Real Escape Games by SCRAP – Escape from the Lockdown: The Strange Village [Hivemind Review]

Escape from the Lockdown: The Strange Village is a digital puzzle game created specifically for online play by Real Escape Games by SCRAP, based in Japan.

To learn more about SCRAP, the first escape room company, check out our interview with them from earlier this week.

A 3x3 video call tile with 9 different characters and a narrator off to the side. The image is captioned, "the village has a few measures in place."

Format

Style of Play: audio-visual experience with puzzle hunt-style puzzles

Required Equipment: computer with internet connection, a pen and paper is also recommended

Recommended Team Size: 2-3

Play Time: unlimited playtime; our reviewers took 1.5 – 3 hours

Price: $27 per ticket

Booking: purchase and play at your leisure

Description

The game consists of “daily” briefing videos where players learn about the game’s characters and their actions. Keeping track of who did what is part of the game play. In between the video segments are short rounds of puzzle book-style puzzles. Everything adds to the information needed to solve the narrative metapuzzle.

Note that the game takes some time because it includes about 45+ minutes of video footage.

Hivemind Review Scale

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

Read more about our Hivemind Review format.

Matthew Stein’s Reaction

Rating: 2 out of 3.

Escape from the Lockdown: The Strange Village is a quintessentially quirky game by SCRAP, which balances a borderline ingenious structural premise with countless comically random riddle-puzzles and a few underclued leaps of logic. I normally dislike Werewolf/ Mafia; social deduction games just aren’t my thing, and I get quickly bored with repeated procedural elements, unless the narrator is particularly dynamic in their storytelling. However, with just a small twist this game manages to transform the Werewolf game structure into something highly topical: rather than the werewolf killing villagers overnight, they instead invisibly spread the werewolf condition like a virus, and villagers are prompted to stay home because, well, lockdown. (The metaphor is still distant enough that this didn’t feel at all like a depressing pandemic theme that I’m sure we’re all trying to avoid this year!) Though video content is in Japanese with English subtitles, the acting is amusing and engaging, and the themes explored feel relatable. However, the ending diverges from the lockdown-relevant plot and fails to make any point other than being clever for clever’s sake (again, in expected SCRAP fashion).

In contrast to SCRAP’s previous live-hosted online offerings, this game is available to play at any time, alleviating much of the time pressure which often makes the end sequence of SCRAP games particularly stressful.

Joel Smileypeacefun Reaction

Rating: 2 out of 3.

I was hyped up to finally play a game by SCRAP since they’re well known as one of the first escape game companies worldwide.

At its best, the entire game concept was explained well and it was always pretty clear what to do and where to input solutions. There were entertaining videos, which gave the characters some depth.

At its worst, I was a little disappointed by the actual puzzles. Most of them were pretty easy and not themed. Some could also be backsolved easily. The final puzzle, on the other hand, was overly ambiguous. SCRAP is known for their almost-too-difficult endings, so no surprise here. The videos throughout the game were too long, in my opinion, and hindered the game flow.

If deduction-based games are your strong suit, definitely give this a go. If you’re looking for a more typical escape game experience, this maybe shouldn’t be your first choice.

Michelle Calabro’s Reaction

Rating: 3 out of 3.

There was a difference between how I felt while playing Escape from the Lockdown: The Strange Village (alone, over the course of 3 hours), and my perception of its overall cultural significance. Since it’s so rare to play online escape games that comment about our real lives, and since this is the very thing that I crave in games, my review will focus solely on the parallels between the game and our real-life lockdown. The Strange Village invited me to think about the way that the coronavirus pandemic has uniquely impacted Japanese people, and I find myself meditating on the subtle clues that the game provided.

The Strange Village used the familiar werewolf game as a metaphor for the pandemic, in which werewolves infected each other when they met each night. Fulfilling their desires to spend time with each other at night required breaking their own rules, which they did rampantly.

Nevertheless, the villagers’ comprehensive methods of controlling the spread of werewolves included Village Lockdown, The Meeting Bell which rang when people broke the rules to meet at night, a Communication Crystal, a Secret Sensor in the crystal that detected lies, and an elixir; and these countermeasures had obvious parallels to real-life lockdown, contact tracing apps, a COVID treatment, and our increased reliance on telecommunication technologies. In a community where people were organized but distrustful of each other, they put their faith in surveillance technology to keep each other honest. These technologies were imbued with mystical qualities and reverently viewed as non-human, and therefore exempt from the failures of human invention. As an American player of a Japanese game it was fascinating to observe the differences in how they portrayed characters’ relationship with technology.

Richard Burns’ Reaction

Rating: 1 out of 3.

This game takes a classic social deduction game and updates it with a present day infection twist. It feels like an after school special type of lesson-based material trying to reinforce the importance of social distancing and following the rules during a pandemic. There are so many gameplay rules to keep track of that at times it felt more like homework than a fun puzzling experience.

There is some fun, over-the-top style acting in the prerecorded video segments. However, these tended to get a bit old after a while, especially when a summary of the key information followed each video, which caused me to lessen my focus on them. The gameplay was disjointed and flipped between way too easy puzzle book-type puzzles to large logic leaps based on more game rules learned only after the evidence had been presented.

I was proud of myself for correctly working out one of the late-game SCRAP-style thought puzzles without hints. The post game explanation was excellent and it correctly identified the best aha moment of the game for me.

I am not an expert on SCRAP, but from what I have heard about them, this feels like one of their different thinking-type ideas that needs some more refinement.

David Spira’s Reaction

Rating: 2 out of 3.

Escape from the Lockdown: The Strange Village was an adaptation of the classic SCRAP hall-type (ballroom) game, written specifically for online play. In classic SCRAP fashion, it was a blend of pure genius, standard puzzles, and an under-developed final puzzle.

The way that SCRAP used the social deduction game Werewolf as a narrative and structural foundation for building a unique world was brilliant… and they pushed those ideas in so many interesting directions. The interactions and puzzles born from these elements of the game were by far the most interesting portions of the experience.

The puzzle interludes were fine – well structured – but nothing special. These puzzles could have shown up in any other SCRAP game.

Finally, the concluding interaction was super SCRAP-y… and I enjoyed a lot of it, except for the input interaction, which felt more like it was built for creator convenience than for fun. That’s a blunt statement, but as much as I disliked this interaction, I truly loved the structure and ingenuity that went into so much of this game.

Disclosure: Real Escape Games by SCRAP provided the Hivemind reviewers with a couple of complimentary plays.

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