t missing an audio component.
It’s not a huge game in its physical footprint, but it left me with the impression I’d have liked to play it physically – particularly with a couple of highlights that were good in a remote game but would have been a lot more dramatic had we been physically present. First and foremost amongst the reasons to play it is the strong narrative: its dynamic and evolving story successfully creates a solid sense of immersion even over a video link. Be prepared to play it with a device that can rapidly scan QR codes and either manage multiple tabs or quickly transfer them to your main device – it would be a shame to let technology struggles interfere with the flow of the game.
Disclaimer: We played this game on a complementary basis. This does not influence the review or rating.