Escape Room Melbourne – Isolation [Hivemind Review]

Isolation is a digital escape game, designed for livestream play, created by Thin Reality Experiences for Escape Room Melbourne in Melbourne, Australia.

Research scientist Logan in his lab, looking into a video call.

Format

Style of Play: narrative-driven digital escape game, designed for livestream play

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

You need to tweak your Zoom settings to properly play this game. Pay attention to the instructions at the beginning.

Recommended Team Size: 2-4

Play Time: 120 minutes

Price: $96 USD ($120 AUS) for 2 players, plus about $8 USD for each additional player

Booking: book online for a specific time slot

Description

The structure was organic. We found ourselves on a Zoom call with a person in need of our help.

Isolation is a live-streamed immersive experience/ escape room that takes place over Zoom with a live actor, called a room runner. Puzzles are provided as links supplied in the Zoom chat as the story unfolds. Once solved, they unlock the next puzzle and story element. Expect to have a lot of browser tabs open, but you won’t be overwhelmed with too much info at any one time.

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.

Fro’s Reaction

Rating: 3 out of 3.

Isolation delivered a truly immersive experience through a moving, empathy-driven narrative and effortless incorporation of Zoom technology into the storyline. The puzzles excelled at advancing the plot, and the first puzzle effectively acquainted our team with how we should interact with the space and the in-game actor (referred to as a “room runner” – amazing!). Isolation drove an impressive sense of urgency as it built to a touching, relatable conclusion that left me with a feeling of hope and solidarity. The icing on the narrative cake was that the game made me feel like I was Dana Scully in a present-day episode of The X-Files.

I experienced moments of frustration during gameplay due to difficulty seeing small print and details, both over the Zoom camera feed and in some of the on-screen materials. A 360-degree view of the room and a more organized inventory system would greatly enhance the experience. Make sure at least one of your players is proficient with Zoom functionality, including screen and audio sharing.

Fans of great storytelling and puzzles alike will enjoy this experience, and I highly recommend checking it out.

Richard Burns’ Reaction

Rating: 3 out of 3.

This is an information-heavy game that plays out in a much slower and more linear fashion than others I have played. That structure allowed the game to convey a more immersive and thoughtful story.

Our avatar acted like an interested part of our team, listening to our conversations and interjecting like another team member would. Yet they still carefully slowed us down at times and made sure we fully appreciated the story. They provided hints and direction diegetically. I would say this is one of the least avatar-y avatars I have come across.

The game is very science-heavy and does have a failure state if your calculations don’t turn out to be correct. I appreciated the clever mechanic used to alleviate the need for us to have the avatar search the room. Well-produced video elements provided breaks between puzzles and advanced the story. There is one very escape room-y graphic on the answer entry screen that threw me off for a bit, but turned out to not be part of the game. The linear style of the game is better suited to smaller groups of players.

Sometimes I feel that escape game stories tend to be more complex than necessary to evoke the desired emotions from players. But here, it felt like the game’s length and pacing allowed players the time needed to understand all that the creators were trying to say. This was an emotional narrative with puzzles and a well-played remote character.

Matthew Stein’s Reaction

Rating: 3 out of 3.

Isolation embodies the kind of thoughtful, well-researched puzzle-narrative integration I want to see more of in escape rooms. I’ll start with a simple request: go play this, especially if you are a creator. It’s an excellent example of how to create more inclusive games which address certain sensitive topics responsibly and develop exciting themes without making trite or arbitrary design decisions.

Without giving anything away, my highlights of this game include:

  • The game creators include pronouns on their Zoom names, and the intro acknowledges the Aboriginal people of the land where the game takes place.
  • A humanizing depiction of a mental health crisis establishes an empathetic connection with the main character and serves as creative narrative framing.
  • The game’s 2-hour clock gives the narrative space to breathe. All content included is meaningful and contributes to narrative and character development.
  • While we interacted with online resources, the main character consistently remained engaged with us, leading to a remarkably smooth and cohesive experience.
  • The puzzles directly advanced the narrative, both in mechanics (what we were doing had meaning) and in gating (the solutions to puzzles had meaning.) The game concluded with a beautifully topical message.

David Spira’s Reaction

Rating: 3 out of 3.

Isolation was a game about connection, especially in difficult times. It was almost everything that I want out of an online escape game.

From a structure, narrative, performance, and puzzle standpoint, Isolation excelled at justifying its world and story within the game, and I deeply enjoyed experiencing it.

There was, however, one category for improvement: The user interface was bad. The mixture of Dropbox and Google Drive links was a clunky mess… and it was strange that we had to play videos for ourselves and share our screen with our teammates.

The good news is: it’s hard to make a beautiful, emotional virtual escape game. Improving the user interface would be comparatively easy. I hope that the game’s creators do this because Isolation is a gem.

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