Leave the idiot at home
Four Crime scenes.
One thief at large.
A race against the clock.
Can you catch them in time?
Having already played Airlock and Endgame by RussBuilds, Citizen was his third game and we were very much looking forward to it. I believe for Endgame we finished top of his leaderboard so that was a bonus, but despite there being a leaderboard, Russ’s games are made to be enjoyed, not rushed.
We once again teamed up with James and Charlie from Deadlocked, I’m not sure if there is a maximum or minimum team size but we find a team of four always feels like the perfect number for the RussBuilds.
Normally when we book to play a game it is played within a week of booking, but the RussBuilds games are like an exclusive club as there is limited availability, so we had to wait our turn, for far too long. Just before the day we were due to play, we received an email from Russ containing all the details that we’d need for the game, including an attached audio file and PDF document – with strict instructions not to listen to the audio file until told to do so (we couldn’t open the PDF as it was password protected, with the password to be revealed in the game).
At our allotted time, we joined the Zoom call and were greeted by Russ. We were ready to see his latest creations and excited to see if we could solve them. When the timer started we hit play on the Citizen Spotify playlist that Russ had created and were ready to rock!
If you’ve played any of the games by RussBuilds before then you will find a similar set up in Citizen to his other games. Russ doesn’t go for full immersion in a heavily staged room, instead he focuses on creating great puzzles and nifty bits of tech to interact with, all placed on a table. For such a simple concept, it works well and it’s very enjoyable to play, we’ve not had a bad experience yet.
Considering Russ is essentially self taught and is still learning and developing his skills, he has done a great job in making puzzles that are set at just the right difficulty level to keep you engaged. Everything you need to solve the puzzles are in the PDF which you have, but your Avatar then interacts with the physical items that are on the table. Considering most of the time the Avatar is just standing there looking at items while you try to solve the puzzles in the PDF, he remains incredibly patient yet always on hand to offer assistance should it be needed.
To make the game more interesting, Russ operates a score system so those of you who are competitive can see how you compare to other teams. The score system takes into account both time and number of hints – losing points for hints and time taken. I’d like to say that we completed this game quickly but due to an idiot on our team (yes, it was me), we took probably an extra 5/10 minutes longer than we should have. Pro tip: always check each other’s solutions and don’t assume.
One more thing, Russ now has a premium Zoom account so he will set up the meeting and invite you, with none of those pesky 40 minute deadlines.
Although we struggled thanks to our own stupidity (yes, I know, my stupidity), I think the puzzles in Citizen were actually easier than those that we encountered in Airlock and Endgame. The puzzles were also much fairer, in past games Russ has been very sneaky with his puzzles, but in Citizen he moved away from this sneakiness (nothing was hidden) and just focussed on solid puzzles that didn’t try to fool you.
As all the puzzles are contained within the PDF, Russ is limited on what he can do with them, but you will find puzzles that broadly fit into the realm of wordplay, decoding, spatial relations and pattern recognition. Other than simply solving the puzzles, part of the fun is working out how to interact with Russ’s gadgets and gizmos, he’s a clever chap and we love playing his games.
Historically Russ has taken a bit of a step back from the role of a traditional host, and really just operates as your hands on the ground and gives nudges accordingly. This time, Russ plays the character of Citizen and remains in that character for the entirety of the game. This character choice integrates into the story and gives that little extra immersion that was otherwise missing from his games, just don’t call him Russ as he won’t respond.
I’m always torn on how I feel about being penalised for taking hints, but in Russ’s games, I think it is fair, although personally I would make it a bit more of a penalty than just half a point. Knowing that hints cost points made us much more resistant to use them, and as we enjoy solving puzzles we would prefer to struggle on rather than just be spoon fed the answer. Why play escape rooms if you’re going to have others give you the answer, right?
Citizen is the third game in the series by RussBuilds, and we once again had a good time. Getting a slot is like trying to get into an exclusive club, but if you do get in, you should have a great time.
Russ operates his games for free but he does accept donations, so if you have a good time and are feeling generous, anything you can donate will help him create more experiences and up his game (it probably would keep his wife happy too, knowing that he is at least getting something in return for all the time he invests in this).
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 / Adobe PDF
- Inventory: No
- 360º View: No
- Time Zone: United Kingdom (GMT/BST)
|Value for Money|
Team: 4 players
Time Taken: 36:07 mins (one hint – 12.5 points)