Update: If you want to hear more about Spirit Train back us on Patreon at the “Search Win!” level to get access to a Spoiler’s Club Episode about this game. Reality Escape Pod co-hosts David and Peih-Gee talk all about it, spoilers and all.
Update 6/27/23: If you enjoy Spirit Train we hope you’ll check out our interview with designer Mark Larson on The Reality Escape Pod.
Spirit Train is an audio game created by Trapped Puzzle Rooms in St. Paul, MN.
Style of Play:
- Online native experience (can NOT be played IRL)
- Audio game
Required Equipment: computer with internet connection.
You’ll need Discord. The desktop app works best.
Recommended Team Size: 3-4
Play Time: 2 hours
Booking: book online for a specific time slot
Spirit Train is an audio game, run in Discord. The gamemaster describes the scene, characters, and objects in the story. You tell them what you would like to do or examine, or to whom you’d like to speak, and they tell you what happens after you take that action. It’s a bit like a role-playing game, but with more puzzles.
In addition to the audio narration of the story and puzzles, artwork is displayed in a text channel.
The host improvises with players and whatever ideas they come up with.
Hivemind Review Scale
Richard Burns’ Reaction
This is truly a premium audio adventure. Its length and depth were impressive. It is a story-heavy game that forces you to think, about puzzles and about life. Our host was excellent as both a narrator and an improviser as he easily handled our (mostly Theresa’s) strangest requests. He was so good that there were times I felt the puzzles interrupted my enjoyment of just listening to the story.
Those familiar with Studio Ghibli will recognize the style, with its lovely characters and reflective themes. The puzzles fit quite well, and were more easily solved once I got into the proper state of mind.
The thought and care that went into the game, including wonderful illustrations, made it a joy to play.
Theresa W’s Reaction
Spirit Train was an absolutely beautiful work of art performed through charming graphics, alluring story-telling, and unique but delightful puzzling. Trapped Puzzle Rooms has stepped up their game with this premium experience, and all the hard work they put into this 2-hour journey really showed. By using the Discord platform to the utmost of its abilities, our gamemaster Mark was able to portray vastly different characters, including a narrator who was incredibly fun to mess with. This is one of those games that has your head spinning for hours afterwards as you think about the interactions and deeper meanings behind the puzzles. I have such a soft spot for any content that Trapped Puzzle Rooms releases, but this experience genuinely took a leap into the unknown and it paid off.
Peih Gee Law’s Reaction
If you’ve ever wanted to step into the dream-like spirit worlds of a Studio Ghibli movie, this is the game for you. The immersion was great, and while the experience was fun overall, I do think the narrative could use a little tightening up as it dragged in some places. There was one sequence of puzzles in the middle of the game that required a more philosophical solution that I didn’t love, but otherwise, this was a great game. Because of its length, it’s more immersive, but also slower paced, which some might love, but others may not. I started getting slightly fidgety towards the end because I wanted more action, but that’s not really what you’re signing up for with Spirit Train.
Immersion: From the melodic opening music to the beautifully surreal accompanying illustrations, our journey on the Spirit Train really came to life. It is amazing how realistic it felt from just a few images and an audio story.
Puzzles: The puzzles were fun – some were similar to a point-and-click adventure game (figure out which item to use and where), while some were more logic-based. The one philosophical puzzle frustrated me, mainly because it felt more like a trick question that wasted a lot of time and felt slightly preachy. However, it still seemed to suit the story, which goes a long way with me.
Gamemaster: Our gamemaster was great! They rolled with all the silly things we suggested and was able to play along. Energetic and very patient.
Interface: This is an audio game all played through Discord. Very simple and easy to use.
Matthew Stein’s Reaction
Combining the masterful storytelling and voice acting of Mark Larson with the magically immersive artwork of Gabe Gomez, Spirit Train is an epic saga which significantly raises the bar for accessible audio escape adventures. This game pays homage to Studio Ghibli while equally asserting its own aesthetic and narrative voice. We entered and collaboratively developed a vivid world in our collective imagination as we puzzled our way through a solid 2 hours of engaging content. I was struck by just how well nearly every element of the game took advantage of the strengths of the audio medium; the puzzles, characters, scenes, and transitions all would be impossible in any in-person game, and I often found myself giddy witnessing the new possibilities of just voice and some images.
One particular chapter of the game beautifully illustrates how puzzles can be meaningfully woven into a meta narrative arc. Go into this with an open mind, and you might just learn something about yourself as a puzzler and as a creative being. I’ve recently been thinking deeply about misdirection, meaning making, and meta reveals in my own puzzle design practice, and it’s invigorating and inspiring seeing an example of this executed so effectively in someone else’s work.
Every single audio game from Trapped Puzzle Rooms has demonstrated remarkable innovation and refinement, and I hope Spirit Train will be the first of many in their new “premium” category. This longer format has so much potential, and Spirit Train lays the tracks for what will surely be a wondrous journey ahead.
Disclosure: Trapped Puzzle Rooms provided the Hivemind reviewers with a complimentary play.