Secret Library [Hivemind Review]

Secret Library is a digital immersive mystery.

A few teammates interacting with actors in the game world.

Format

Style of Play: digital immersive mystery

Required Equipment: computer with an internet connection, and a smartphone will come in handy for some portions of the game.

Sign on early and be a little patient as you get a sense of the technology and flow of the experience. It is actually quite simple to interact with, but it’s different from just about every other video conferencing system, so it requires some adjustment.

Recommended Team Size: This is a public-ticketed show that supports around 60 connections (devices). Because you are part of an interactive audience, you can experience this solo, or with a large group of people all booking into the same showing. We recommend only 1-2 people per connection.

Given the size of the digital environment and the number of characters, Secret Library was legitimately designed to work properly with groups ranging from about 20-60 people.

Play Time: 100 minutes

Price: $35 per connection

Booking: book online for a specific time slot

Description

Secret Library was a large-scale immersive mystery. It blended elements of escape rooms with immersive theater. There are approximately 10 characters to interact with and a clickable map that changes which video conference room you’re occupying. We had to work with the characters to accomplish a series of missions and ultimately solve a greater mystery.

A character talking through video with a chat window open.

Hivemind Review Scale

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

Read more about our new Hivemind Review format.

Michelle Calabro’s Reaction

Rating: 3 out of 3.

I’ve been enjoying the role-playing elements of other games I’ve played recently so I decided to play Secret Library based on a single line in the description, “a digital performance combining live actors with escape-room like elements.” Don’t buy a ticket for Secret Library because you want to solve difficult puzzles — there are plenty of other online escape rooms for that. Don’t buy a ticket for Secret Library expecting a highly produced, visually captivating cinematic experience, although some of the promotional materials may lead you to expect this (and yet others may lead you to expect the opposite). Play Secret Library because you want to enter a mysterious world that explores themes of knowledge, secrets, and the relationship between humans and machines. It was a bit overwhelming to process the backstory and rules about this new world; it was hard to know which information was going to be useful later on, so I wrote tons of notes. Ultimately, the most meaningful information you’ll collect is about the characters; they were the best part of the game — the lovably paranoid Agent TD, the psychic with her tarot cards, and the shady salesman who bantered with me until the very end.

Richard Burns’ Reaction

Rating: 2 out of 3.

This was a fun experience. The depth of the characters and the worldbuilding made up for the thin puzzles. In fact, I felt relief during the times I realized there was not an active puzzle for me to work on. This meant I could focus on the character hosts and their stories.

In-game actors hosted different virtual rooms that we could join or leave by clicking on the 2D map of the game’s setting. But rather than sit and wait in an empty room, the hosts would often themselves join the more populated rooms and add to the experience by interacting with the players as well as the other hosts. This made for some great moments. The acting and commitment to the roles was impressive.

The main story of the game was a bit more complex than it needed to be. The format and the acting were so well done that a simpler storyline would have allowed players to spend less time and effort trying to understand the rules of the game world and more time enjoying the performances.

This experience will not be for everyone. You should be prepared to interact, at least a little bit. But also be prepared to listen, learn, and laugh with a great group of characters.

Brett Kuehner’s Reaction

Rating: 3 out of 3.
  • + Pre-game email that introduces you to the story and connects you to a character
  • +/- ARG-like feel to some elements, with information on various external sites, but the worldbuilding isn’t used by the puzzles
  • + Semi-custom UI (a customized skin for the Remo platform) allows smooth transitions between characters “on stage” and self-service “breakout rooms”
  • ? Focus is on immersive performance, not puzzling
  • +/- First-stage puzzles are enjoyable and require character interaction, but also very simple and a bit repetitive
  • – Specifics of puzzles don’t arise in a meaningful way from the story
  • – Second-stage “puzzles” feel like a flawed social deduction setup with no payoff
  • + A scavenger hunt mechanic adds some urgency and fun
  • + Plenty of character interaction if you want it, or you can sit back and gather information by observing other players
  • + Solid character performances
  • + Has a break in the middle, which is wise for a 100-minute show
  • + Live entertainment during the intermission!

Peih Gee Law’s Reaction

Rating: 3 out of 3.

Do you like murder mystery games? Puzzle hunts? How about immersive theatre? Secret Library is like all 3 mixed up into one delicious cocktail. I really enjoyed the blend of intimate character interactions, light puzzles, and a fairly cohesive narrative.

Immersion: Fantastic immersion. Fun storyline with the rules of this world established early on with an “orientation” presentation. Fun characters who helped you feel like a part of the story.

Puzzles: This experience was more like a murder mystery where you’d talk to different characters to extract information. You would then use that information to help you solve a mystery. There are only a few puzzles to solve (and very easy ones), but it was enough to give me a sense of purpose here.

Actors: I thought all the actors were great, very engaging, and never broke character. They were welcoming and good at creating moments for audience interaction. Because they limit 8 people per virtual “room,” you are guaranteed to have a chance to interact.

Interface: The entire event took place within a custom interface, which I really liked.
There was built-in chat functionality, presentation mode, and a map of the rooms. All you had to do was click on a room, and poof – you’re there, along with a whiteboard and space to view files. This interface gave me a seamless feel and I like when the technology doesn’t frustrate me or take me out of the immersion.

David Spira’s Reaction

Rating: 2 out of 3.

I hadn’t played anything like Secret Library before. Two factors made this experience noticeably different:

  1. There were about 10 actors in this experience, each playing a distinctive character. With the exception of a few scripted group sequences, we were free to interact with all of them.
  2. The characters were spread around what I can best describe as a clickable Clue mansion. Selecting a room in the interface took us into a video chat for that space.

There were a ton of moving parts, and I cannot think of a more complex digital experience than that of Secret Library. The value was clear. $35 bought 100 minutes of entertainment with a ton of different actors. It’s also one of the few digital experiences designed to handle a large group of over 50 people.

With that in mind, this still felt like an ambitious first creation in a new medium, even if it had quite a few successes. The technology was a bit clunky, and while Secret Library did a lot to make that smooth, I still felt like I’d been tossed into the deep end. It was a bit intimidating (and I have been a remote worker for the better part of a decade).

Additionally, there was a clear creative struggle between making the gameplay rich, and making it approachable. This felt like it worked better in the first half of the experience than it did in the second half, where we spent a lot of time investigating and less impacting. We had tons of agency, but little effect.

I am glad that I experienced Secret Library. It feels like the start of something new and important. I’m eager to see where they take this technology and structure in the future.

Disclosure: Secret Library provided the Hivemind reviewers with a complimentary play.

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