Agent Venture – Cyborg Island [Hivemind Review]

Cyborg Island is a digital escape game, designed for livestream play, created by Agent Venture in London, England.

The Hivemind on a Zoom call with Dispatch.

Format

Style of Play: digital escape game with audio roleplaying, designed for livestream play

Required Equipment: computer with internet connection

Recommended Team Size: 4-5

Play Time: 60 minutes

Price: tickets range from £10.00 – £14.00 per person

Booking: book online for a specific time slot

Description

Cyborg Island is an audio choose-your-own-adventure style game. It’s a roleplaying escape game with defined player roles, verbal NPC interaction, and extensive digital interactions. It is played over livestream. Communication and information sharing are keys to success. Interactions with the performer are all verbal and solving puzzles takes place through Zoom and PDFs.

Hivemind Review Scale

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

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Brett Kuehner’s Reaction

Rating: 3 out of 3.
  • + A nice continuation of the story from Agent Venture’s first game The Heist
  • – Onboarding was done one person/ role at a time, which felt slow and a little confusing. In the previous episode, all the players got information at the same time, which worked better
  • +/- Cyborg Island had a bigger world to explore than in The Heist, but as a result it felt less focused and sometimes a bit confusing
  • + Lots of chances for teamwork, and everyone had a role to play
  • – One section of the web interface didn’t have an easy way to get back to some needed information
  • – The end goal was not completely clear, leading us to feel more time pressure and leaving less room to play for fun
  • + Our host Henri was great at performing all the NPCs
  • + There are clearly lots of possible paths through the game, and it could be replayed to see more of the world
  • + Hinting is nicely integrated via interactions with Control and other NPCs

Theresa W’s Reaction

Rating: 2 out of 3.

Cyborg Island was very similar to The Heist, yet with an entirely new story. This game is quite a bit harder than its predecessor, but most roles were the same. I thought they took a step back in terms of role-specific puzzles for the hacker, as they opted to only use one type of puzzle. The game didn’t feel as special this time around and I really can’t pinpoint why. The gamemaster was absolutely fantastic, embodying every character with ease. This is still absolutely worth a play, but I preferred the earlier episode The Heist.

Fro’s Reaction

Rating: 2 out of 3.

I loved that there was no “correct way” to navigate this experience. It gave us latitude in how we made our way through the game world, including improvised interactions with various characters (voiced by an excellent actor) to help advance the story.

Unfortunately, we only had an hour, and the amount of content thrown at us was crushing. Each player received a role-specific packet of information right as the game started, and we had to read, process, and navigate to different sections on the fly. I found this stressful and it detracted from my experience. If I’d had access to familiarize myself with these files even five minutes before the game started, it would have exponentially increased my enjoyment. A piece of my content also became inaccessible at a crucial moment, and I had to find a workaround to access it.

The volume of content required us to move as fast as we could if we wanted the mission to succeed. Every second counted, and this meant shortchanging the opportunities for story building and improvisation. Ultimately, it felt like way too much crammed into one hour. Less would have been a lot more.

Cara Mandel’s Reaction

Rating: 2 out of 3.

OK… I will start by saying that, for those players for whom this game is well-suited, this is probably a very fun experience. If you like an urgent, audio-driven storyline with lots of data to sift through and make sense of in order to advance the story, this is the game for you! For me, unfortunately, this triggered my “information overload” reflex big time! I think this can be attributed to two things:

  1. I was poorly cast in my role as “Coordinator.” The description of the role sounded right up my alley, but the reality of it left me feeling both overwhelmed with information and also without a clear objective or purpose. I could see how one of the other roles would have been more enjoyable to play, given that their objectives and skill set were a bit more defined.
  2. The web interface was a bit confusing, which left me feeling even more out of sorts. It was at times hard to navigate back to previous screens and required a little additional time going back to find the originally provided links to start from. This could be remedied with the addition of some key placement of additional navigation buttons.

In short, not the game for me, but a very well-designed game for those who might enjoy this type of challenge!

Matthew Stein’s Reaction

Rating: 3 out of 3.

The first Agent Venture episode The Heist set an incredibly high bar for chaotic, multiplayer, role-playing ridiculousness, and their second episode Cyborg Island almost meets that bar – which means it’s still a pretty darn awesome game! Similarly to their first episode, each of five players receives a large information dump per their chosen role, and each player thus has a crucial set of responsibilities and is required to remain very active throughout the duration of the game. There are multiple valid paths through each leg of the narrative in a choose-your-own-adventure style, making the game structure highly flexible and replayable.

This game isn’t for all audiences, particularly those who are brand new to puzzle or role-playing games or for whom sifting through moderate amounts of semi-structured data is overwhelming or unequivocally unfun. (This game includes incredibly well designed data dumps, but they are data dumps nonetheless.) There were a few ways in which this game came up a bit short relative to the previous episode: staggered document sending via Zoom chat led to a slightly confusing start to the game, our team found the story a bit harder to follow in real time from certain role perspectives, and higher density of situational puzzles lessened the time we could spend on fun character interactions. Even so, Cyborg Island is an absolute riot and well worth a play with a team you trust and can communicate fluidly with.

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