Hourglass Escapes – Rise of the Mad Pharaoh [Hivemind Review]

Rise of the Mad Pharaoh is a real-life escape room livestreamed and played through an avatar, created by Hourglass Escapes in Seattle, WA.

The team all dressed in fairly elaborate costumes for their game.

Format

Style of Play: real-life escape room livestreamed and played through an avatar

Required Equipment: computer with internet connection

Recommended Team Size: 3-6

Play Time: 60 minutes

Price: $30 per person

Booking: book online for a specific time slot

Description

This is an online adaptation of an in-person escape room. There is a light story that is cohesive throughout, but the focus is on the moderately difficult puzzles. Teamwork and communication are key.

Players interact with puzzle materials in Telescape, while the avatar on Zoom manipulates the physical elements that unlock things.

Promo art for Rise of the Mad Pharaoh shows a mummy hand reaching out of the sand towards a laptop.

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.

Brendan Lutz’s Reaction

Rating: 2 out of 3.

Rise of the Mad Pharaoh is another solid in-person-to-online escape room adaptation by Hourglass Escapes. Beyond having a fully in-character gamemaster, they continue to go the extra mile by providing players with character backstories, costume suggestions, and even character-specific virtual backgrounds. They take it a step further by lightly thematically separating puzzles in the online interface by character. This drives some individual focus while still allowing any player to easily view another player’s space. The puzzles are fun and a moderate difficulty level. I do think this room would be more fun to play in person, but it certainly is worth playing remote. If I had to choose though, I’d recommend checking out their Evil Dead 2 first.

Theresa W’s Reaction

Rating: 1 out of 3.

I loved Hourglass Escapes’ first offering, Evil Dead 2, but Rise of the Mad Pharaoh really wasn’t as enjoyable. They attempted something unique in their gameplay: they assign each player a role, and certain players receive inventory items specific to their role. I loved the concept, but it just really didn’t translate well in terms of the enjoyment of gameplay. There weren’t many communication puzzles, and it hindered our collaboration, keeping players relatively quiet throughout in what seemed to be a premise for great collaboration. The puzzles were interesting and creative enough. I wish they’d given everyone roles, but hadn’t split up the clues delivered in Telescape to individual players.

Tammy McLeod’s Reaction

Rating: 3 out of 3.

I love the way this company gets the players in the mood before the game even begins. They provide character roles, custom Zoom backgrounds, and costume suggestions! My group had so much fun playing our characters. The game itself had good production values with both high-quality images in Telescape and high-quality props in the physical room. The puzzles were designed to spread the work among the different team members. Gameplay flowed well, and the puzzles felt like a reasonable challenge. Kudos to our host for keeping up her persona the whole time!

Joel Smileypeacefun Reaction

Rating: 2 out of 3.

Our mission was to break the curse of a mad pharaoh. This way we hoped to free our trapped friend.

At its best, each player dressed up as a specific character of the game. The small bits of roleplaying were a lot of fun. There was a 3D model of one major prop and some other nifty online inventory tricks that made interactions more accessible.

At its worst, clues we found were only given to one character to look at and not the entire team. There was a feeling of missing out and occasionally it created some downtime for the rest of the players. Early on we decided to break character and let everybody look at everybody else’s clues.

The not-so-great character system combined with a rather small game space made me not care for the story as much as I’d hoped it would.

Matthew Stein’s Reaction

Rating: 1 out of 3.

The remote Rise of the Mad Pharaoh includes many elements which on paper should have made it a great game, but sadly I found that these pieces never quite coalesced. Combined with somewhat characterless facilitation, I left the game strongly wishing that I’d waited to play it in person.

In this game, each player assumes one (or more) of six archetypal character roles, each of which includes suggested costuming, a character profile, and a unique inventory section. While the puzzles themselves were fine, I found them to be insufficiently adapted to the divided information structure; no puzzle meaningfully took advantage of asymmetrical information, and unbalanced clue distribution left certain characters without anything to do for stretches of the game. Moreover, it seemed like the custom wooden sarcophagus at the center of this game’s set would be so fun to interact with in person, but most of its effect was lost remotely. For those who never plan on visiting Seattle, though, I would still recommend this remote game if only for its awesome central set piece, albeit with somewhat tempered expectations overall.

Disclosure: Hourglass Escapes provided the Hivemind reviewers with a complimentary play.

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