“Present” in February 2021 were: The Ant, Aunty Ant, Lioness
Loving the variety and creativity shown in the recent online Escape Room offerings. In the course of a year we’ve seen not only an explosion in the number of games available but also in the diversity. Early games that we played were very much more along the puzzle hunt/linked web page riddle lines, but recently we’ve seen more versions that actively try to recreate an actual Escape Room experience, with differing amounts of success. Some are “Escape Zooms” – a hosted experience where a GM acts as your eyes and hands in a real venue. Some are entirely CGI-ed, playing a room as a computer game (The Sapphire Palace was an example of this). Some are a hybrid format, using video and 360 photos taken from a physical RL set, augmented with interactive clickable hotspots linking to puzzles (no need for a human Go-Pro toting avatar) which balances immersion with convenience – being ‘in’ a room without having to book a specific time slot.
One of the downsides of both the Escape Zooms and the hybrid games is that, being based in a real life game, it potentially rules out locations you have already played or ones that are on your future wish list. Some are offering a new range of puzzles but remain within the same environment and narrative. The Warp Core is clever in this respect – a splice of two real room sets (Clueston We Have A Problem and Core) to create a single original space, and using an entirely new storyline and problems to solve. A unique online experience that is not spoiled by previously playing either of the RL rooms; and the company has the advantage of recycling and efficient economics, as props and features, with a bit of computer graphic manipulation, can be reutilised in completely new ways.
The Warp Core online games are split into two sections. The opening, theoretically untimed, section is set in a time travelling machine that will appeal to fans of a certain TV show; while the second section, complete with ominous countdown, is based in your mission’s destination. For The Warp Core Part 1 this destination is Chernobyl (yay! Soviet!), while TWC Parts 2 and 3 will have different destinations, spliced with different Clue HQ RL rooms. (Dungeon of Doom and The Legend of Miyalock. The opening sequence puzzles will be unique for each game, although based around the same set).
As we have now played several games in this hotspot point-and-click format, we found it fairly easy to navigate, especially once we got past the slight dizziness of the 360 camera angle. Puzzles were satisfying and all felt very appropriate to the theme of the mission; quite mathsy-sciency, but not to the detriment of the game, with a good mix of tasks. Splitting up as a team and handling puzzles either individually or as a pair definitely helped to complete in time – there is quite a lot to do – although some of the team did feel they missed out on a few bits. The ending came as a slight surprise as we weren’t sure what everyone else had solved. If you don’t mind going over the allotted time (or are just generally quicker than us) you could still experience all aspects of the room. The video snippets with lights and music special effects definitely added to the drama and immersion, and we all agreed it would also have been a fun game to physically play. Thoroughly enjoyable, and I’m keen to explore the further adventures with The Warp Core.
- Storyline: Pretty cool, well set up and followed through as a cohesive mission.
- Theming and Virtual Set: The real room settings help greatly with immersion. Sometimes difficult to orientate, as the walls are quite samey.
- Googling: Not needed.
- Puzzles: On theme, some quite practical, some required more study.
- Physicality: None.
- Scare factor: None, although don’t know what happens if you fail in the reactor.
- Age suitability: Nothing family-unfriendly, although I’d suggest under-teens wouldn’t get much out of it.
- Timed?: Yes. Second section has an hour countdown. First section doesn’t have a clock, but then the game gives you a completed total time at the end.
- Requires: PC/laptops/tablet, plus additional comms. Pen and paper helped, printer not needed.