Assemble your team!
Do you have what it takes to stop the Mad Mummy from his ne-Pharoah-ous plan?
Near the start of the pandemic that is still dominating the headlines (even over a year later), Hourglass Escapes in Seattle, Washington, brought their games online, to the delight of players worldwide. Hourglass Escapes have a reputation for excellence, and deservedly so. The company’s transition to online games began with creating a remote live-avatar style experience from their official Evil Dead 2 game, which was one of the highlights of 2020 in the Review the Room house, and their other remote experiences that we have had the privilege to play have been equally enjoyable.
But even now, as venues begin to tentatively reopen their doors to the public and we dip our toes back into the waters of playing live games again, there is still a surprising demand for new digital experiences, and we leaped at the chance to reassemble the Dream Team (Amy, Ian, Charlie, and James) on an otherwise dreary Tuesday to tackle Hourglass Escapes’ latest online offering: The Rise of the Mad Pharaoh.
The Rise of the Mad Pharaoh began life as a physical escape room, and was then adapted to online play – avatar-style – and at the time of publication, both of these versions are still available to book and play (any local lockdowns in Seattle allowing). But those are not the versions we played. Instead, this latest adaptation is a digital point and click game. If you have already played The Rise of the Mad Pharaoh in one of its previous incarnations, you may want to skip this one. Two members of the team had played the avatar version, and apart from some modifications to the puzzles for digitisation, and a slight variation in the narrative, the games are essentially the same. But the choice is yours and it’s possible to still enjoy this variation, even if you’ve played another iteration. But that’s good news for those that have wanted to experience an Hourglass Escapes game but haven’t been able to justify the hefty price tag for an avatar led experience!
The Rise of the Mad Pharaoh – Point and Click Edition – has been digitised using Telescape. We first became aware of Telescape when companies began using it as an inventory system for their live-avatar games, but it has since proved to be remarkably versatile. There is even an integrated video chat built into the platform which Hourglass Escapes have utilised to save players from trying to coordinate a video call as well.
The appeal of using Telescape to digitise bricks and mortar escape games is that the system allows each player to explore the game at their leisure, while still linking the games to ensure one player’s progress is progress for the entire team and provide a co-operative experience. But The Rise of the Mad Pharaoh uses Telescape in a fashion that we’ve only seen before from the Hourglass Escape’s first point and click game, The Navigators and the Call from Beyond, to make the game cooperative and collaborative, but even then, the two are slightly different.
Rise of the Mad Pharaoh has been optimised for six players (although it is possible to play with fewer than that), with each player choosing a specific role to play in the quest to stop the mummy from rising. In place of the inventory we’ve become accustomed to in Telescape, each player is instead presented with their own ‘desk,’ and items that are collected throughout the game are then automatically distributed to the appropriate member of the team. Unlike many other games of a similar genre, this character assignment makes The Rise of the Mad Pharaoh truly collaborative (and also opens up the option to have a bit of fun with roleplay as players assume their choice of character: Cartographer, Codebreaker, Egyptologist, Cultist, Poet, or Antiquarian.) Thus, with your characters chosen, it’s time to dive into the fiendish puzzles set out by the Mad Pharaoh…
As an adaptation of a live escape game, it should come as no surprise that the puzzle types are those commonly found in escape rooms, encompassing everything from wordplay, pattern recognition, decoding, logic, maths, plus others I’m sure I’ve forgotten to mention, and of course, thanks to the cooperative nature of the game – communication is key.
But while the puzzle types are familiar, the puzzles themselves are unique and quite clever with some delightful “ah-ha!” moments. However the puzzles are where the character divisions could be slightly problematic. While the division of clues amongst the players ensures that everyone contributes at some point, the non-linear game structure also means that some players may miss out on some of the puzzles if they’re not directly involved in solving thanks to the evidence on their desk (or not on their desk), and in my case, some things on the desk get overlooked or forgotten about and the rest of the team are none the wiser. Don’t let this put you off though, as the same thing happens with a large team in a live escape game.
Clues are, of course, readily available should they be needed. Simply click on the typewriter on the desk within the game (not the player’s individual desk spaces), and select the puzzle for which you need information. The paper in the typewriter is handily labelled, “CLUES,” so you really can’t miss it.
We found the puzzles to be straightforward enough that we didn’t need to request any clues, in fact I only know that you can select the puzzle you’re struggling with from a list because I accidentally clicked the typewriter from a different angle, so I am not very well qualified to speak about how effective the clues are at getting one back on track, but I’m going to hazard a guess and assume that the clues follow the online-game standard of gradual nudges, followed by a solution if you’re really desperate.
Rise of the Mad Pharaoh brings a unique twist to the format of former escape rooms turned digital that makes it one of the best examples of the genre that we’ve played. If you’re looking for a collaborative digital escape game, this is one to consider.
- Computer and Browser
- Audio turned on
- Pen and paper may help
|Value for Money|
Team: 6 players
Time Taken: 30 mins
*Disclaimer: we weren’t charged for this experience, but this has not influenced our review