Death has plagued the small city of Sunnyvale. Detectives were able to uncover a piece of evidence that has led to the true identity of the assassin. You never would have guessed it! The killer is none other than Nissassa, the most well-known modern artist to date!
We were first introduced to Omescape in 2018 when we played Joker’s Asylum and later, Penitentiary at the London King’s Cross location. We enjoyed the games but didn’t think they were anything particularly spectacular, so I was a bit surprised when I heard the buzz around a new online experience from Omescape. What I didn’t realise was that the company appears to be an international franchise, and it was the original Bay Area parent company that was generating the buzz from their newest venue in Sunnyvale, CA. Like many companies, Omescape had to find a way to adapt to a new normal, and find a way to bring their games to the people, rather than have the people come to them. The result was Pursuit of the Assassin Artist.
Pursuit of the Assassin Artist has received praise from all corners, claiming the number one slot on the 2020 TERPECA List of Top Online Escape Rooms, as well as receiving accolades from other big names in the industry and rave reviews from players in general. But the game also comes with a hefty flat rate ticket price of $179, which, depending on your team size makes it one of the more expensive options out there for the price conscious escaper. So the question is, is the game worth the price tag? We assembled the crack teams from Brit of an Escape Habit and Deadlocked Escape Rooms to find out.
On the surface, Pursuit of the Assassin Artist is your basic Avatar-style remote escape game where teams direct a live person around a physical space using a video feed (Zoom in this case). But this game was specifically designed for this style of play, allowing Omescape to utilise the format to their advantage and push the boundaries of what a virtual escape room can be. Like many of the most memorable avatar-led escape games we’ve played, Pursuit of the Assassin Artist blurs the lines between escape game and immersive theatre. (N.B. If you don’t enjoy interaction with actors, or a bit of improv, ensure you have at least one person on your team that does. Otherwise, this experience may not be all that comfortable for you and your team.) Other games have felt theatrical in their presentation, The Exorcist, The Beast, and The Hot Chocolate Incident come to mind as examples, but Pursuit of the Assassin Artist actually took it one step further and approached full immersion. The game had a sense of realism that I haven’t experienced in an online adventure outside of the Agent Venture Series thanks to the interaction with not only our avatar (the intrepid Agent Sierra), but also the antagonist of the story, Nissassa, through our Agent. But it wasn’t just the interactions with the characters on screen that made the game feel more real, it was this in combination with the moments in the game where we were actually required to leave the game environment and enter the real world to find the solution and help Agent Sierra. There were even times I felt genuinely nervous about what we were about to do.
What felt at first to be a totally open, non-linear game, is in fact, not really. Yes, there will be an opportunity or two for the team to diverge and individually take a closer look at something, particularly thanks to the 360 images and close up views available in Telescape, but in actuality, the game is quite linear. However, the most amazing thing is that it never feels linear. Truth be told, players are unlikely to realise that there was actually no other way things could have gone, as the narrative and flow of the game guides you so skillfully to what you need to do, whilst still leaving the impression that you’ve chosen the path you’re on from a multitude of parallel options and infinite possibilities.
This open feeling is further enhanced by a key mechanic that would be impossible to recreate in a non-virtual game, but further muddies the waters of what this game actually is by introducing elements of a video game. Although this mechanic is quite clearly laid out in the confirmation email and the briefing we received from Omescape prior to connecting to Agent Sierra, I feel like I would be spoiling the fun for you if I were to write more. Needless to say, this element of the game is entirely unique amongst virtual escape rooms (for now at least). Done poorly, it could have caused the game to become frustrating and drag, but Omescape have managed to ensure that this is not the case. Instead, the game had a surprisingly fast pace, and a narrative full of dramatic twists and unexpected turns as you guide Agent Sierra through the Den of the Assassin Artist. (And I haven’t even mentioned just how funny the game was, but we’re running into novella territory with the length of this review, so I’ll leave it at that.)
For me, Pursuit of the Assassin Artist was about so much more than just the puzzles, and it’s the experience and unique mechanics of the game that makes this game special. But of course, an escape game wouldn’t be complete if there weren’t any puzzles, so while the game felt sparse in the puzzle department, they were still present. Part of what made the puzzles so delightful for me was the variety of puzzles that resulted in combinations for locks alongside tasks that you didn’t even realise were puzzles to begin with.
Observation, logic, wordplay, pattern recognition, a tiny bit of searching, and a whole lot of mental dot-connecting are all underpinned by a need for quick thinking and improvisation in order to complete the mission (or should that be missions? There are two of them after all.) Part of what gave the game that open feeling mentioned earlier was the fact that we would discover information that we knew was important, but with no idea where it might be needed until we stumbled upon the perfect place for it later, providing the entire team with some really delightful “Ah-Ha!” moments, as someone put two and two together and shouted out the perfect solution to the problem.
Pursuit of the Assassin Artist began with a thorough brief that not only included a detailed description of important game elements and the story, but also a thorough overview on how to use Telescape, before were connected to Agent Sierra. Whenever you play a live-Avatar game, there is always a little “dance” that occurs as the team and avatar become acquainted, and we all try to figure out how to achieve the ultimate goal of the game. With Agent Sierra, played by the delightful Jesse, we seemed to become acquainted quickly, and he immediately felt like an extension of our team. Poor Agent Sierra; he went through a lot thanks to us, but he conquered it all with enthusiasm and good humour (and excellent, steady camera work) – even when we put him in mortal peril…
Of course, we should also mention the performance of our Assassin Artist, Nissassa, played by William, for our game. It was the dynamic between Agent Sierra and Nissassa that made this game something special. The banter, and quick thinking on the part of both actors made this a highly entertaining experience, as well as highly immersive, as we as the team behind Agent Sierra were required to think quickly to help him out of a sticky situation, lest he be assassinated.
Unique, funny, surprising, clever, and occasionally shocking, Pursuit of the Assassin Artist was something I didn’t even realise was possible, let alone needed, in an escape game. If companies continue to create games like this, online escape games will persist long after we’re allowed to play in person once again. And I for one, will welcome it.
GOOD TO KNOW
- Number of connections: 2-8 Players
- Price: $179 per game
- Devices: Laptop/Desktop
- Platform: Zoom / Browser
- Inventory: Yes
- 360º View: Yes
- Time Zone: Sunnyvale, CA (PST)
|Value for Money|
Team: 6 players
Time Taken: 1hr 16 minutes