Online, Jul 2020
There’s a blurry line at the edge of the escape room genre, which has got even fuzzier with the recent explosion of play from home games, and there are plenty of games and experiences where it’s a judgement call whether to list them in this site or not. Son of Sam is firmly in that grey area.
As the name suggests, the story is inspired by the real-life 70s serial killer, although the raw material of those events is transplanted to a modern day setting and turned into an entirely fictional narrative.
This story is told through a combination of elements. First and foremost is video: each section starts with a substantial video monologue, each from a different actor. Since the performances are all solo pieces they reminded me a little of showreel audition acts, but they’re slickly produced with professional actors.
A second element is the ‘immersive challenges’. These instruct you to do things that involve standing up and moving around and possibly going outside. They are entirely optional, in that it’s easy to skip them and continue on to the next section. Performing them as instructed may give a more entertaining, involving experience; it depends whether that’s to your taste, and also whether you’re playing it with other people in the same location or not.
Last but not least – no, scratch that, last and least are the puzzles. These use a point and click environment which emphasises searching over solving, with only about one puzzle for each of the four stages. A couple of the puzzles refer back to information presented earlier in the game, and if you didn’t have the foresight to make a note of it at the time you may have to tediously restart; another is easy in the extreme; and the game literally tells you what to do for the finale.
As an escape game I’d have to give this a pretty low rating, and frankly if you purchase it expecting an escape game then you’ll probably feel it deserves one. But that feels a little harsh, because – marketing copy notwithstanding – it feels like criticising it for being a different genre. It would be much better to think of it as an immersive scare experience, or something along those lines, and on that basis it’s fairly well done. You’ll spend far more time watching video and (if you do them) performing the challenges than you will engaging with any puzzles – which is fine, if that’s what you want and expect. ‘Online immersive horror experience’ doesn’t really exist as a genre, probably because it’s difficult to give any genuine scares to an audience comfortably seated in their living rooms, but this is a reasonable attempt at creating that sort of product – just don’t play it for the puzzles.
Disclaimer: We played this game on a complementary basis. This does not influence the review or rating.