Castle Escapes – Hunt for the Crimson Fang [Hivemind Review]

Hunt for the Crimson Fang is a digital escape game designed for livestream-style play, created by Castle Escapes.

Zoom view of a castle-like set. There is a bowl that appears to be filled with blood in the cnter of the room.

Format

Style of Play: digital escape game designed for online play, and not playable in real life

Required Equipment: computer with internet connection

Recommended Team Size: 2-6

Play Time: 60 minutes

Price: $95 for a team of up to 6 players/ $125 for a team of up to 8 players

Booking: book online for a specific time slot

Description

Hunt for the Crimson Fang is presented through livestreamed pre-recorded video clips and a live voice actor guiding the experience. This escape room was designed for the online format and isn’t playable in real life.

With the pre-recorded video, Castle Escapes took advantage of the online medium to do things that would be difficult to reset in a real-life escape room. The innovation was impressive. While the website explicitly mentions that the game is played via pre-recorded video in the FAQ, this wasn’t made clear enough in the game description and splash page, leading some reviewers to feel the marketing was deceptive.

The shield for an organization called, "NUTS"

Hivemind Review Scale

REA's hivemind review scale - 3 is recommended anytime, 2 recommended in quarantine, 1 is not recommended.

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Cara Mandel’s Reaction

Rating: 2 out of 3.

I’m going to be honest; I struggled with this review.

On the one hand, I admittedly didn’t do enough research about this room before playing it. Had I done that, I would have clearly seen on the website that this is an audio-video experience using “a one-of-a-kind platform to deliver a live experience with incredible visuals that would be unachievable in a normal escape room.” Unfortunately, having not known this going in, I found myself confused by the seeming lack of agency at times. I mistook the room as trying to “pass” for a live experience when it was clearly a pre-recorded one. I even began to test the bounds of our player agency to frustratingly limited effect.

On the other hand, knowing now (after the fact) that this was a largely pre-recorded experience being guided by the voice of a live gamemaster, I have a bit more appreciation for the level of planning and reasonably seamless transitions between video clips. The puzzles were fairly straightforward, but the theatricality of this room made for an enjoyable, albeit slightly passive, experience.

Matthew Stein’s Reaction

Rating: 2 out of 3.

The past few months have been a renaissance of nonstop innovation in the escape room and puzzle industry. The new games that have excited me the most have included both polished experiences with excellent puzzles as well as less-than-perfect ones which debut brand-new formats, mechanics, puzzles, or scenarios that are only doable remotely.

Hunt for the Crimson Fang falls squarely in the latter camp for me. I love the possibilities of the newish medium it presents: pre-recorded video spliced together in real time with live audio. (It reminds me of MARVO Mysteries’ seamlessly spliced video, but with a live voice actor.) This format has many pros, including lower ongoing production costs and the ability to include more cinematic scenes.

However, I found this game to be somewhat poorly designed for this medium, with a set and many puzzles which allowed/led the player to make requests that couldn’t be shown on video. Consequently, we got many “that’s not important” or “you can’t do that” responses from the avatar, attempting to explain away our more creative solutions. Forced non-agency shatters immersion, and the manner in which the audio avatar politely, smoothly, but forcefully shut down some of our requests created an often annoying experience. I was also disappointed to see many of the puzzles gated by off-the-shelf padlocks. In this medium, as in audio escape rooms, designers have full control over the rules of their world and the audiovisual effects within it, and there is absolutely no excuse for not getting more creative than boring padlocks with utterly meaningless number combos.

This game is worth playing for now to see the fairly smooth technical implementation, but only until a better game comes along that takes creative advantage of this medium.

Zoom view of a the team looking at te profile of their target, a large man in a tophat.

Peih Gee Law’s Reaction

Rating: 1 out of 3.

I really struggled with how to review Hunt for the Crimson Fang. We didn’t realize this game was utilizing only pre-recorded video until a quarter of the way through. This is our own fault for not reading through the FAQ, where they do explicitly say that it’s pre-recorded. I feel that calling it a “live” game is a bit deceptive, even though there is a gamemaster who manipulates the videos shown. It feels a little bit more like a “Choose Your Own Adventure” story than a live escape room.

Pros: The video recording is very good quality – crisp images, very high definition. The gamemaster was a great actor and very good at manipulating the story and videos. The transitions were very clean. The storyline was fun with decent puzzles. There were a few fun details that you probably couldn’t get away with in a truly live room. I think this experience would be fun for beginner players or people new to virtual escape rooms.

Cons: One of the things I love about escape rooms is trying out all the ridiculous ways of solving a puzzle, and the excitement when it actually works. Especially in a virtual escape room, for me, a large part of the fun is having an avatar that plays along and indulges our silly requests. When we asked our gamemaster to do certain things in this room, however, it felt like she was being dismissive of our requests (probably because they didn’t have video of it), and it was very frustrating. It felt more like a walkthrough of an escape room than truly playing it, and all the charm and fun of a good virtual escape room was lost. I’m sure there are people who will enjoy this type of virtual experience, but it’s not for me.

Tammy McLeod’s Reaction

Rating: 3 out of 3.

I went into this knowing nothing about the game, and I played about halfway through before I realized that it was using pre-recorded video (mentioned clearly in the website FAQ). The game host was following our instructions and interacting with us so smoothly that my suspicions were not raised. I was thinking, however, that the video quality was better than many other Zoom games I’ve played, and how remarkable it was that they were using so many unusual props or script elements that seemed highly impractical for reset purposes. There was one puzzle that appeared to use outside knowledge, but our game host gave us the information directly, and since her character was technically part of the experience, I thought it was fair. Also, despite the vampire theme, I did not find the room scary, and I’m usually the biggest chicken about spooky themes.

Theresa W’s Reaction

Rating: 2 out of 3.

For what Hunt for the Crimson Fang was, it was done very well. As a pre-recorded game with a live avatar voicing over the video, it worked to improve the performance medium. The audio, video, and production quality were all top-notch. That being said, the experience just felt a bit choppy, lackluster, and lacking personality due to the pre-recording aspect. One of my favorite parts of remote avatar-style games is the creativity we can impose on the game. In a pre-recorded game you just can’t get creative with your solutions and interactions. The game did have some really awesome and gory sections that couldn’t have been done in a live game. This was definitely a step in the right direction, but I still would like to see the pre-recorded games improve and evolve over time.

Disclosure: Castle Escapes provided the Hivemind reviewers with a complimentary play.

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