Location: at home
Date Played: May 10, 2020
Team size: 1-4; we recommend 2-3
Duration: 2.5-3 hours
Price: about $53.13
The appeal of Conspiracy-19 was its unusual structure, well-designed components, and engaging interactions, but it wasn’t an entirely refined package.
DarkPark’s first foray into the play-at-home escape room market can be summed up with 3 words: interesting, bumpy, and fixable.
From its subject matter and name, to the bumps in on-boarding and hinting, it was clear that Conspiracy-19 was finished during quarantine… and produced remarkably well, given the added constraints.
In its current state, Conspiracy-19 was a fun, yet flawed game. However, it could be dramatically improved with 2 easily remedied changes:
- Adjusting the introductory letter to point the player towards a starting place that resolves more quickly
- Swapping the Facebook-based hinting for a structured, self-service website
At its price point, I’ll happily recommend Conspiracy-19 to diehard tabletop escape room players with disposable income. It’s a cool game. If the price point is a stretch for you at the moment, I’d sit this one out in its current form. It isn’t bad at all; it just needs a few tweaks.
DarkPark is one of our favorite escape room companies in the world, and one of the things we can tell from their work is how much they care about their products. We’re betting that DarkPark iterates on this one.
Who is this for?
- Puzzle lovers
- Prop fiddlers
- Players with at least some experience
- A few standout interactions
- An unusual structure
We were in a race against time to save the world from a deadly virus.
We opened up 1 large package filled with 5 smaller packages.
Each package was made up of 2 different puzzles:
- A puzzle that resolved to a single letter
- A puzzle that resolved to a single number
The numbers would lead us to one of many QR codes, while the letters combined into a password.
Hinting was handled in a form on dedicated Facebook Groups (one in English, the other in Dutch).
DarkPark’s Conspiracy-19 was play-at-home escape game with a moderate level of difficulty.
Core gameplay revolved around searching, observing, making connections, and puzzling.
➕ DarkPark used quality materials. These were varied and they looked and felt great. We enjoyed the mix of printed and more tangible items. The presentation was polished. (Also, the included red marker was shockingly mighty.)
➖ We had trouble gaining momentum when we started in on Conspiracy-19. The intro would have benefitted from an obvious entry point to give players an early win, and help them understand how the game wanted to be played.
➕ Once we got rolling, and the cluing was clear. We understood how we would ultimately arrive at the conclusion.
➖ We encountered a misleading clue that caused us to spend a lot of time trying to solve one puzzle before we had enough information to do so. This happened too early in the game and was the source of so much of our early confusion.
➖/➕ We backsolved half the final puzzle while just glancing over the materials, before starting in on the game. Performing the backsolve was actually pretty fun… and it didn’t stop us from front-solving properly.
➕ Conspiracy-19 included some interesting and different puzzle interactions. These came together elegantly into a final solve.
➖ DarkPark’s approach to play-at-home hinting was atrocious. When we wanted access to the hints, we needed to join a Facebook group, which required approval… which we couldn’t receive because we were playing in a different time zone and nobody was awake to approve us. Then we had to comb through a forum of unstructured hints. At this price point, unstructured, non-self-service hinting was inexcusable.
➕/➖ The characters were developed enough so as to feel different from one another. We could easily understand the story and keep things straight. That said, they weren’t developed enough for us to feel connected to them or their motivations. We weren’t invested in the game beyond solving the puzzles.
➕ Conspiracy-19 belonged in DarkPark’s playfully grim universe. It was on brand.
Tips For Players
- Space Requirements: a small table
- Required Gear: an internet-connected device that can read QR codes and log into Facebook for hints
Buy your copy of DarkPark’s Conspiracy-19, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.
Disclosure: DarkPark provided a sample for review.