Ready for take off!
A mystery, a murder. The suspects 30,000 feet in the air. Someone killed Avery Stone on flight 9201, but who and how? Everyone on board is a suspect. The evidence you need to solve this crime is locked inside suitcases and evidence packs. Solve your way through the clues, unravel this mystery and find the killer.
The Panic Room’s Gravesend location is well known throughout the escape room enthusiast community as the place to go in the UK if you want an escape binge, and it seems as though the company is aiming to take over the digital world as well, with six play at home games already available (at time of writing), and more to come.
CSI: Grounded is one of the first online experiences developed by the company, and is based on their tabletop experience, CSI: Fatal Flight. We’ve not played Fatal Flight, so I can’t say for certain how similar the two games are, but Panic Room also redeveloped another of their live games, CSI: Mafia Murders, into an online game, and the puzzles were identical, so I think it’s safe to assume that if you have played Fatal Flight, very little, if any, of Grounded will be new to you.
CSI: Grounded is a purely digital experience, with no printer required. We’ve come to expect these digital games to be completely linear in structure, unlocking new pages in a sequence, and CSI: Grounded was no exception, although it did provide little moments of exploration. But with an optional download of a soundtrack and a rather slick intro video and conclusion, the game was well on its way to being more immersive than some.
The game is hosted on its own website, and it’s worth noting that at peak times, Fridays and Saturdays from 7 pm – 10 pm GMT/BST, players may find the website to be unresponsive, due to player volumes. We played on a Saturday afternoon and had no issues. Aside from that, the site is relatively easy to navigate, with a centralised dashboard that players can return to more easily locate evidence that has previously been unlocked. The gameplay was smooth, and while I would have preferred to not have the password fields obscured (to better spot typos), this was a relatively minor annoyance.
Multiple players are also able to be logged into the system at the same time, so the game works well for teams that are playing from multiple locations, however, you will need to communicate the solutions to each other, as passwords will only unlock items for each individual player. The bonus of this is that you aren’t limited to looking at the same screen if you’re in different locations – something that may come in handy for identifying the killer.
In case the CSI didn’t give it away, this game is a murder mystery at its heart, with the final goal of gathering the evidence to implicate the murderer. The puzzles in CSI: Grounded leading up to this were a bit mixed. At some points we thought, “Surely it can’t be that?” and at other points found ourselves working a bit harder to find an answer. Observation is key at a number of points but be prepared for codes, cyphers, “padlocks”, and even a bit of searching, in addition to the logical thinking characteristic of most murder mystery games.
One thing that was minor, but oh so helpful, was that whenever there was an audio file, it was accompanied by a transcript. Not only does that make the game more inclusive, but it’s also incredibly helpful when one needs to refer back to the audio for a clue or a code.
We’ve played a number of digital escape games now, and if one thing has become clear, it’s that there is a standard for clue delivery systems, and The Panic Room have not deviated from the standard. It does take something away from the feeling of immersion, but clues are always at hand if you need them, with a series of progressively less cryptic nudges, followed by the solution.
We actually needed to take a clue on one puzzle, and while I would have preferred to see a little bit of signposting on the very first task to negate the need for the hint, I’m sure some people see this instantly, and we were just having a moment, as the solutions to the puzzles were all very fair.
If you’re looking for a game to introduce someone to the world of online escaping, CSI: Grounded is a good choice, with a few “easy win” puzzles, bolstered by a few more difficult tasks to keep things interesting. At the price of £20 for the game, CSI: Grounded is expensive when compared to some of the other digital experiences, which is going to be off-putting for some players, particularly those that play in smaller teams. But, with that price comes the excellent Panic Room customer service if you do run into any issues.
- Device with internet connection (desktop/laptop running Chrome, Firefox or Edge provides the best experience, but is compatible with mobile and tablet)
- Secondary device with QR scanner
|Value for Money|
Team: 2 players
Time Taken: 35 mins (one clue)
*Disclaimer: we weren’t charged for this experience, but this has not influenced our review.