Cirque du Nuit – Thickett [Hivemind Review]

Thickett is a digital immersive game with puzzles, created by Cirque du Nuit.

The Thickett virtual world with hand illustrated black & white landscapes and mono-colored faceless figures. It's very cute.

Format

Style of Play: digital immersive game with puzzle gates, designed for large group digital play

Required Equipment: computer with internet connection, pen and paper (or Google doc)

Recommended Team Size: Each Quest is public ticketed. Because you are part of an interactive experience, you can join solo, or with a large group of people all booking into the same Quest. We recommend only 1 person per connection.

Play Time: about 90 minutes

Price: $20 per person per Quest

Booking: book online for a specific time slot

Note, next weekend is the last Quest of Season 1. Thickett will return with Season 2 Quests in the spring.

Description

tldr:

  1. Upon purchasing a ticket, first-time players fill out a “job application” to be sorted into a Department.
  2. Join a Zoom call to get your Department’s assignment.
  3. Leave Zoom for Topia (a web-based, 2D-scrolling world, with video chat capabilities)
  4. Explore Topia where you can solve puzzles, interact with actors, and get information
  5. Return to Zoom to reconstruct a story with the rest of your Department using the information you’ve gathered in Topia.
  6. Wait (~24 hours) to see which Department’s version of the story is crowned the winner

In Depth

Each Thickett Quest is based around a fable or other well-known story. Every Thickett player is sorted into one of three Departments: Relationships (Rabbits), Confidence (Foxes), or Knowing (Ravens). Each Department has a different style and set of goals for a Quest. For example, Foxes are more competitive within their Department, while Rabbits are more collaborative.

At the beginning of a Quest, Departments go to separate Zoom breakout rooms and, after a brief departmental ritual, the Department Handlers describe their Department’s goals for that Quest. Players then go to “Topia,” which is a web-based 2D-scrolling world that allows players to see and talk to players or characters (live performers) in their area of that world. A character you meet may want you to play a game, or challenge you to an insult battle, or send you on a mission.

The Thickett virtual world with hand illustrated black & white landscapes and mono-colored faceless figures. It's very cute.

As players explore the world, they can find objects that can be delivered to characters by solving simple decoding puzzles in order to get information and advance their Department’s goals.

After spending time exploring Topia, everyone returns to Zoom breakout rooms to “edit” the story to a new version that best suits the ethos of their Department. These edited stories are submitted at the end to the Princess, the CEO of Thickett. She will decide which of the versions is the “true” story, and that Department will receive credit for “taming” that story so it can be placed back in the Book of Turns, which contains the answers to all of life’s mysteries.

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.

Andrew Reynolds’ Reaction

Rating: 2 out of 3.

Thickett is unlike most virtual puzzly experiences in that it is not a “one-and-done” style game. Every two weeks a new stand-alone Quest takes place in the same universe, adding to a growing story world.

What Thickett does right, for the most part, is a feeling of immersion. From the moment you fill out your job application to receiving your Departmental placement and right up to the first Zoom call of the game, I felt like I was part of the Thickett universe. The website and the files I received were beautifully produced.

Where I found Thickett to falter is after the game was over. Thickett puts you in indirect competition with the other Departments over who “wrote” the best version of the story that you just played through; a winner is chosen within 24 hours of the game ending. My complaint is that I have no idea what criteria our offerings were being judged against. As a teacher, this bothers me. I wouldn’t ask my students to submit something for grading without letting them know the parameters, and good practice is to give effective feedback so they can do better next time. I’m not certain why my Department lost, and I’d like some more clarity on this point so I could know how to better help my Department in future Quests.

Peih Gee Law’s Reaction

Rating: 3 out of 3.

With Thickett, the designers have managed to create a profoundly immersive world on a grand scale, with puzzles, players, interactions, and stories galore. You are a new employee sent by the Princess to collect different fairy tales that have escaped and evolved.

There’s a plethora of narrative even before the event begins, and once it does, it’s fast and furious. You solve puzzles to collect items, and you may be sent by various NPCs (non-player characters) on quests for said items. Along the way, you collect information that will help you complete your goal, like a live-action RPG. There is a learning curve, but considering the rich payoff, this experience is well worth the initial time investment.

Immersion: From the introductory materials, the website, the Discord chat, and even the pre-game rituals, you are immediately thrust into a magical world populated by foxes, rabbits and ravens. The worldbuilding is impressive and extensive.

Puzzles: The puzzles, while numerous, were not difficult – which was perfect for the pacing of this game, considering there was so much to do. It was satisfying to find an item, solve it quickly to “collect” it, and then move on.

Characters: The actors were all excellent – they really made the stories come alive. They also did a great job managing all the players and creating what felt like a relatively intimate experience.

Functionality: There’s a lot of tech to learn, as well as game mechanics to figure out. In fact, it’s so complicated that another hivemind reviewer (who had attended previous Quests) gave me a pre-game tutorial before we played. I hope this doesn’t scare you off. The fact is, this is an entire world with its own rules, and I found that the different components created a richer, fuller experience. Luckily, this experience is replayable with new content (a new Quest) for every show.

Fro’s Reaction

Rating: 2 out of 3.

There’s a lot going on in Thickett. I enjoyed the ambitious world that the creators built, and it was obvious that a lot of thought, creativity, and love went into it. I loved the random video interactions with other players in the game space.

Unfortunately, the steep on-ramp to gameplay diminished my experience. Between multiple technology platforms, portals, and even a handbook, there was a lot to familiarize myself with before the game. I would have appreciated more basic instructions on how to move around the game platform. It took me about an hour to get comfortable, and by that time, it was too late to play effectively or have fun. I also found it very difficult to compete with other players for the attention of the in-game actors, and I abandoned several attempts to speak with them. The ending was cute and fun, but ultimately overstayed its welcome.

While I mostly didn’t enjoy this experience, I can see why others do like it, so I’m comfortable giving it a 2-star rating and suggesting you go check it out if it appeals to you in any way.

Brett Kuehner’s Reaction

Rating: 3 out of 3.

I’m switching from my usual +/- bullet-point approach for this review because I think it wouldn’t capture enough nuance. While Thickett contains puzzles, it is definitely not an escape room. It is much more about immersion, interaction, and storytelling.

Thickett is a series of immersive 90-minute Quests, each of which can be a satisfying standalone experience, but which together comprise a larger meta-story. Cirque du Nuit has years of experience creating interactive and immersive in-person shows, and some of the creators of Thickett are immersive theater fans and enthusiastic players of puzzle hunts, and all of that has come together to make Thickett the joy that it is.

I’ve been playing Thickett since one of the beta tests at the beginning of November. Even in the test game, I could see that there was a wonderful mix of immersive interactions and puzzles, wrapped with thoughtful experience design. Since then, the team that creates Thickett has continued to experiment with aspects of the format, while keeping the core of it the same. I believe they have created an experience that allows players to engage at whatever level suits them: simply wandering around and enjoying interactions with performers (who are all excellent improvisors), searching out puzzles related to the current Quest, or diving in to the larger meta-puzzle that spans multiple Quests, and which can involve ARG-style mysterious emails and physical mailings between Quests. Any of those can be satisfying individually, and taken as a whole they are deeper and more compelling than any other online immersive game I’ve played.

As a Rabbit, my Department’s goals are generally to convince everyone we meet to become “Best Friends”. I’ve become Best Friends with Death, so I’ve got that going for me.

There are layers to explore in Thickett if you want, but there is no requirement to do so. My recommendation is to focus on the aspects that seem fun to you, and don’t worry about trying to do and see everything during a single Quest. If you do decide to dive deeper, the larger meta-puzzle is still unfolding, with new details arriving in each Quest. Dedicated players have put together an excellent summary of the current puzzle information, so even new players can easily catch up if they wish.

There is only one Thickett Quest remaining in the current “season,” but the creators are planning a second season in the future. I plan to continue playing as long as they are willing to keep building out the world they’ve created, and seeing how many best friends I can make along the way.

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