Looks can be deceiving
Agent November needs you! Our best agent has been captured. Experimental gadgets allow you to see through his eyes and communicate …but only for 60 minutes. Can you solve the puzzles and help him escape?
Agent November is a company that has been on our radar for a little while now. The company has existed for several years, beginning with pop up escape rooms appearing at the Edinburgh Fringe, and even one that had a limited run within the Houses of Parliament. But lately, Agent November have been known for their immersive outdoor escape “rooms” in London. Despite being London based, we actually haven’t made it out to one of their games, though I have long been intrigued by how it all works playing a game in the wilds of London. But first, Agent November needs our help escaping his nemesis, the evil Marty Orri…
A TOP SECRET missive was received, containing everything that may be needed throughout the course of our rescue mission, and at the appointed hour, we gathered on the Zoom call to be greeted by Agent Membrane. Having already watched our mission briefing, it was pretty clear what we were there to do, but Agent Membrane gave us a few more specifics before we were connected to Agent November’s cybernetic enhancements. As November’s eyes blinked open, it was clear that this was to be no ordinary game.
Unlike most (though not all) of the live-avatar style games we have played, Virtual X-Caper is not a modified version of an existing game, but rather an entirely new adventure, developed specifically to be played remotely in the wake of the global lockdown we have all been enduring. As a consequence, Virtual X-Caper gets away with a number of things that might not otherwise work in a live escape game. But the beauty of the game is that because it was specifically designed to be played in this fashion, the fact that you are assisting Agent November from the comfort of your sofa has been worked into the narrative, instantly giving the game an edge by allowing the suspension of disbelief. Not only that, but the fact that we’re working remotely is worked into the fabric of the game in other ways, resulting in a more immersive story.
Despite the fact that Agent November has been outfitted with the latest in cybernetic enhancements (?) to allow us to communicate, the game itself is lacking many of the technological marvels we’ve encountered in many Live-Avatar games, namely a 360° view and inventory system (although you do have access to a dossier of background information that may or may not be useful, and will be given some live field notes – as you would expect from any decent organisation of super spies). This in no way detracts from the experience, but rather enhances it, giving the game a more realistic feeling and ensuring that players are focussed on the task at hand instead of fussing about with adding things to an inventory.
Agent November awoke to find himself handcuffed to a sink and our team of remote agents talking in his head. From there, the game unfolded in a relatively linear fashion, although there were some opportunities for the team to split and take parallel paths if they so wish in the quest to rescue Agent November, and was filled with hilarious and unexpected antics from our agent, easter eggs for other Agent November missions, hilarious homages to traditional video games, and more.
The style of gameplay in Virtual X-Caper resulted in an experience where puzzles took a backseat to the interaction with our Agent. That’s not to say that the puzzles weren’t logical and fair – they were. They just weren’t the main attraction, as they blended into the entire experience of guiding London’s top desk agent to safety with a few tasks requiring a bit of lateral thinking plus some more traditional escape room style puzzles involving logic, observation, minor maths, and a few more inventive twists and turns.
While I say that the puzzles weren’t the highlight of the game, many were filled with the same subtle (and sometimes less subtle) humour that permeated the entire experience, and there were a few instances that a team member was heard to claim, “Oh, I like that!” as we worked our way through the tasks we came across.
Agent November, played by none other than one of the co-creators of the company himself, was without question, the star of the show. From the attention to detail with making it seem as though we really were looking through his eyes, to his bumbling desk agent persona, with the self-deprecating humour and entertaining antics, Virtual X-Caper was a delight from start to finish.
The most difficult aspect of any live-avatar style game, aside from finding a rhythm amongst the remote team members that you already know, is getting a feel for the style of your avatar; if there is a set of drawers, will you need to instruct them to check each and every drawer, or will they automatically check each one in sequence? How fast do they go when you ask them to look around the room? Do they set everything you find in a central area, or will you need to direct them to do so? Suffice it to say, our intrepid Agent November lacked initiative – which is no surprise really; it was right there in his background information, and the reason why he normally operates behind a desk. This did mean that we felt a little slow getting started, which some players may find frustrating, but as we understood how our agent operated, it quickly became easier to help guide him through his escape, becoming a seamless unit of super spies.
Agent November’s Virtual X-Caper is a standout in the world of remote escaping, filled with humour, spy drama, and of course, some pleasing puzzles. The only issue is that now I need to gather my courage to venture onto London’s public transport system again in order to continue the story with their outdoor missions in the not too distant future…
GOOD TO KNOW
- Number of connections: up to six recommended (additional connections can be added – up to 10 – by prior arrangement)
- Price: £14 per player/£77 for six. Discount available for NHS Staff
- Devices: Desktop/Laptop or tablet. Suggested secondary device for Background Info
- Platform: Zoom
- Inventory: No (Technically)
- 360º View: No
- Time Zone: London (BST)
|Value for Money|
Team: 4 players
Time Taken: 52:47
*Disclaimer: we weren’t charged for this experience, but this has not influenced our review.