Online, May 2020
There may be gold in them thar hills, but in this Gold Rush you’re not panning in any rivers, you’re searching for a conveniently pre-prospected stash of gold hidden somewhere in a mountain shack – with the usual hour in which to find it before the mob comes along to claim it.
Gold Rush has an attractive set with a glossy, slightly theme park feel. If anything I suspect it looked better over the video feed, with painted backdrops looking more convincing as a result.
In parts it’s also somewhat darker that the website images suggest, which I might have minded more had the game not had one of the best inventory systems I’ve seen yet. This was a custom interface running in a browser tab that added items as we found them and removed them when no longer needed, all updating automatically (or more likely, via the hidden hand of a second gamemaster). It looked good and it worked very smoothly, making the experience of playing over Zoom much less restrictive. It also included a 360° image of the room we were in, though in practice I found I used that less. This does give the game a more ‘guided’ feel – it’s harder to get confused when the game interface helpfully indicates exactly which items are and are not relevant – but given the limitations of playing via a camera, that’s a trade-off I’m happy to make.
A couple of parts of this game made less sense in the remote format – anything involving searching, for example, which pretty much reduced to asking our avatar to look around and waiting for the results. (Although to be honest, the results were a lot better than when I have to search a room myself…) It appeared to be fairly unchanged from the normal, in-person design, although there was an obvious opportunity for more drama towards the end which didn’t happen, and perhaps they took it out for the remote version.
It was an enjoyable game to play over a livestream, and it would have been a more enjoyable game to play in person, with various more physical tasks. Hands-on solves are still satisfying when completed via another person’s hands, just not as much as when you can do them yourself. From a puzzle solving perspective it wasn’t hugely taxing; in fact there was one puzzle that I strongly suspect we’d have struggled to solve in person, but which became significantly easier thanks to the specific camera angle that our avatar ‘happened’ to provide at the point we were thinking about it. But as an adventure rather than a mental workout it worked well, and of the remote games I’ve done so far it’s one of the first ones I’d pick to convince someone that this ‘escape room over Zoom’ thing is worth a try.
Disclaimer: We played this game on a complementary basis. This does not influence the review or rating.