Do you believe in magic?
After a long hiatus, The Magician has returned to the stage. Join us and book your tickets to find out just exactly why he was named Magician of the Year 3 times in a row! This comeback performance will be exclusively shown only at UNLOCKED Productions Theater. His magic and illusions will free your mind…
The Return of the Magician was the very first escape game designed by UNLOCKED, and as such also has the honour of becoming their very first online experience. UNLOCKED are based in Southern California, just outside LA, and only about 15 minutes from Disneyland (traffic dependent of course). But as it’s unlikely we’ll be able to head back to California for a holiday anytime soon, it is always such a delight to discover a new game that can be played from home. So of course, when our friend and fellow blogger over at Escape Mattster arranged a Boxing Day gathering, along with our friends over at Brit of an Escape Habit, Armchair Escapist, and The Escape Room-er, we were only too happy to accept the invitation to beta-test the game (the game was good, it’s likely to get even better).
Late morning for our Californian hosts, but late evening for our entirely UK based team, we gathered on Zoom, to meet our hosts, John and Tony, and begin the game. The experience began with an introduction to John, not only our avatar, but also an amature magician and social media influencer who has been lucky enough to be selected to open for the magician, and being the social media man he is, he’s decided to live stream the event. Of course, things never work out the way you expect, but having a plausible back story for why we’re working remotely immediately makes it easier to get immersed in the experience, which we did, as we settled in to solve the disappearance of the The Magician and ensure he makes his return as expected.
The Return of the Magician as an online experience is essentially identical to the experience of playing in person (so I’ve been told), at least as far as the puzzles go, and the game itself translates surprisingly well to the online format – especially as the online format provides opportunities to add a little extra magic. As with any avatar led experience, you’re guided through a physical bricks and mortar escape game by your host, and as such, the games often take on a linear structure. The Return of the Magician online is actually specifically designed to be more linear than the real life version, but with good reason – there are, after all, only so many things the avatar can do at once.
The more games we’ve played, the more I’ve realised that many of the games I’ve enjoyed the most don’t actually have an inventory or 360 views, and I think this is purely because when there isn’t one, it’s easier to become more absorbed in the story. But the inclusion of the inventory system does mean that despite the linear flow, there are still plenty of opportunities to allow everyone on the team to feel as though they are able to explore and that no one is ever feeling left out of the action.
Mechanics of the game aside, the set was on point, beginning with the simply decorated backstage area, evolving into an unexpected journey, which was at times truly delightful. While the game is not overly driven by the narrative, the set showed a clear progression, and little touches like sound bites ensured that transitions remained as magical on screen as they would have been in person.
The Return of the Magician has an excellent mix of incredibly satisfying puzzles to solve, with a bit of searching, observation, logic, wordplay, and of course, magic. The puzzles were on theme, and in general just plain fun, full of wonderful “Ah-Ha!” moments as we progressed through the game. These ah-ha moments were aided by the excellent and subtle sign posting that helped to make the puzzles feel intuitive, and ensured that we knew exactly which code was needed for each lock.
The puzzles were also what highlighted exactly how much of an asset the inclusion of the inventory was for The Return of the Magician. Thanks to the interactivity of the system, we were able to take a more proactive role in solving, as we were able to play/interact with items in a manner that was closer to how they would be used had we been able to play the game in person. The interactivity of the inventory also ensured that the pace of the game rarely slowed, as we could investigate some things ourselves, rather than relying on John to show us and explain what he was seeing.
John was an excellent host – quick to respond to requests to investigate something, relaying codes for the inventory system efficiently, and as he got used to our banter, John became an extension of the team, rather than simply our avatar. Plus, he has perfected the art of subtle cueing, using lingering shots and camera angles to guide us towards something we may have missed or overlooked. Between John’s camera work and the excellent sign posting throughout the game, we never needed to ask for an outright clue, but I’m certain that if we had, John would have been ready with a subtle nudge to get us back on track.
But of course, we also can’t forget Tony, who was active behind the scenes, ensuring that everything went off without a hitch, at least technically speaking, and kept our digital inventory free of clutter, which I have to say, I am a massive fan of. There’s nothing worse than sifting through a bunch of information you no longer need in an effort to find the final piece of the puzzle after all, and this little touch made the experience feel very slick indeed.
The Return of the Magician incorporated magic and just a bit of mystery to bring to life a thoroughly enjoyable game with wonderfully satisfying puzzles, suitable for the whole family, or just a group of friends that want to get together for a digital adventure.
GOOD TO KNOW
- Number of connections: 2-8 (Company recommends 4-8 players)
- Price: $60.00 for the first two connections, +$15.00 for each additional thereafter
- Devices: Desktop or Laptop suggested, ideally dual/split-screen
- Platform: Zoom / Browser
- Inventory: Yes
- 360º View: Yes
- Time Zone: California (PST)
|Value for Money|
Team: 5 players
Time Taken: 45:00 minutes
*Disclaimer: we weren’t charged for this experience, but this has not influenced our review.