Present-ish, in May 2021, were: The Ant, Aunty Ant, Lioness
Virtual escaping does take you to some interesting places. One of the most intriguing we have encountered is this offering from Online Escape Rooms Ireland. The company is the digital manifestation of Escape Rooms Ennis, an enthusiast husband-and-wife team, whose bricks-and-mortar games have been put on hold due to the Irish lockdown. Their three Real Life rooms are now available in virtual format, but rather than telescape from a built-room set like the others, Spirit Seekers brilliantly utilises the real ruins of Clare Abbey, an 12th century Augustinian monastery by the River Fergus in County Clare. As an historic site (it is a protected National Monument of Ireland) it obviously can’t be altered or damaged to become a physical Escape Room, but it is perfect for the virtual treatment.
As a history nerd, this was always going to be appealing to me. Real architectural features are employed and digitally manipulated for puzzles and (presumably) new sections are virtually added too – although I would struggle to identify what is actually there or not. On top of that, as this is making full use of the ancient site’s spooky vibe, the game has ghostly special effects and manages this aspect very tidily. Headphones are recommended, for the maximum benefit…
The premise is that your paranormal investigations team has to capture several pieces of supernatural evidence and send the info to your boss at Trinity College Dublin. Solving the mysteries surrounding the histories of the Abbey’s ghosts to stir up their spirits will achieve this. It’s a cute way of slotting puzzles into the game – covering a decent range of historical periods along the way – even if it doesn’t always feel totally organic. We especially enjoyed the interactions with the local wildlife!
Spirit Seekers’ format, although employing mostly the same point-and-click mechanics as other telescape games, wasn’t maybe the easiest we’ve used. We struggled with lag when spinning around the beautiful 360o views (the makers do recommend having decent spec tech) and some elements were only clickable from a specific angle. Having a map of the Abbey was helpful to some degree – we would have preferred areas to be named rather than numbered though, maybe with an on-screen label for each areas as you were in it. A frequent conversation in our team was “I’ve found something!” “Where are you?” “I don’t know.” Entrance, Courtyard, Tower, would have been easier reference points for us.
The puzzles were enjoyable and on-theme, even when not particularly memorable. It felt like we had to make one or two logic leaps, although I think mostly we were just being impatient and trying to solve before we had everything in place. The real stars here though are the Abbey itself and the engaging, immersive and atmospheric stories that the game has built around it. A unique and creative entry into the online Escape Room genre, which manages to feel entertaining and culturally nourishing. The Clare Abbey is officially titled as Episode 1 – I would very much like to see further Spirit Seekers adventures soon.
- Storyline: Great – mission based, clear aims, historical AND paranormal narratives entwined.
- Theming and Virtual Set: Can’t beat the setting, and the spooky stuff was well-themed throughout.
- Googling: Not needed.
- Puzzles: Appropriate for the environment, nothing terrifyingly tricky (although we clocked a very leisurely time).
- Physicality: None.
- Scare factor: Depends on your ghost-threshold. Some jump scares may be a possibility, but mostly just creepily atmospheric (the daylight setting should reassure wimps).
- Age suitability: A good game for teenagers (and tweens, with help) who like a good haunting.
- Timed?: Yes, a time given at the end.
- Requires: PC/laptops with decent internet, plus additional comms. Headphones assist immersion (although can make conferring with team tricky!). Pen and paper helped, printer not needed.