Mayor Rob gets our vote, he’s Amazing!
Art mimics real life! Everyone in our small town of Davinport is nowhere to be seen, however, our fearless Mayor is still trying to solve the mystery of what happened to Dominic Fontana, but he can’t do it himself!
When escape rooms around the world had to (temporarily) close their doors to the public in March 2020, we saw a number of different innovations to keep businesses afloat and continue to bring puzzles, fun, and escapism to their customers. Rock Ave Escapes was one of the first, if not the first, to hit the ground running with the idea of outfitting a GM with a camera and live streaming their games, acting as the eyes, hands, and the boots on the ground for teams to play remotely, like something straight out of the movie, Gamer.
Ready Mayor One is so incredibly popular that it is booked solidly for at least three weeks in advance – which is really not surprising given how highly entertaining it is. Due to the overwhelming popularity of RM1, we ended up playing Ready Mayor Two first, not long after it opened to the public as it had availability much sooner than late June. The stories are intertwined, all set in the fictitious town of Davinport and revolving around the disappearance of one Dominic Fontana, but the games can be played in any order, and as soon as we finished RM2, we knew that Ready Mayor One would be pretty special, and couldn’t wait to play.
Joined by James and Charlie, of Deadlocked Escape Rooms fame, we gathered on our Zoom call to meet our host for the evening, Mayor Rob. We begin our story outside the entrance to Dominic Fontana’s apartment building, as we aid Mayor Rob in investigating his strange disappearance, since, in his own words, the good Mayor is not the brightest crayon in the box, and in need of a little assistance. Plus, he’s a little bit terrified of Dominic’s neighbour.
If you’re new to the concept of a remote-play/live-avatar escape room, it’s pretty simple: log into whatever multi-user video chat software the company has chosen, and as a team navigate through the puzzles of the escape room by asking your avatar/GM to investigate and open things on your behalf. In the case of Ready Mayor One, the game is a slightly modified version of Rock Ave’s live game, Apartment A.I. I say slightly because the only things that are different are one or two hiding places for items that would have otherwise made the remote searching element exceedingly frustrating.
After explaining what we were there to do (what’s a little B&E matter when someone is missing after all), Mayor Rob stepped through the door into the foyer of Dominic’s apartment building, complete with broken elevator. Of course, the elevator repairman was already on his way, so we needed to break in, find out what may have happened to Dominic and get out in under an hour. Of course, it’s not all as simple as it seems. If you’ve played Ready Mayor Two, as we did, you will probably have some idea of what happened to Dominic, so I shan’t spoil it for you but suffice it to say, you should expect some difficulties from the AI system created to guard the apartment, A.L.I. (She threatened to terminate me personally!)
Some games you play and are blown away by the set, and others have sets that aren’t particularly memorable. Ready Mayor One falls into the latter category (apart from the elevator, I’m still impressed by that), with a set that is a good representation of the apartment of someone eccentric enough to create an AI that’s even more aggressive than Alexa.
But don’t be fooled by the basic set. One of the things that makes both of the Rock Ave Escapes virtual games great is their inventory system, which allows players to view important information in more detail. You’re responsible for entering the items into the inventory using some simple code words, provided by Mayor Rob, as you uncover new evidence, but the amazing thing is that, unlike others we’ve come across, you have the ability to interact with items in the inventory to input codes or sequences yourself triggering mechanisms within the room, in real-time, allowing players to feel that much more involved.
I love a game that keeps you guessing, and Ready Mayor One certainly did that. The game was completely non-linear; we would find things and be utterly stumped, until stumbling upon another piece of information elsewhere, providing some really nice “Ah-Ha!” moments when something just clicked.
Ready Mayor One would have been a fun, though probably not a particularly taxing, game (for us anyway) had we been able to play in person, with a mix of searching, observation, some logic, and a bit of lateral thinking required in your puzzle-solving, with a combination of traditional padlocks and some hidden tech for one or two surprising reveals – perfectly designed for their core market of escape room newcomers. But the digital live streaming format immediately adds an extra level of challenge that is absent when playing in person, and the game has been so well adapted to this format that players, experienced or not, will find this a great escape experience.
When we review escape rooms, one of the things that has always been most important to me is, did I enjoy my experience? Yes, the game itself plays a role in that, but the GM factors even more heavily into that experience. And that is especially true for this new format of live streamed games. Mayor Rob was the star of the show as he guided us around Dominic’s apartment, with a playful sense of humour, joking with us, and becoming a fifth member of team ‘We Thought This Was Speed Dating’. Mayor Rob did an excellent job responding to requests, even when we got excited and asked him to do different things at the same time, and was very thorough in his investigation.
We needed to ask for help once, and this was due to a search fail on our part. (Searching is always my downfall in any room, and it’s even harder in these remote play games.) Mayor Rob did allow us to flounder a little bit, but I expect this was simply because he was aware we are relatively experienced players and wanting to give us a chance to realise our mistake on our own. But as soon as we begrudgingly admitted defeat and asked what we were missing, a simple, “You might not have all of the information you need yet,” was enough to send us back for a look, and we quickly realised our error. (It was a semi-sneaky hiding place.)
Ready Mayor One was full of surprises and some great ‘Ah-Ha!’ moments; the interaction with A.L.I. and Mayor Rob was just the icing on the cake, making an already good game great. Now we just need to figure out when we can go to Tampa to play Drew’s Brews (expected to open July 2020), because we managed to get a sneak peek, and that set looks pretty incredible.
GOOD TO KNOW
- Number of connections: 6 Maximum
- Price: $49.95 for the first two households/connections, and $19.95 for each additional connection
- Devices: Laptop, tablet, PC or smartphone (best on laptop/PC)
- Platform: Zoom
- Inventory: Yes
- 360º View: Yes
- Time Zone: Eastern Time, USA
|Value for Money|
Team: 4 players
Time Taken: 58:38 (one hint)
*Disclaimer: we weren’t charged for this experience, but this has not influenced our review.