Chained: A Victorian Nightmare – [Review]

The Ghost of Dickens’ Future.

Location:  New York City, NY

Date Played: March 14, 2019

Team size: 1

Duration: 20 minutes

Price: $60 for Chained or $150 for Chained + The Story Arcade

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Chained: A Victorian Nightmare was an elegant mixed-reality experience that blended live acting and VR into a personalized reimagining of A Christmas Carol.

I really enjoyed it. I’ve thought about it a lot since experiencing it (evidence can be found in my dramatic overthinking of one portion, which you’ll find scrawled across the tail end of the Analysis section.)

The promo art for Chained: A Victorian Nightmare features an ornate door with a wolf's head knocker.

This experience ran right along the edge of what we cover here on Room Escape Artist. It didn’t involve puzzles or gameplay… but I did have agency, and the experience was different because I was the participant versus someone else. Those differences were small or exclusively existed in my own head… but I was the sole participant, so we’re going to count it.

My biggest knock against Chained was the price. At $60 for 15 minutes, I’m not sure that it’s worth it for most people… which is a shame, because it really was a beautiful, intimate, and personal experience. Solo experiences can get expensive.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Story seekers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Best for people who like their experiences packed with feels
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • Fantastic live acting
  • Wonderful VR
  • It was thought- and feeling- provoking

Story

I stepped into my own Dickensian nightmare in the spirit of A Christmas Carol.

Setting

Chained: A Victorian Nightmare was a mixed reality experience that opened and closed in a small, beautifully designed real world set. The bulk of the experience took place in VR.

I think that there were 2 actors involved (although I’d be lying if I said that I knew for certain how many people were in the space with me). The actors were fantastic.

Gameplay

Chained: A Victorian Nightmare didn’t really have gameplay. It asked questions, demanded responses, and then left me to figure out what it meant to me.

Analysis

Chained: A Victorian Nightmare was a stellar representation of mixed reality. The use of real life and digital spaces was about as strong as anything that I’ve ever seen.

➕/➖ The transition points – where the VR headset was put on and removed – were about as smooth as possible. It’s not really possible, given current technology, to do this elegantly, but they made it as simple as I can imagine strapping a television and speakers to my head can be.

➕ The acting was phenomenal. The performances were sincere and haunting.

➕ The choice of source material and subject matter was really smart. Casting the participant in the position of Scrooge and then creating nightmares to force reflection was a clever way to quickly take me on an emotional journey.

❓ They asked some seriously personal questions. While I’m sure that they had a way to deal with a participant not answering, it really felt like I had to give a response. This didn’t bother me, but I know some people who would be uncomfortable or perturbed by this.

❓ Spoiler Warning: In the experience, they posed the question “What do you miss most about being a child?” This question has been nagging at me, because I think that I lied… but I also don’t know what the true answer to it is. It’s possible that it’s just me, but this one question feels really difficult to pin down a single answer to.

“Childhood” is a really long span of time to choose one thing from. I’m also not sure when childhood begins and ends. I can think of a dozen different moments where I could say that “I stopped being a child” and none of them are completely true or false. It’s a gradual thing. While I’m certain that I’m an adult today, I don’t know when it happened or what it even means.

➖ Chained: A Victorian Nightmare was really expensive. $60 is a lot to ask for a 15-20 minute experience.

➕ There was a lovely post-experience cool down, which was a great addition because things got a bit heavy.

Tips For Visiting

Booking is not always available. I experienced Chained: A Victorian Nightmare at its FoST exhibit at the New York City Story Arcade Pop-Up. I don’t know when or where it will be available next..

If it comes to your city, book your session with Chained: A Victorian Nightmare, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you

Disclosure: Chained: A Victorian Nightmare comped our tickets for this game.

One thought on “Chained: A Victorian Nightmare – [Review]

  1. Let me join you in your overthinking.
    I think childhood/adulthood is a combination of different characteristics, and for each person they gradually change in value. There are lots of them, but here are a few of the top ones that come to mind for me:

    Responsibilities: literally, how responsible you need to be for aspects of your life and the lives of people around you.

    Maturity: how you interact with other people, and how much you live up to your responsibilities. Part of this is doing things even though you don’t want to, because they need to be done and shirking them will hurt you, hurt others, or put the burden on others.

    Wisdom: the ability to see a bigger picture, outside the immediate desires of the moment.

    Capability for wonder and amazement: the phrase “childlike wonder” exists because many people lose some of their sense of wonder as they get older. This is partly because through experience there is less novelty. Things you are familiar with are less likely to spark a feeling of amazement, even when they are still just as wondrous as when you first saw them (ponder for a moment the incredible complexity of the device you are reading this on, or look really closely at a flower).

    They are interrelated- you can be mature and want to handle your responsibilities, but without some wisdom you won’t be able to prioritize.

    Almost everyone has an increased burden of responsibilites as they get older. When you are really young, everything is done for you. You gradually take on responsibilites: having to dress yourself, feed yourself, do homework, earn money to pay your bills… Many people become responsible for the well-being of others as well, like children, spouses, or parents.

    Usually people get more mature at they get older, too. But not everyone has a maturity level that matches their level of responsibilities.

    Of course, some people take those burdens on much earlier, so are acting in many ways like “adults” even when they are teens, either because of desire to be independent, or necessity because a parent can’t/won’t handle those things for them.

    And some people maintain their sense of wonder more than others, seeking out things like immersive theater and escape rooms to help feed it.

    So for me there is no sharp cutoff from child to adult, just gradual changes in those parameters. There are points in each which are “definitely child” and others that are “definitely adult”, but few people arrive at those points in all of the parameters at the same time, and it is highly arguable which sets of those points equals “100% adult”.

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