Present-ish, from July to December 2020, at various times, were: The Ant, Teenage Avenger, Aunty Ant, Lioness, Amazing J
To get through the long days of lockdown, sometimes you just need an epic puzzling mission. The Panic Room Online has risen to the challenge of this with an odyssey length multi-game saga, Clue Kingdom. Originally released in 2020 in monthly instalments, you can now play the whole six game sequence in one go, if you are so minded. Double the size of Lord Of The Rings* but without Orlando Bloom, you may find this a daunting prospect, but each section can also be played as a single stand-alone game.
Clue Kingdom is a fabulous piece of world-building, taking inspiration from Arthurian legend, Norse gods and good old Dungeons & Dragons. If names like Aldred The Apostle, Avibaren The Wizard and Ophelia The Mage bring you out in a rash then maybe this isn’t the activity for you. Having said that, our team consists of one or two fair-weather geeks and one or two who wouldn’t know a Hobbit if it bit them on the ankle, so you don’t have to be a full-on LARPer to enjoy this.
The design and interface is fairly simple and browser-based; solve a puzzle, input the password/code/magic incantation and move on. The whole experience is classy though – good production audio-visual bolstering solid, clever, story-centric problems. It is playable solo but fun (and still challenging) as a team. Everyone has to input answers separately to progress, which is a bit of a pain, while the definite advantage of teamwork is having different players viewing different open screens to crack a riddle.
Those last two points are the main frustrations we found with the games. Answers have to be input one letter or number at a time, scrolling through a dial of options – big groans all round when we needed a ‘Z’. Fiddly. And we sometimes struggled with opening loads of tabs and referring back and forward between screens. Those using laptops occasionally were battling to control the size of their viewing window – tricky to puzzle it out when you need to scroll up and down to see all the content (I didn’t have this problem on an Android tablet). We found coping techniques to manage this better after playing a few of the games.
Clue Kingdom isn’t really an Escape Room, more of an Escape Journey. The quality of the puzzles is consistent across the series, while managing to have a different flavour and personality to the locations in each instalment (The Enchanted Forest, Dwarven Mines, Forgotten City, Hidden Village, Secrets Of The Ocean and The Spire). Embracing the narrative, with the soundtrack and fabulous creativity and geeky in-jokes is definitely getting the best out of the experience. Bundle-buying episodes is cheaper than buying each separately and purchasing the full set is basically buy five and get one free. We still have the final two parts to play and we have certainly had our money’s worth. A lovely immersive fantasy adventure.
- Storyline: A proper epic sweep with more than a nod to Tolkein.
- Theming and Virtual Set: Great audio and video segments and nicely designed puzzles elevate it from the basic browser-based game.
- Googling: Not needed.
- Puzzles: Creative classics, all on theme.
- Physicality: None.
- Scare factor: None, unless orcs and trolls are a little too real for you.
- Age suitability: 10+ when playing with family is recommended. This seems fair.
- Timed?: No. Each game is maybe an hour and a bit, but take your time and luxuriate in the story.
- Requires: PC/laptops (recommended by company) or decent tablet, plus additional comms. Pen and paper a definitely help, printer not needed. Cosplay optional.