Shine On Collective – Welcome Home [Review]

Dinner and a disappearance.

Location:  at home in Los Angeles

Date Played: September 8, 2020

Team size: 2-4

Duration: about 75 minutes to 2 hours

Price: $40 per person (party of 2) or $30 per person (party of 4)

REA Reaction

Welcome Home was an immersive experience that combined audio storytelling, found objects, light puzzling, and a hot meal delivered to our door.

The experience revolved around a story box created by Shine On Collective, an immersive theater company based in Los Angeles. The story unfolded like an interactive audio play, self-guided and supported by written documents and puzzly interactions. 

Due to the heavy storyline, Welcome Home wasn’t exactly “fun.” The tone was melancholy and sometimes sinister. But Shine On Collective weaved a compelling story about suburban secrets and what it really means to be a good neighbor.

The gameplay aspect of Welcome Home didn’t provide a significant challenge. The interactions were more guided, allowing the story to take center stage.

This was a limited run, but Welcome Home will be returning to Los Angeles on October 23 and 24. If you don’t require a serious puzzling challenge and the experimental storytelling sounds intriguing, Welcome Home is an experience worth investigating.

The closed game box, marked "Welcome Home," with a pamphlet reading "Welcome to Town!"

Who is this for?

  • Story seekers
  • Immersive theater fans
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • Experimental format
  • Haunting story
  • Help solve a mystery

Story

We had just moved into a new house whose previous occupant had gone missing. Our welcome package of a meal and some information about our new neighborhood led us on a journey to discover Eli’s fate.

Setup

Welcome Home was an immersive experience delivered (or picked up) along with a full meal for each participant. The story box contained neighborhood resources, some of Eli’s old belongings, and a few other surprises. Welcome Home also involved making phone calls to advance the story via prerecorded audio snippets.

Game box containing a neighborhood watch phone tree, a neighborhood watch button, and a town map.

Gameplay

Welcome Home was a play-at-home immersive experience with a narrative focus and a handful of puzzles tying the story together. Core gameplay revolved around investigation, observation, deduction, and following directions.

By reading documents and listening in on phone calls, we deepened our understanding of the neighborhood and its residents, and followed Eli’s tracks to solve the central mystery. 

The puzzles were on the easy side, which helped keep the story flowing. Shine On Collective provided an email address in case we got stuck at any point.

Analysis

➕ The tale Welcome Home spun was haunting and poignant. We really felt for our protagonist. The story fit the unusual medium well, both thematically and structurally. Not everything made literal sense, but Shine On Collective created a sense of dreamlike continuity.

➕ Welcome Home had one of those settings that’s almost a character in itself. While following the story of the key characters, we got a strong sense of the neighborhood and its issues.

➕/➖ Welcome Home’s phone calls simulated an immersive theater experience without live actors. Though the voice acting was uneven, overall Shine On Collective made interesting choices with the format and sound design.

❓ The puzzles interspersed throughout the experience seemed meant to augment the storytelling more than provide a challenge on their own. Some players might want more of an intellectual challenge; others will enjoy these interactions as part of the experience’s unique format.

A journal marked "private" with a written note and a bubble mailer underneath.

➕ The story materials were mostly paper-based, but the varied components made up a cohesive package that supported the story. The box felt authentically like a collection of stuff from someone’s desk, which was intriguing to sift through.

➖ One detailed document that provided information about the story’s suburban setting felt underused. While it enriched our understanding of the neighborhood, we would have enjoyed interacting with it in more detail.

➕ The structure of Welcome Home flowed well. The written and audio elements varied in a way that made the experience feel well rounded, and the gating was effective.

❓The ending was emotionally resonant, but faded away without the familiar feeling of victory. We were split on how satisfying the conclusion felt.

❓Our review copy came without the meal component. Without knowing what to expect foodwise, the combination of story and dinner would make the experience even more immersive.

Tips For Visiting

  • Space requirements: a small table
  • Required gear: pen or pencil, a phone line

Welcome Home has no time limit, and it isn’t a race to the finish. Take your time and savor the story.

Book your experience with Shine On Collective’s Welcome Home, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Shine On Collective provided a sample for review.

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