We’re here to save the world, I think?
An experiment in our lab went wrong and our professor accidentally created the infamous virus that switches people’s mind off and turns them into “zombies”. Because this is a powerful virus, it was kept secret in order to prevent attacks on the lab and keep the public safe. However, now our professor got infected by the virus and the disease is spreading rapidly. The last hopes are with you and your team. Can you find the hidden recipe for the remedy before we all are doomed?
Anyone that knows me, knows I love zombies, whether they appear in books, graphic novels, films, or most recently, escape rooms. (Although I will admit I’m yet to take on a zombie 5k, but that is absolutely because I hate running and definitely not because I’m too much of a chicken…) So it should come as no surprise to anyone that when Exit the Room asked us to try out a couple of their new online escape games, Zombie Apocalypse was at the top of the list.
Exit the Room is one of the biggest escape room chains in Europe, with multiple venues in cities throughout Hungary, Austria, and Germany. There is even a branch in Manchester, although that venue appears to be closed right now due to Covid. But the beauty of the online format is that you can play games from around the world, from anywhere in the world. Of course, as a chain, many of the same games will be available at various locations and it’s possible that there are multiple Exit the Room venues running the same online games as well. But, like the copy of Prison that we escaped the previous evening, the version of Zombie that we played is physically located at the company’s Munich branch. However, despite its location in Germany, Zombie, as well as the rest of Exit the Room’s online games, is only available to play in English, according to the booking system anyway. Of course, that suited us just fine, and thanks to the booking system that was clear we would be booking in our own time zone, we knew precisely when it would be time to save the world.
In order to do so (saving the world really is becoming a frequent occurrence for us), we needed to assemble a team of “experts” and drafted Amy and Ian of Brit of an Escape Habit for this purpose. At the appointed hour, we logged into Zoom to meet our Avatar, Maria, and get down to curing the Zombie Menace.
In case you’re new to the world of online escaping, Zombie is what we’ve classed as an Online Avatar; in other words, it’s an escape room with a physical brick and mortar location, but rather than your team actually visiting said location, you direct another person to be your eyes, hands, feet to explore the surroundings from the comfort of your own home through a video feed – essentially like a video game, but without the annoyance of pressing buttons.
While the theme of this game is most certainly “Zombies,” this is not a live-actor, horror escape experience with the living dead chasing you (or in this case your Avatar), but rather an escape room, with some subtle horror theming, and a zombies backstory. In short, if you’re looking for something a bit more creepy, but not scary, this game would certainly fit the bill. We found ourselves in what appeared to be a research bunker, and with the exception of a few atmospheric blood smears, the theme really could have been searching for a cure to any virus causing a global pandemic… (Although it’s worth noting that if your Zombie game is run from a location other than Munich, the setting may vary, and I take no responsibility for that.)
Strangely, our game began with little preamble and no actual briefing. Whether this was because we had played a game with Exit the Room’s Munich branch the night before and was deemed unnecessary, or Maria just forgot, I am unsure, but it was abrupt, and we began with a quick tour of the room, and no clear explanation of what our mission was.
After our brief tour of the surroundings, we found that the game unfolded in a relatively linear fashion, with one or two moments where it branched out with parallel paths, which thanks to the inventory system, allowed the game to claw back some (but not much) of the open structure often lacking in the online games. But while I am on the topic of the inventory, it’s worth noting that Escape the Room offers two different options for play: “Basic” or “Premium.” “Basic” runs the video feed through Zoom, with your inventory available in a separate browser window. If you opt to pay the extra £10 for “Premium,” everything is run through your browser, with the inventory available just below the video feed and a timer on-screen; you even get a custom game skin to really enhance those team photos. We played Zombie with the “Basic” setup, and as this is the same system utilised for the majority of the Avatar style games we’ve played, it didn’t detract from the experience, and I, personally, am not overly concerned with the appearance of my game screen or the timer.
However, while the game offered an inventory screen no matter which package you book, there were no 360 views, which meant that our search capabilities were limited to only the initial tour of the set and what we directed Maria to investigate, and often felt as though it slowed the pace of the game, particularly when we failed to spot one part of an observational puzzle.
The puzzles in Zombie were a nice variety of observational codes, some logical deduction, and a rather hefty amount of (simple) maths, incorporating a mix of various padlock types and tech, and a few more physical/tangible tasks. There were even a few puzzles that required communication, which translated quite well into the online format, although it was easier to just allow one person on the team to take point in guiding Maria as these particular challenges definitely become more difficult the more people you involve.
The game was well signposted, with clear directions, which often meant that the puzzles themselves were very logical, and satisfying in their completion. However, Zombie also required a fair amount of searching and exploration, which is unfortunately where we got a little bit hung up, spending a not insignificant amount of time at a loss for what to do, wondering what we were missing, or if we should just guess at the final combination. This search fail slowed the pace of the game quite considerably, and it was hard to get back in the swing of things.
Maria guided us skilfully through the bunker, and even more impressively, did it with flawless English, which was at least her second, and possibly third, language (or more!), which is no small feat, given that we often asked her to try a combination in a “thingy” or connect a “wossname” to a “doodad.” The puzzles were logical enough that we didn’t need much assistance, although I would have loved a little more guidance from Maria when we were struggling to find the final piece of a puzzle, as this was purely down to a search fail, but the job of an avatar is not an easy one, and she was always ready with a subtle nudge back on track on the occasions where we went off on a tangent.
However, the one area where the game fell down was characterisation and back story to explain why our avatar was there and why we were guiding her remotely. We’ve played a few of these games now, and in the exceptional ones, our avatar has become an extension of the team, as we work together to remove the avatar from the (typically “mortal peril”) situation. Unfortunately, guiding Maria through the game never felt like that, but instead felt as though we were just directing a GM who is usually behind the scenes (albeit a rather jovial one who was happy to laugh at Gord’s terrible jokes) rather than becoming our fifth team member. That being said, Exit the Room’s games are relatively new to the Online Avatar scene, and as their avatars gain more experience, characters and a more immersive backstory may evolve.
With a few tweaks to up the immersion factor, Zombie Apocalypse could be a fun way to spend an hour online, but with a price tag of £109, the game really should have been something spectacular. Unfortunately, it’s just not there yet, and despite the efforts of our lovely avatar, our experience just fell a bit flat.
GOOD TO KNOW
- Number of connections: 2-6 Players
- Price: £109 – £119
- Devices: Computer recommended
- Platform: Zoom/Twilio
- Inventory: Yes
- 360º View: No
- Time Zone: Varies – Book according to your Time Zone
|Value for Money|
Team: 4 players
Time Taken: 51 minutes
*Disclaimer: we weren’t charged for this experience, but this has not influenced our review