The Secrets of Eliza’s Heart is a digital, livestreamed adaptation of an escape game created by Logic Locks in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
Update 10/25/22: If you enjoy The Secrets of Eliza’s Heart we hope you’ll check out our interview with creator Alexander Gierholz on The Reality Escape Pod.
Room Escape Artist has a review of The Secrets of Eliza’s Heart in its original format from June 2017. This is a review of the digital adaptation of the same game.
Style of Play: real-life escape room livestreamed through an avatar
Required Equipment: computer with internet connection, pen and paper could also be helpful
There was no inventory system other than taking notes by hand yourself, and this actually worked just fine.
Recommended Team Size: 2-4
Play Time: The game itself lasts up to 80 minutes, but they recommend you reserve up to 120 minutes for the entire experience.
Price: between €18,75 – €37,50 per person ($21 – $42)
Booking: book online for a specific time slot
One reviewer notes: Our game was generously provided at 3:00 AM Amsterdam time and our host remained and chatted with us long after the game was over. Excellent customer service.
This game consists entirely of the livestream of an in-character avatar exploring a real room on your behalf. You tell the avatar what to do, but unlike some avatar games, they have a mind of their own, so you might have to negotiate with them to accomplish what you want.
Hivemind Review Scale
Sarah Mendez’s Reaction
Of all the online games I’ve played, The Secrets of Eliza’s Heart is the richest blend of storytelling, setting, puzzles, and overall immersion. Everything just works. Unlike my other favorite online rooms, this game is conducted only over video, but the beauty of the experience is that it doesn’t need any extra accoutrement. The set is vivid enough to render 360-degree views unnecessary. The discovered objects are memorable enough to forego an inventory tracking system. The in-character avatar glues the whole experience together by playing their role to a fault (even in the pre-game chatroom!), fully embodying the persona of a teammate who truly fears for their life (which provides a challenge in its own right). The result is an artistic achievement that allows you to truly imagine that you are there, soothing the sting of not actually being there. My only criticism involves a couple instances of questionable imagery that arguably fit the story but seem unnecessary. In terms of gameplay, though, this is a satisfying experience that stands out among the crowd.
Michelle Calabro’s Reaction
Games are art, and good art makes you feel something — anything — because to feel is to remember our own humanity. It is with a heavy heart that I write my review of this game, and it takes considerable restraint to write with the same level of care that I hope to receive from reviewers of games that I’ve designed.
So I will start with the obvious strengths, for they should not be understated. It was inspiring to experience the high level of creativity and technical execution evidenced in this work. The story explored societal and emotional themes that are relatable (and timely) yet relatively rare in the escape room world. The plot took a turn that played with my expectations. The puzzles drew upon a variety of intelligences, advanced the action of the story, and changed thematically with the plot. The set was beautiful and clever. The lighting guided players’ attention effectively. The sound effectively evoked the emotions of each scene. The actor who brought the experience to life was endearing and funny. It takes quite a bit of imagination, talent and taste to be able to produce an experience of this sophistication.
However, if you’re able to create a game of this sophistication, you should be using that talent to communicate responsibly. In the case of this game, a central theme — feminism — was communicated inaccurately and therefore irresponsibly. The game seemed to equate feminism with man-hating and frame it as a scornful reaction to a man’s untrustworthy action. Feminism is not reactionary and it is not hateful; to portray it as such is to further oppress women and men. I cannot recommend this game because to recommend it would be to further this oppression.
Cara Mandel’s Reaction
The Secrets of Eliza’s Heart looked like a really fun game to play in person. In its avatar-based form, it was still enjoyable but it left me wishing I had been there in person. However, since this game is located far from me in Amsterdam, this online format affords more teams the opportunity to play it. Our host was enthusiastic and highly committed to his character, the intrepid explorer. At times, we spent more time coaxing our terrified guide than solving the puzzles themselves, giving the game a perhaps unintended added level of difficulty! All in all, we had a fun time and enjoyed the story, game mechanisms, and production design.
Richard Burns’ Reaction
This was a standard avatar-led remote-play of an older escape room. The scenic was great and the puzzles were familiar. The story was solid and interesting. The highlight of the game for me was the avatar interaction.
R. Fimblewood was a character created just for the remote play version and our actor worked hard to bring it to life. The avatar gauged our experience level and deployed some stalling techniques to ensure we got near the 90 minutes of scheduled play time. At times this was frustrating, but it also created a lot of laughs and even another layer of game play.
Mr. Fimblewood was an individual with emotions (mostly fear) and questions for us about the story and the motives and feelings of the other characters. We had to discuss ideas and theories, then comfort, console, encourage, command and control our avatar.
Learning to handle our remote teammate added an interesting interactive puzzle to a somewhat ordinary room. This turned it into an experience. I learned and appreciated more about the story from talking with the avatar than I ever would have playing the room in real life.
This game reinforced a feeling in me that remote play escape rooms have the opportunity to offer something that most real-life versions do not. With careful use of a quality avatar, a layer of character and story depth can be delivered to the players that would often be missed or skimmed over during the rush of an in-person playthrough.
Hello, I am Alexander, one of the designers of this game.
Thanks a lot for the thoughtful reviews!
I appreciate the critical reflections and felt compelled to react to Michelle’s feedback.
I would disagree that the central theme of the game is feminism. Elizabeth was certainly a feminist but, she was also impulsive and certainly not immune to jealousy or a thirst for vengeance. While this is the emotional landscape of her character, we did not intend to imply that those reactions are part of a feminist ideology.
The game is accompanied with a follow up mini-experience ‘The Forgotten Letters’ which shines some more light on the characters emotion arch. Those letters are much more centered around the topic of regret and forgiveness and will help to understand Elizabeth as a more nuanced character.
Hi Alexander. Thank you for sharing these thoughts, I’m glad that you did, as I feel that your context is productive.
One of the struggles with adding narrative depth to escape rooms and escape room characters is that it’s difficult for creators to share their full vision and world with their customers in such a short span of time.
As one of our Hivemind Reviewers, Michelle, is a big advocate for the kind of artistry and depth that I know Logic Locks aims for – and I think that her perspective on the experience is absolutely valid – while also understanding that the way that she felt during the game isn’t exactly what you were striving for.
Personally, I love that Logic Locks is striving for more – and I am so happy to see discussion about an escape room’s narrative that is diving this deep and past the superficial descriptions of set design. I think that only good things come from discussions like these.
I wasn’t sure about the Hivemind format at first but I really like how it shows the same experience through many lenses and I think this discussion is a great example of this strength. It lets us as players see a more complete view and make our own decisions in a way that’s more nuanced than a single rating. I’d actually like to see the format continue even once the pandemic situation resolves…
I didn’t notice the issues Michelle ran into when I played the game IRL (over a year ago — it might have changed — or I might have missed it!), but I absolutely see how it could be disappointing to be intrigued by an early mention of feminism but then see the character evolve in a way that feels adjacent to an unfortunately common pattern (women defined by their relationship to men, with a long term grudge) that’s individually reasonable but problematic by its preponderance.
It’s great to see the character developed further! (The Forgotten Letters are at https://www.etsy.com/listing/726023793/the-forgotten-letters-of-elizabeth-van for anyone who’s interested.)
Thanks Dan. This really is the intent of the Hivemind format.
The notion that the experience that a person has in an escape room (or any other experience) is a personal and subjective one is at the core of what REA has always been about. It’s the main reason that we rejected the notion of a rating scale to begin with.
When we started the Hivemind we saw this as an opportunity to take a whole bunch of people who are different ages, from different places, and have different experiences in life and let them share their perceptions of the games that they play. Our underlying hope and assumption was that sometimes people would disagree… or see or feel things that others hadn’t.
What we have is an interesting mix of reviews… some where the Hivemind generally agreed with one another… but so many of them have vast disagreements.
Personally, I love this. It broadens our thinking and I hope that it does so for our readers. We are absolutely planning to extend this format and this team in other directions.