Present (sort of), in April 2020, were: The Ant, Aunty Ant
Remarkably prescient game name, really. I don’t know if, when they began work on their new ‘virtual’ Escape Room, Deadlocked had foreseen a fairly captive audience. But, with the release rushed forward to keep their business afloat during the current difficult times, they have found a diamond for the zeitgeist.
I’ve never been sure about the whole room-in-a-box, escape-from-home-type games. I love the immersion and, yes, escape that we get from visiting a good quality physical venue. Getting lost in a story – I couldn’t imagine the same effect could be achieved in my own living room. I approached The Insiders willingly, having enjoyed Deadlocked’s Real Life games, but still with a little caution.
So, just to clear up the first big question – what is The Insiders? Easier to say what it is not:
- It is not a “room-in-a-box” paper and card game.
- It is not a mobile phone/pc point and click or hidden object app.
- It is not an online treasure hunt.
- It is not a “print and play” puzzle pack.
- It is not a remote view of a physical avatar in a real Escape Room.
The Insiders has elements of all of those things, but mixes it up into an intriguing, multi-layered, browser-based investigation, which does feel quite real, and certainly gives value for money in running time alone.
The starting premise is based around a mole (the non-furry kind) at the Wexell Corporation, Deadlocked’s in-house MacGuffin company. Launched by an email from your contact, you are thrown into a world of mystery, deception, puzzles and on- and off-line tasks, all sprinkled with typical Deadlocked humour. Some of the puzzles are classic spy-stuff, some are HARD. There is a good range though, and plenty of areas where younger players could get involved.
Getting your team together could be challenging about now. GATAPAE is fairly scattered. Playing this game as a two or three in a single household would probably be easiest. But Aunty Ant and I played together, apart, each sat at a laptop and using WhatsApp video chat (other excellent communication brands are available). Teenage Avenger chipped in occasionally, but actually it was nice to play as a grown-up duo for once. We could run the game in parallel, so it was very easy to communicate and work together.
We played four sessions of between one and three hours each, so don’t expect to zip through this game in an evening. Deadlocked spools out the sections, so you are a little dependent on your GM/contact for timings. This must be useful for them, to ensure the game isn’t just passed around, but I’m sure they can cater for different schedules if you need to complete within a certain timeframe.
You do need a decent internet connection and laptop or pc – aspects of the game are unlikely to work on tablet or mobile. As it was, we found two sections where the necessary software didn’t run for one of us; fortunately, playing as a remote two meant this wasn’t a problem, it worked beautifully on the partner’s machine. Deadlocked say you don’t necessarily need a printer. My experience would suggest otherwise. But we only needed one between the pair of us, and the print toll was definitely not high. We found the bonus printout at the end was well worth the effort!
This defied my expectations of a play-at-home game. It created a whole absorbing world that we couldn’t wait to return to each time, and the buzz at completion was equal to that of a real life room. We may all be Insiders now, but Deadlocked really have produced something to make confinement a little more bearable.
- Storyline: A proper, well-thought-out narrative, even if the twists and turns make it hard to keep track.
- Theming and Virtual Set: Lot of work gone in to creating the on-line Wexell world.
- Googling: Needed, unlike an ordinary ER. But this actually aided immersion.
- Puzzles: One killer. You’ll know which one I mean when you play. Big range of logic, maths, concentration.
- Physicality: Oddly, yes, in a crafting way. Aunty Ant thankfully took on that role.
- Scare factor: Well, some people will have nightmares over THAT puzzle. Otherwise, family friendly stuff.
- Age suitability: Get kids involved. But they would struggle alone. And frankly, it’s too good to just be left to them.
- Timed?: No.
- Requires: PC/laptops, wider internet, plus additional comms. Printer useful.