“In the not-too-distant future, on a mission to preserve mankind, Squad 38 are missing in action! Can you save their only survivor?”
The games by RussBuilds are always so difficult to review/rate because the concept is so different to everything else that is out there. We’ve classed this as a ‘live avatar’ game because technically Russ is the one interacting with the physical aspects of this game, but it would be pretty hard to compare this to other live avatar games that we have played.
The reason that Russ operates games in the way he does is that he is basically an enthusiast who has turned his attention to game/puzzle design and is testing the waters, gaining experience and just having fun. We played his first game, Endgame which had the same sort of gameplay and despite struggling on one or two puzzles we really rather enjoyed it.
If you’re looking to book a game with Russ you need to contact him directly and he will let you know about his availability, he doesn’t run many sessions and last I saw he was fully booked through to December. Although Russ offers his experiences for free, he does appreciate donations, so if you can slip him a few pounds (paypal) this will help him offer better experiences in the future.
When we played Endgame, we played with James and Charlie from Deadlocked as they are highly experienced and make us look good! So at our allotted time we started our Zoom call and when Russ joined, we began.
You’ll need to manage your expectations if you play a game by RussBuilds. If you don’t come in expecting a slick set with Hollywood quality finishes then you won’t be disappointed. These games feel like they are designed for people (enthusiasts) who just want to solve puzzles and don’t need all the fluffy stuff that normally comes with it (although Russ has put together a Spotify playlist to add to the immersion).
Although there is no set in the traditional sense, Russ has done a good job to create interactive gizmos that deserve your attention, and he has added a bit more story to this game than the last one had.
When you book a slot for Airlock you receive an email from Russ that contains all the information that you need to know, including a password protected PDF file, and now also includes an audio file that gives a bit more story to your mission.
One of the delights of this game is its simplicity. Everything you need to solve the puzzles is in the PDF file that is emailed to you – you receive the password when your game begins. Russ doesn’t play a character, he is merely there to control the camera, interact with the machines, and offer help when it is needed.
As an added incentive to do well in this game, Russ has created a score system. Essentially you start with 20 points and then lose points for time taken and lose half a point for every hint you take. You could play the system to rank highly, but why not play the game as it is intended? It’s about the experience, not the score.
In our opinion the puzzles in Airlock are harder than what we encountered in Endgame, but despite being harder, they were much fairer and infinitely more satisfying to solve. The entire game of Airlock contained one padlock and the rest was some pretty cool tech that Russ had created. Signposting of puzzles was subtle but once you spotted it, it became very clear.
To complete this game you needed to solve five multi-layered puzzles. One could argue that an additional first puzzle was working out where to start, as you are given everything in one go you need to sift through to work out a good starting point. Technically you could brute-force a puzzle and complete the game, but that would certainly make for a hollow victory.
Because of how this game is set up it is completely non-linear meaning that your team can work on different puzzles simultaneously, although obviously Russ can only interact with one thing at a time.
As I said, we found the puzzles to be fair and despite being quite tricky, they were so very satisfying to solve. In Endgame, Russ was very sneaky with one puzzle but it was nice to see there was no such sneakiness in Airlock, ok one thing was a bit sneaky, but not in the same way.
With Russ, you don’t get an over-the-top character who sucks you into the game. What you will get is a very attentive gamesmaster with ridiculously good patience. If we asked him to look at a device, he would remain looking at that device until we asked him to move to something else – or sometimes he would default back to the countdown timer so we could see how long we had left.
We tried really hard to get through this game without any clues, but we failed on that mission. One puzzle we just weren’t getting so we had to ask Russ for a bit of a nudge. When that nudge came, Russ was detailed enough to get us back on track, but not so detailed that he spoon fed us the answer.
A very different experience to other live games, Russ is creating experiences that keep getting better. A fun score system, challenging puzzles and impressive props – if you can get a slot, you won’t be disappointed.
It’s hard to compare this to other games, so our rating is a bit more ‘stand-alone’ than it might normally be. Saying that, we will 100% recommend this game to anyone who is up for the challenge.
GOOD TO KNOW
- Number of connections: 2-4 players*
- Price: Free, with optional donation
- Devices: Desktop or Laptop suggested. Also compatible with handheld devices. Separate device for PDF recommended
- Platform: Zoom or Microsoft Teams (*More than one connection will require someone on your team to have a premium account)
- Inventory: No
- 360º View: No
- Time Zone: United Kingdom (GMT/BST)
|Value for Money|
Team: 4 players
Time Taken: 34:57 mins (one hint – 13.5 points)