An enjoyable nightmare!
It’s time to face your fears and end the nightmare.
The ongoing global health crisis has been, and continues to be, horrible, for the world and has presented many challenges to the Escape Room Industry. But one of the great things to come out of it was the ingenious idea to bring physical escape games online to be enjoyed from the safety, and comfort of your sofa. Even as we at Review the Room are getting out and doing more in-person experiences, there’s something wonderful about gathering a group of friends from across the country, or the globe, together for an evening of escapism without ever leaving home.
We first discovered Mystery Mansion in Regina when we were invited to try out their first online avatar game, Detective’s Office, which was an adaptation of one of their physical games. We were already impressed with what Mystery Mansion were doing, and our already high expectations were totally exceeded after we played Seen. But then, Mystery Mansion stepped it up a gear with their new games, like DTF. DTF was created specifically to be played online, stretching the boundaries of what can happen in an escape game, and delighting audiences worldwide.
This brings us to The Sleepy Man Trilogy. The series began with Night Terrors, set in the protagonist, Alex’s, bedroom, and continued with an investigation into a missing person’s case at D’Vile’s Curio Shoppe. The series concludes with the final episode, Sleepy Man. While many games that take place in the same universe can be played in any order, The Sleepy Man Trilogy cannot. Okay, you probably would still enjoy the game, but you won’t get as much out of it, so if you haven’t played Night Terrors or D’Vile’s Curio Shoppe yet, stop right now! Actually, you can finish reading if you like, but just take my word, and go book any in the series you haven’t played now, while you still can…
I say “while you still can” as, due to circumstances beyond their control, Mystery Mansion will be closing Night Terrors and Sleepy Man (as well as DTF) in their current formats in the very near future. As soon as we heard that news, we assembled the dream team (consisting of Amy and Ian from Brit of an Escape Habit and James and Charlie of Deadlocked and booked a time to tackle the 90-minute conclusion to the story.
Like the two earlier episodes in the Trilogy, Sleepy Man is a live-avatar escape game – i.e. an online experience where your team connects remotely to an actual person with “boots on the ground” to explore on your behalf. However, having been designed exclusively for online play, Sleepy Man breaks many of the boundaries of an in-person escape room, and even some boundaries established in earlier online games, to make an immersive, shocking, and thrilling experience, that is part escape game and part immersive horror film.
Sleepy Man begins just 32 hours after the conclusion of D’Vile’s Curio Shoppe, and we were due to join our host, Jesse, in search of Sam (whom we had accompanied for the investigation that took place at D’Vile’s – See why you need to play them in order?). At the appointed hour, we assembled on Zoom to meet Jesse, and found ourselves outside a house, in need of a way inside. What started out as a hunt for a missing person in the bright sunshine, quickly took a turn as we found our way inside and discovered something quite dark and sinister awaited us when we entered an eerily familiar room.
Right from the start, Sleepy Man began to build a tense and thrilling atmosphere, as we made our way through the house. There were so many twists and turns that just when we thought we had sussed something out, we discovered yet more information that completely turned that on its head. The narrative unfolded, tying up loose ends from previous instalments of the trilogy, and revealing shocking new secrets. Where most games have one climax before heading towards the final reveal, Sleepy Man had several points where the tension built, only to dip slightly, then build again and again before arriving at the finale.
Interestingly, Sleepy Man has three alternate endings, and the ending you get depends on how successful your team was at various points throughout your time in the house. We got ending number three, and what Mystery Mansion consider to be the “true” ending, thanks to some quick thinking at critical moments, but whatever ending you get, you’re in for a thrilling conclusion!
While Sleepy Man follows a quite linear path due to the strong narrative, Mystery Mansion have made use of the program Telescape to allow the team to investigate things in more detail. Although, unlike other games we have played that use the same program, we were never presented with a 360 view of the spaces that we encountered. Instead Telescape was used to give closeup views of important things or to offer opportunities to interact with elements of the game, triggering things to happen, almost like magic, and sometimes, to increase the tension in the game. I particularly like this use of Telescape, as it ensured that our attention was always more focussed on the action happening live, rather than on hunting around an image for the next puzzle and missing half the story.
The puzzles throughout Sleepy Man felt like a natural extension of the environment and more often than not, were more situational, requiring our hosts to do certain things, rather than relying on our remote team to solve for a code. The signposting as to what we needed to complete each task we encountered was spot on (if we were paying attention) which gave the game a fantastic flow, and ensured that the pace never slowed as we built towards the finale.
As for types of puzzles, there were many familiar things: Searching, logic, codes, translation, communication, and a bit of magic, with a few other bits thrown in for good measure. Although the puzzle styles were familiar, Sleepy Man put a unique spin on them – the spin on the communication puzzle was particularly inventive and totally unique. Whatever the style of puzzles we encountered, each was thematic, fitting perfectly into the narrative, and furthered either the action of the game or revealed more of the story. In fact, depending on what you do at certain crucial points of the game, players may even find themselves presented with an additional puzzle track, although you would never know that this is or isn’t there until you’ve completed the game.
When playing a hosted online experience, we’ve found that the best always have a host that seamlessly fits in as an additional member of the team. Sleepy Man actually utilises two hosts, “Jesse,” and “Sam,” and both naturally fell in with the team as we all worked together to help them escape from the house. Of course, we were already familiar with Sam, thanks to our adventures in D’Vile’s Curio Shop. This multi-avatar approach offered many opportunities for those unique puzzles I mentioned earlier.
Jesse (played by the intrepid Owen), and Sam (once again played by Mitch, which was very helpful for continuity purposes) both managed to host with exactly the right balance of allowing us to direct them around, while also ensuring we never missed anything, even chiming in with their own thoughts when we were at a loss as to where to go next. Both also managed to get the horror/humour balance exactly right, making us laugh while also conveying a sense of urgency at the right points to up the adrenaline, and make the Sleepy Man the extremely creepy experience it’s meant to be.
Sadly Sleepy Man (as well as two other Mystery Mansion games) will be gone in its live-avatar format from the end of October 2021. While we have it on good authority that it’s not disappearing entirely (only changing), if you haven’t played the Sleepy Man Trilogy yet, we highly recommend you book now. It’s the perfect time of year for all things spooky and this is definitely one online experience you aren’t going to want to miss!
- Number of connections: 2+ players
- Price: CAD$25.00 per person (+ tax), minimum 4 player price requirement
- Devices: Desktop or Laptop suggested
- Platform: Zoom/Telescape
- Inventory: Yes
- 360º View: No
- Time Zone: Regina, Canada (CST)
|Value for Money|
Team: 6 players
Time Taken: 80 minutes (90 minute game)