A good game, that is likely to get even better
Armageddon beckons. The world’s superpowers are no more. Renegade factions vie for domination. Rogue scientists have breached all moral boundaries creating pathogens that create non-humans. Nerve agents so nightmarish that they corrupt physically and mentally, turning those exposed into the living dead – zombies. In the subterranean depths of their secret facility, the pathogen has escaped. It must be contained or all humankind, as we know it, will cease to exist. Your mission – contain the bio-threat, secure the facility and escape uninfected.
We have played one game at AIM Escape’s very slick physical premises in Central London, and while the set for Psychopath’s Den was excellent, and the game itself generally quite good, thanks to a steady hand challenge that we just could not get, and we were left somewhat underwhelmed and rather frustrated by the entire experience, despite our GM’s attempt to mitigate our disappointment. But when our friends over at Brit of an Escape Habit asked us if we were interested in helping to beta test AIM Escape’s new live avatar escape room, Patient Zero 2150, well, we couldn’t resist.
One of the best things about these new live-streamed escape games is the ability to play while wearing our pyjamas with a cup of tea; perhaps pyjamas and tea are not the appropriate accompaniments for saving the world, but it certainly is cosy. we joined our team on Zoom to meet Annie, our eyes, ears, and hands within the game. Once we were settled Annie gave a short briefing to ensure we were familiar with Zoom, and then we “entered” the facility…
Patient Zero 2150 plays homage to Resident Evil [https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0120804/?ref_=nv_sr_srsg_0], and if the backstory about a biothreat involving zombies and retrieving the cure from a subterranean facility doesn’t give you flashbacks to Milla Jovovich fighting zombies in a completely impractical red dress, then the hive-like design of the facility certainly will. Not to worry though, no zombies will actually attempt to eat poor Annie (or whomever is assigned to your group) as you work to guide her through the game, but even without the presence of the living dead, the game does have a spooky, and slightly macabre feel to it.
At one point, AIM Escape were marketing themselves as the most technologically advanced escape games in the UK. Whether or not that is actually true, I can’t say for sure, but I can confirm that there is not a single padlock contained within Patient Zero 2150. Now that’s not to say you won’t be solving for a code or two, but don’t expect to be on the hunt for any keys – you won’t find any. Instead, the game places a heavy reliance on tech to bar the way, with keypads, and some really clever interaction with the set. This style of game translates particularly well to the online avatar format, as it is both functional, easier to enter things into keypads one handed for the avatar, and also looks cool through the camera feed, giving the game a feeling not to dissimilar to an RPG style video game.
Of course, no technologically advanced live-avatar escape game would be complete without an inventory system. Thanks to the behind the scenes assistance of “Headquarters,” the Telescape inventory worked flawlessly. AIM Escape have clearly chosen the “magic” option for operating the platform, and we had no need to enter codes when something new was discovered, or remember to delete items that were no longer of use, as this was all done for us. I think I am a bit of an oddity in that I have actually started to prefer the games that don’t use an inventory system, but there’s no denying that having the option for a closer look at something in the room is beneficial, particularly as the game has an open structure, with parallel puzzle paths, and the inventory system gives teams an opportunity to divide as they might if they were physically playing.
Observation, logic, deductive reasoning, and just a little bit of searching all made an appearance, in addition to some I’m sure I’ve forgotten already; in other words, all of the usual escape room standbys. But what made them different and inventive was the way in which they were solved, and the lack of padlocks added an element of interaction with the set that added an extra layer to the puzzles. On top of that, the puzzles were logical, and satisfying to solve, with some really wonderful moments once we figured out what we needed to do. Some of the puzzles have had to be adapted for the online format, but I would have had no idea this was the case without being told.
A surprising number of the puzzles relied on colour. If you were to play the game in person this would have been almost a non-issue, but due to the slight distortion of the colours over the Zoom feed, this could have been an issue not just for our resident colourblind player, but also for the rest of the team as well. However, thanks to some initiative from Annie, rather than these puzzles becoming tedious and frustrating, they were some of the most interesting, and pleasing to complete.
Annie played her role as our avatar well, with steady camera work, a bit of humour, and executing requests perfectly. With any avatar-style game, there is always an adjustment period as the team and the avatar get to know one another. Annie balanced this period by starting with a quick tour of her surroundings and asking us what we wanted to look at. As we became more accustomed to each other, the jokes began, and Annie started to feel more like a part of the team – particularly when she smoothly stepped in to ensure that one puzzle that could have been incredibly frustrating over Zoom was actually a delight to solve. On top of that, while we never overtly asked for a clue, Annie has perfected the art of the subtle nudge, to ensure that we never strayed too far off track.
This was a beta test, and it’s only natural that there may be some technical glitches, or even some nerves on the part of our avatar. In all honesty, there was only one glitch that I noticed, and although there were others that were pointed out in our debrief, thanks to Annie, even the one I noticed didn’t have any effect on the experience. They’re really only worth mentioning to highlight just how on the ball Annie was and graceful under pressure in her role as avatar and fifth teammate, and as she gains more experience in this new game format, her already excellent performance is only going to improve.
We had a fantastic time playing Patient Zero 2150 online, but sometimes you play an online avatar escape game, and wish that you could have played it in person. I’m honestly not sure which experience would have been better, so if you can’t make it to London, you won’t be disappointed playing online. After not loving our last experience at AIM Escape, this game has restored our faith in their games.
GOOD TO KNOW
- Number of connections: Up to 8 players
- Price: £80 for 1-4 players, £120 for 5 – 8 players
- Devices: Desktop or Laptop suggested. Also compatible with handheld devices
- Platform: Zoom/Telescape
- Inventory: Yes
- 360º View: As static images
- Time Zone: United Kingdom (GMT)
|Value for Money|
Team: 4 players
Time Taken: 57:00 minutes
*Disclaimer: we weren’t charged for this experience, but this has not influenced our review.