This is some strange hanky-panky
While the ASF heatedly debates the most important items on the agenda in a video meeting, unforeseen incidents occur. All of a sudden, Elvira’s kitchen puts all other important issues in the background. Actually, only the ransom that Elvira swindled on the ASF should be recaptured there. However, there are indications in the kitchen that point to really weird hanky-panky…
If you haven’t yet come across Heiner and his blog, escaperoomers.de, I highly recommend you check them out if you’re looking to play escape rooms in Europe, and more recently, online – particularly the avatar-style remote play games. (No really, they’ve played over 500 games online in the last year alone.) So when Heiner contacts you to ask if you’d like to play a game he considers to be one of the best online games out there, you say yes. Especially when that game is currently ranked No.3 out of all the games they’ve played to date.
That game was Showdown, from 66 Minuten, located in Nuewied, Germany. 66 Minuten describe their games as “Theatre Adventures” (roughly translated), and that description certainly rings true. This was not just an online escape room, but a theatrical event (with puzzles, of course). And I have to agree with Heiner, this is one of the best online games we’ve played so far. I try not to play favourites, but it’s definitely Top Ten material, so if you’re debating, just stop reading this and book ASAP.
The experience began before we ever even logged into the computer, and thus, with the agenda for the upcoming meeting sent to our inboxes and joined by our team, a very eclectic and international group of bloggers, we prepared to join the weekly meeting of the ASF. But of course, all was not as it seemed…
Have you seen the video of the Handforth Parish Council meeting that went viral a while ago? That is what the start of the ASF meeting felt like. It was chaotic (and hilarious). But remember, stay alert – as members of the ASF, you are not just there to observe the meeting. Of course, things quickly developed and it soon became clear that we were all in for a bit more than just the ASF’s weekly conference call, and after we touched on all of the points on the agenda, we connected to Agent Averford, and the true Showdown began.
Showdown has been specifically designed for online play. Unlike avatar-led games that have been adapted from those that already exist, Showdown does so many things that otherwise wouldn’t be possible in an escape game so is online only. Perhaps the best way to describe these things is, “Bonkers.” This really is not your average avatar led game, and ventures more into the realm of an ARG with a live host, as you find yourself as the support team for a totally wacky covert operation.
It’s rare to find an online experience that is truly immersive, but 66 Minuten have certainly come close. The driving force behind Showdown is the narrative, and it takes us on a totally wild ride, with unexpected twists and turns as we race toward the deadline of Elvira’s return. The balance of humour, adrenaline, and puzzling had me fully engrossed, and wondering just what would happen next.
I’ll be honest – some games you play for the puzzles, and some games you play for the experience. And let’s face it: the puzzles in Showdown were not the star of the show. But that doesn’t mean that they weren’t fun, engaging, and satisfying to solve. Observation, logic, pattern recognition, codes, computer hacking, improvisation, not to mention a little bit of practical problem solving all played their part in our quest to assist Agent Averford in recovering the missing ransom money. Some continued the entirely bonkers nature of the game, while others were a bit more standard in their “escape room” design. Signposting relating to various tasks was on point, and it was rare that we found ourselves unsure where to go next. The types of tasks were varied and fit well into the theme, ensuring that we were fully immersed and invested in our mission.
Though there were non-linear elements to the game, aided in part by the addition of Telescape for additional intel, 360 and closeup images, Showdown is highly story driven, which in itself leads to a more linear progression of the game. Occasionally a more linear structure means that some members of larger teams will often find themselves to be merely observers, but the varied nature of the puzzles and the tasks meant that Showdown required a rather varied skillset to successfully assist Agent Averford. So although we played as a team of six, there were plenty of opportunities to get the entire team involved.
Though slightly concerned with her task of breaking into Elvira’s kitchen, Agent Averford (played by the lovely Sara (we think)) was a perfect avatar, and a wonderful addition to the team. With excellent camera work, and just the right amount of character and humour, Agent Averford guided us through our mission (although really, I suppose we were meant to be helping her). Subtle guidance, and a well timed nudge or two (that never felt like nudges) meant that we never felt as though we needed to ask for any outside help.
In addition to Agent Averford, we also had backup from Agent Modlar (played by the multi-talented Patrick), who was behind he scenes, diligently uploading any intel that might be relevant to our Telescape connection, as well as being perfectly placed to give actual assistance if it had been needed. Of course, there was a whole lot more happening behind the scenes, forcing Patrick to wear a variety of hats, and the technical wizardry that went into the entire production was astounding.
Every now and then a game appears out of nowhere and destroys all of the benchmarks for what I consider to be a truly exceptional online game. Showdown from 66 Minuten was one such game. If people continue to develop experiences like this, I think remote play escape rooms are here to stay.
GOOD TO KNOW
- Number of connections: 2-8 Players
- Price: €120,00 for up to 3 connections; +€15,00 for each additional connection
- Devices: Computer recommended
- Platform: Zoom / Browser
- Inventory: Yes
- 360º View: Yes
- Time Zone: CEST (Neuwied, Germany)
|Value for Money|
Team: 7 players
Time Taken: 1hr 20minutes (90 minute experience)