Citizen Erased – Hysteria – Chatham

Present, in February 2022, were: The Ant, Aunty Ant

I do love a good spaceship game. Tricky to do well without feeling like a wobbly cardboard set from 1970s Doctor Who, but with so much potential in terms of drama, jeopardy and inventive plot lines. Hysteria’s take is a spin on a futuristic jailbreak – you’ve been convicted and loaded onto a shuttle, ready for banishment into outer space, and you have 75 minutes (yay!) to get free before launch or face becoming an Erased Citizen.

This was our first trip to Hysteria and it made a great opening impression with a seriously funky entrance lobby, full of fascinating bits and bobs and fantastic wall art. Very reassuring and indicative of the characterful, quality set-up. The lobby also makes a good contrast with the Citizen Erased room – moving from a busy, quirky, goth-type area into the cool, industrial, minimalist game space really helps with the feeling of stepping into a different world.

Little heads-up at this point – this isn’t a very prison-y jailbreak game, but it does start off with handcuffs. Our GM Lizzie (terrific) was very much on the ball with regards to comfort and checking team dynamics (nothing worse than being unable to free yourself while your teammates fumble around hopelessly) but, like split starts, it is something to be aware of if you are escaping with kids. Another small feature at the beginning might also cause issues – you are given something before entering the room and told it might be useful. Aunty Ant clearly wasn’t paying attention and damaged hers almost instantly; I had listened but the combo of handcuffs and chunky winter clothing meant mine was unusable too, so the GM had to intervene. A shame, because this is a cool concept, but I could see it causing problems for a lot of teams with young people.

That little snaafu aside, I was really impressed with how smoothly this game runs, especially considering the amount of tech on show. There are few padlocks, but easily enough futuristic-style widgets to fit the theme and it feels brilliantly put together. The puzzles manage to be appropriate for the “world” without getting too bogged down in astrophysics, using a good mix of word, observation, logic and cryptic tasks. There is also an elaborate set-up section which requires communication and some physical skills – again, be warned if you are escaping with kids! We had to swap around to find who was better suited for each role.

So much of this game is just really involving, atmospheric, fun. We loved so many of the puzzles; tricky enough to feel challenged by but never unfair and always satisfying to answer. And we definitely did feel challenged in places – we burnt up quite a lot of time on a couple of puzzles and then a little calculation error at the end had us screaming out of the door with only 34 seconds remaining. We got our money’s worth (although the close call may have knocked a few hours off our lives!).

This is a clever, unique and impressively immersive game that is a must for sci-fi escape fans, or for anyone who fancies a fantastic other-worldly adventure.

  • Storyline: Get off the ship before it becomes an outer space ship.
  • Theming and Set: Top quality, very immersive.
  • Searching: A keen eye required, but not really a searching game.
  • Puzzles: Quite a Crystal Maze feel to the range of tasks.
  • Physicality: There are steps and there is crawling for one team member (or both, in our case).
  • Scare factor: There’s definitely a bit of jeopardy but it isn’t quite as scary as the title might sound.
  • Company Age Guidance: “Children under 16 must be accompanied by an adult in ANY game, with the adult also paying.”
  • Age suitability: Not suitable for really young ones. Maximum team size is 4, and you definitely need two functioning adults for this game. Tweens and teenagers would probably love it.

Hysteria website