Present-ish, in February 2022, were: The Ant, Aunty Ant, Lioness
With a touch of nostalgia for the tranquil days of lockdown (ha!) we decided to have a Zoom get-together and play another online Escape Room. We’d played Underground Murder by Virtual Escaping as part of the EGOlympics and their newer game, Artifact Isle, sounded like the perfect antidote to a bleak February evening.
The premise of the game, rather than a straight escape, is more of a treasure hunt, looking for legendary treasure on a mysterious island, following the clues from your grandfather’s cryptic journal. According to the pre-game spiel, you need to do this before the island sinks, but this isn’t a crucial ingredient in the gameplay and you can choose to play at a fairly relaxed exploratory pace.
This is a good-looking game, and it is fun to wander around the island. Graphics are pretty, with fairly distinct areas while still very much being part of a whole. You can zoom in to quite close detail in sections and overall the quality is good. The setting manages a decent mix of background colour without too many red herrings.
A good feature, when you are playing in a group, is that the team can split up to explore different areas separately. For some puzzles this is actively helpful; working as a team to communicate from alternate viewpoints (although I think it would still be possible to complete the game solo). One player solving a problem solves it for all players, which we like (not fans of multiple input of the same answer) but this might not suit other teams if they all want to be deeply involved in every puzzle. If you are that kind of player, you might find it better to stick together in gameplay rather than splitting up.
Generally we found the interface smooth to work with – if you accidentally drop yourself out of the game (my favourite trick) you can rejoin seamlessly. We played on a variety of devices – laptops, desktops, tablet – and it was fine on all. Launching the game caused us a little confusion (I think that happened with the first Virtual Escaping game too) but follow the instructions and you’ll be fine.
So, the actual puzzles. For the most part, these were fun, very on theme. Not necessarily the hardest, sometimes based on simple observation, but satisfying enough. One task, relatively early on, didn’t make much sense. I had a rough idea and was experimenting when suddenly I solved it – still not sure how or why. But another puzzle in the final section almost killed us off. We thought we figured out what we had to do, but we couldn’t make it give us a workable answer. We worked through every variant we could think of, even the illogical ones, but nothing produced the required format of code. We resorted to the clue system – the first two hints told us to do what we were doing, the third told us the answer. Still absolutely no idea how they reached that from what we could see on screen.
It was a shame that particularly puzzle threw quite a lot of shade over the game for us. At the climax of the adventure we were left bemused and frustrated. Maybe we missed something. But unfortunately that was the chief memory we took away from our game.
- Storyline: Pretty much made sense in a mysterious island kind of way.
- Theming and Virtual Set: More cartoony than their Underground Murder offering, but sunny and pleasant.
- Googling: Not needed.
- Puzzles: Exploring, observing and some interesting on-theme puzzling.
- Physicality: None.
- Scare factor: A little bit of drama towards the end but not scary.
- Age suitability: Doesn’t have a specific guideline for this game but classifies it as Very Difficult. Underground Murder is classified as Moderate and the company says “you should be able to get through it by yourself from the age of 14. It is also suitable for younger ages, but if you decide to play under the age of 16 we always recommend playing with someone older”.
- Timed?: I don’t think we had a fixed time limit but it suggests average time as 90 minutes.
- Requires: PC/laptops recommended. Decent-sized tablet was ok. Includes in-game video comms, but we didn’t use it as this isn’t compatible with tablets, so needed additional comms. Pen and paper useful, printer not needed.
Also from this company: Underground Murder