The Vanishing Act Remote is a real-life escape room livestreamed and played through an avatar, created by Locurio in Seattle, WA.
Room Escape Artist reviewed the real-life version of this game in April of 2016 (yes, 4.5 years ago!) and awarded it a 2016 Golden Lock Award. This is a review of the online adaptation.
Style of Play: real-life escape room livestreamed and played through an avatar
Required Equipment: computer with internet connection
Recommended Team Size: 4
Play Time: 90 minutes
Price: $140 per team
Booking: book online for a specific time slot
The Vanishing Act was an avatar-led adaptation of a classic escape room with a significant online inventory component. The puzzles were highly collaborative and communication was key.
Hivemind Review Scale
Matthew Stein’s Reaction
Locurio continues to lead the escape room industry in narrative-driven puzzle experience design with their thoughtful remote adaptation of The Vanishing Act. Every facet of the experience was intentional and polished, from the brilliant intro and outro – which contextualized the game beyond what would be possible in person – to the interactive, well-organized inventory system. Locurio demonstrated great restraint in cutting or replacing certain puzzles to ensure all of the gameplay made narrative sense and was fun in the newly remote setting. While not quite as transcendental as its successor The Storykeeper, The Vanishing Act still magically holds its own in 2020, an impressive feat for a game opened nearly 6 years ago.
Richard Burns’ Reaction
The Vanishing Act is a game that I would describe as well done in all aspects. The gameplay shows its age a bit, but I was pleasantly surprised to see a few familiar puzzle types requiring one more step than I was expecting. It is a puzzly game.
Locurio added some extra production value to the online version that really pays off and adds a great deal of story and character to the experience. You can feel the creators’ love for their work when you play this game.
The online inventory system is robust and worked great. There are many parallel puzzle paths that do benefit from being able to split up and more closely examine the many inventory items. However, there were points where it felt a bit too much like an online point-and-click adventure game, and I lost track of the story and what our avatar teammate was doing. I might even caution that this game is better suited for teams with at least some experience.
Locurio made some fantastic changes to a few of the puzzles to allow for a more interesting online playthrough. There are actually aha moments about how the puzzles work before you even begin to solve them. The thought put into transitioning this game to a remote format is impressive. This is a solid, high-quality game that radiates a feeling of being created by people who really, really care about your experience.
I really enjoyed playing this game, and one sequence in particular was remarkably well done and unlike anything I’ve seen in other online offerings. I’d love to see this style repeated in other experiences. The puzzles had a moderate degree of difficulty and were highly collaborative, and built well towards the finale. The inventory management system did a good job of displaying the information you needed to be successful, but there was a lot of it, so work quickly.
I’ve written about “avatar envy” before, and there were definitely a few minutes of it here in the form of large set pieces and audio interactions that I would have loved to explore/ experience for myself in person. But all in all, I think Locurio did a solid job of bringing the room into a digital format.
David Spira’s Reaction
Back in 2016, Locurio’s The Vanishing Act was a revelation. This Golden Lock Award winner still stands out as a milestone game that helped change the way that we think about room escape games as a medium for play and storytelling.
How did it hold up almost 5 years later and translated through the digital medium? Pretty damn well.
The intro to the digital game was a beautiful addition that cleverly framed the experience. It’s always the “unnecessary” details that make something special.
The gameplay had been updated and adapted for online play, but remained true to the original. It also had a heavy focus on cooperative play, which, in my opinion, is something that has been lacking from so many avatar-led escape games. This was also where my one gripe emerged: the inventory, 360 photos, and avatar were in conflict with one another. Even by the end of the game, I was rarely sure where I was supposed to be looking at any given moment.
In the end, some of this game feels its age, and that’s ok. It still plays really well. Over the years, The Vanishing Act has become my personal definition for the peak of traditional early escape room design, and revisiting it after all these years felt like a homecoming of sorts.
Disclosure: Locurio provided the Hivemind reviewers with a discounted play.
If you’re interested in a deeper conversation about The Vanishing Act – spoilers and all – subscribe to our Patreon where you can listen to our Reality Escape Pod hosts discuss their experience playing this game.