Online, Jun 2020
I gather The Escape Game have a recurring bad guy, by the name of Vincent Hahn. That much was clear not just from their online games being based around him, but by the way there’s evidently a back story to the guy – or rather a front story (?), since the online games seem to be prequels to one or more of their physical games. I had none of the context, but it wasn’t needed to play this game, and I rather liked the sense that there was a broader narrative going on than the bit I could see.
Chasing Hahn existed as a box game back before coronavirus, and has been adapted for online play. Those roots show through at the game’s start, when you’re instructed to download a set of PDF files as starting materials. Having everything in PDF form ought to be a bit of a step down from having actual physical versions, and I guess it is – but they’ve taken care over the PDF files to make them decent replicas, such as depicting the items in evidence bags.
I did find getting into the game a bit off-putting, since the online portal first prompted me to enter more personal details than seemed necessary or appropriate (such as birth date), and then wasn’t very clear about how I could add my teammate into the same game. Once we’d got past that (and the game does indeed allow multiple people to log into the same game from different locations to play it together), I warmed to the portal much more. Presented as some kind of computer terminal, it provides videos that advance the story, prompts for the puzzle solutions, and further clues as you unlock them, as well as a detailed hint section and a tab to access files such as the ones you downloaded at the beginning. (I was briefly stuck due to not noticing the interface had updated to make additional items available in this section; I also accidentally missed the opening video, but later discovered that all the video content can be re-watched via the hint system.)
Partly thanks to this interface, Chasing Hahn is a game with a clear structure. You get a story video which tells you what you’re trying to find; you search through the information available to you and hopefully find it; you enter that solution and get the next video, clues and goal. However, while the puzzles are linear, the clues are not – in that you have a bunch of materials and have to work out what’s useful at what point. I found this made it feel more like an open investigation than the railroad of puzzles that some games provide; that, plus the way the puzzle information is presented as ‘real’ documents or items or video footage, gave it a pleasingly immersive feeling.
I had slightly more mixed feelings about the use of PDF downloads. It meant I was suddenly scrabbling through files on my computer instead of having it contained within the single interface; but on the other hand, it was refreshing to have the freedom to easily jump between different items available.
As well as having a good overall standard of puzzle, Chasing Hahn managed to create a satisfying feeling of doing armchair detective work, piecing together what your quarry has been up to and where he is now. That sometimes involved a little more fiddling with lists of dates and numbers and places and times than I’d have liked, but it had a good realism feel with excellent presentation, as well as striking a good balance between being accessible to less experienced players while not too easy for enthusiasts; having finished it we were more than happy to continue straight on to play the sequel.
Disclaimer: We played this game on a complementary basis. This does not influence the review or rating.