‘Family Friendly’ Zombies
The zombie apocalypse moved surprisingly fast.
It’s been months since a nuclear accident created a mutated strain of the common cold, unleashing an undead epidemic that spread like wildfire. Billions are undead, society as we know it is gone, and the last survivors huddle in colonies where every day, the living learn to envy the dead. One by one, the last bastions of humanity are being overrun.
But there are rumours of a cure. Wandering madmen, insane with desperation spread word of a research facility that might be mankind’s last hope, hidden in the most frozen reaches of the deadliest place on earth.
You and your team are the human race’s last chance. Infiltrate the polar outpost, find the cure, and release it to save humanity. But be quick. Zombies eat your brain in 60 minutes.…They’re reliable like that
On my last trip to Canada, which feels like it was decades ago but was really only 2019, the family and I pondered long and hard about which game at Improbable Escapes to tackle, and Cure for the Common Zombie was on the short-list. In the end, we settled on Legend of the Mayan Temple, but Common Zombie has been on my radar for some time now (I do love zombies, after all.)
Since a visit to Kingston, ON any time in the next year or two is looking unlikely, we were only too happy to accept the invitation from our fellow blogger, Escape Mattster to join him in attempting to rid the world of the oh so pesky zombie. Of course, it’s not like it was a hardship since online avatar games from Improbable Escapes have never failed to impress me; we absolutely adored both Neverland and The Hot Chocolate Incident.
At the appointed hour, we joined our Zoom call to meet Meg. As it turns out, it’s a good thing we did, since the rest of Meg’s team was sadly eaten on the trek to the polar outpost, and she was in dire need of some assistance in finding the research that would cure the zombie menace.
“Zombie Apocalypse” is right up there with “Heist” and “Pirates” in terms of popularity for escape game theming, but I have yet to tire of it, especially since each game always has a slightly different take on the theme. Not to mention, Improbable Escapes have some of the most impressive set builds I’ve encountered (and I’ve encountered quite a few over the last few years) and Cure for the Common Zombie was no exception to this. The polar station translated well over the internet as did the puzzles, and with a backstory to explain why we were playing from remote locations, it was very easy to become immersed in the game as we explored the space and raced through to the climactic finish.
Directing a living human being around a physical space from a remote location(s) inherently has some limitations, which is why many (most) avatar-led virtual escape games now provide players with an inventory and 360 images of the playing space, and we’ve come across a variety of methods of doing so. Improbable Escapes do provide these resources, but rather than using something like Telescape, we are instead provided with a series of password protected webpages that include close up photos of important information, and rather than a 360 degree static image of the space, we have illustrated maps of the layout. Some will be a fan of this, others, not so much. I, personally, like the simplicity. Unlike with a more complex system that may take some time for the less tech savy or inexperienced escaper to learn how to navigate, the inventory from Improbable Escapes simply ensures that players are able to have a closer look at things that they may need, but they are unlikely to be too distracted from the action of the video feed. (Although there are points where you will need to look at the information in the inventory.) The benefit is that this is also easily viewed on a tablet or mobile if you’re not able to have a dual/split screen display for your video feed and inventory.
Once we were at the door of the polar station, Cure for the Common Zombie had a surprisingly open format. One of the limitations of this style of game is that they can often feel quite linear, and while there were the inevitable choke points and moments that required things to be completed in a certain order, the game actually allowed for quite a bit of the divide and conquer strategy that Gord and I prefer in escape games (or in my case, the “move on to something else if I don’t understand a puzzle and hope someone else gets it” strategy). In fact, we often left a team member to their own devices while the rest of the team continued to search for the cure.
The puzzles throughout Cure for the Common Zombie were enjoyable to solve, with a variety of fun tech to play with combined with the satisfaction of opening physical locks. And even more pleasing – padlocks were only found on things that one might expect to actually be sporting a padlock or two to keep those pesky zombies out – or sometimes in. A bit of searching, pattern recognition, observations puzzles, logic problems, and a few more fun physical moments, there was something that clicked with everyone on the team, and there were plenty of fantastic “Ah-Ha!” moments when the connection was made. There was also plenty of subtle sign posting to facilitate those moments as well, which ensured we were rarely at a loss for what would happen next.
Some of the puzzles and tasks have clearly been modified or removed to suit the online style of play, but really that just meant that the flow of the game was never disrupted by a task that would have meant that there was nothing for the team at home to do but watch our avatar.
Meg was a great host – funny, with excellent listening skills, and skilled at balancing the demands of four rather opinionated teammates, even when they asked to have a closer look at the “thingy.” Plus, she was pretty steady with the camera, which makes for a much more pleasant live avatar experience.
Needing to ask for clues in an escape rooms is something I am not a fan of; I much prefer it when our GM takes initiative to subtly nudge us back where we need to be (and this is the only reason the one game I actually played in person at Improbable Escapes didn’t receive a 5*). Thanks to the signposting within the game, we didn’t really even need that, but Meg was fantastic at lingering just long enough with the camera to make us realise we were overlooking something. Had we ever needed more direct help, I’m confident she would have been able to just as smoothly provide some direction without us even realising it had happened.
Can you have wholesome family friendly zombie fun? Apparently you can at Improbable Escapes. Unless of course, you’re concerned about a few severed limbs. I have little doubt that Cure for the Common Zombie would be better in person than remotely, but even online it was still good fun.
GOOD TO KNOW
- Number of connections: 2-12 players
- Price: $25.00 (+ HST) CAD per person
- Devices: Desktop/Laptop
- Platform: Zoom
- Inventory: Yes
- 360º View: No (Pictures Provided)
- Time Zone: EST (Kingston, ON)
|Value for Money|
Team: 4 players
Time Taken: 51 minutes