Set aside plenty of time!
The majestic ocean liner SS Ocean Star sets sail for the mysterious Kingdom of Kantawe, where you hope to find the priceless artefact.
Can you rise to the challenges set by its unamiable crew and coax crucial information out of them?
Co-Decode’s physical games, located in Swindon, are nothing short of exceptional. (Don’t just take my word for it, Sub Terra is a finalist in the 2020 TERPECAs.) And over the last few months, we have been equally as impressed with the series of Print and Play games that Co-Decode have been developing: Oldervik Online.
If you’ve had the opportunity to visit Co-Decode in person, the name Oldervik may ring a bell; he is, after all, Professor Oldervik Dunstan, the central character around whom the company’s first game, Professor Dunstan and the Search for the Ancient Statuette revolves. Oldervik Online is set in the same universe, beginning with A Jewel in Jeopardy, and continuing with Operative Onboard. This most recent chapter, On Course for Kantawe, continues the narrative where we left off, so we gathered our usual team on Zoom, and virtually arrived at the port and prepared to board the SS Oceanic Star in search of the Venus Emerald.
Logically I would assume that people will choose to play the Oldervik online games in sequential order (although you don’t necessarily have to, it does make infinitely more sense to do so in terms of the narrative), and if you have, the mechanics of the game will be quite familiar; On Course for Kantawe uses the same combination of printed components and online elements, with QR codes in the physical pages to take you where you need to go online. I personally am not the biggest fan of the way in which the game works – with each new QR code opening a new section of the game in a separate tab it feels fiddly, and I hate having to do things exclusively on my mobile. Transferring the links from the mobile to a PC alleviates some of the frustrations (screen size) but also creates a host of new ones for certain challenges (more on that later). That being said, Gord and the rest of the team do not feel the same, so I am the outlier. But let’s face it – if you’re reading this, chances are you liked Chapters 1 and 2, and my own grumblings aside, On Course for Kantawe is just as excellent as its predecessors in terms of puzzles and narrative.
While the mechanics of On Course for Kantawe are similar to the earlier games in the series, one of the most noticeable differences in Chapter 3 is the length of gameplay. It took us three and a half hours to play, but I would anticipate that the majority of teams will be much closer to the six (yes, six) hours indicated on Co-Decode’s website, so be sure to set aside a decent chunk of time for this game. Thankfully, the game is split into clearly defined sections, with clear points to stop for a break periodically (although you can leave and come back at any point, even if you choose to stop in the middle of a chapter). A word of warning though: don’t leave it too long before coming back to the game, make sure you leave open any windows that pertain to any characters you may meet or information you haven’t used, and do not clear your cookies before completing the game, or you may find yourself needing to repeat sections. We found ourselves needing to split the game into two sessions and ended up leaving nearly a month between parts of the game after life got in the way. We were only able to complete the game without having to retrace our steps because I happened to have tabs open in a separate window on my laptop and held off closing this or allowing the system to do any updates until the game was complete.
On Course for Kantawe has expanded the mechanisms introduced in Chapters 1 and 2 in almost every way, and the game is ambitious not just in terms of the sheer volume of content contained within its pages but also with the way in which players are able to interact with the game. The QR codes were much the same, although lining them up was infinitely easier than it was when we played the first chapter. The printed materials remained simple, with black and white images and only eight pages to print, but it was the improved interactivity of the online portions of the game, with puzzles that required moving things about, opening doors, and even dialing phones (and it is these tasks where playing on a device with a touch screen is necessary, and my desire to see things on a bigger screen backfired.)
When we played A Jewel in Jeopardy, one member of our team made the remark that it was the most like a live escape game that we had played up to that point. That is still an accurate statement, as On Course for Kantawe has a relatively open structure, with natural chokepoints, which allows teams to investigate different things, as you would when you first enter a physical escape room, and each scanning of a QR code is akin to unlocking a door, or finally finding the right combination for a padlock. And also like the live escape games from Co-Decode, in particular, the Oldervik Online games have a strong underlying narrative, backed up by a host of characters that you meet along the way; this chapter has even introduced a mechanism that allows players to get crucial information from these characters to further your goals and the story.
Unsurprisingly for a game developed by Co-Decode, the puzzles throughout On Course for Kantawe were pleasing, well designed, and resulted in a number of truly wonderful “Ah-ha!” moments once they finally clicked. These were presented as a delightful mix of simple observation, codes, cyphers, logic, spatial relations, lateral thinking combined with general problem solving, and more. The game did well to incorporate the physical elements of the printed pages with the things that were unlocked online, ensuring that puzzles were both online and offline; this resulted in puzzles that felt complex and multilayered, and half the time when we unlocked a new puzzle, half the challenge was figuring out how to interact with the online portions of the games.
Co-Decode games are never ones that I would classify as “easy,” and On Course for Kantawe is no exception; the puzzles are tricky, but generally quite fair. As we’ve played more and more games with our team, we’ve started to learn that everyone has strengths and weaknesses when it comes to puzzles, and the variety of the tasks in this chapter of Oldervik Online ensured that when most of us inevitably hit a wall with a puzzle, it often clicked with another member of the team, and ensured that everyone felt as though they had contributed to our final success.
As with Chapters 1 and 2, clues are available for every puzzle. Really, the first clue in many instances is that the game won’t offer a clickable button to progress until a correct solution has been entered, so you will know right away if you have the right answer. But if you’re still at a loss, each puzzle offers a series of gradual hints, generally starting with just checking that you actually have everything you may need to solve it, and culminating in the clearly marked solution. You can even skip straight to the solution in some instances if you prefer. Of course, that doesn’t really help if the issue you’re having is one of fat fingers, but in the instances where a puzzle just wasn’t clicking with any of us, one or two hints were all that was necessary to get us back on track.
On Course for Kantawe is certainly a mission, with four to six hours of gameplay, and is definitely one for those that are up for a challenge. If you haven’t already played A Jewel in Jeopardy or Operative Onboard, start there. If you have, well then, what are you waiting for? Especially as you may not have much longer to wait for Chapter 4 to see where the story goes next.
- Printer (or choose print + post before buying)
- Device capable of scanning QR codes
- Internet Connection (we used mobiles)
- Glue / Sticky tape
Value for Money
Team: 4 players
Time Taken: 3hr 30minutes