A Night at the Theatre is a digital escape game in Google Forms, created by Trapped in the Web.
Style of Play:
- Online native experience (can NOT be played IRL)
- Play on demand
- Light puzzle hunt
Required Equipment: computer with internet connection
Recommended Team Size: 1-3
Play Time: 1-2 hours
Booking: purchase and play at your leisure
Purchasing gives you access to a Google Form that contains the entire game. Players navigate through the Google Form, going to different ‘rooms’ and using the clues in those rooms to find solutions to puzzles. The Google Form interface is limited to pages of text, static graphics, and the occasional video leading to a text entry field for the solution, with a “Next” button.
Hivemind Review Scale
Andrew Reynolds’ Reaction
I’ll get right to the point: playing A Night at the Theater was a frustrating experience, and the time I spent was only salvaged by playing with people I enjoy puzzling with. The main issue with this game (and very likely the other games from this company) is that it lives in Google Forms. In real life I’m a big fan of Forms, but it is not the right environment for this game.
The information was spread out across many “rooms” and navigating to get back to it was easier said than done. It was also rarely clear what clues went together to form a solution, so there was a lot of moving back and forth between “rooms” to see what we could make work. Considering that some of the answers involved some very thin connections, solving puzzles was – generally speaking – annoying.
Thankfully, A Night at the Theater comes with a full hint/ explanation page for when you get stuck. Even reading through the explanations, some of the logic was hard to follow. Mix all that together with inconsistencies in answer input formats, and you get a game that I can not recommend in its current state.
Tammy McLeod’s Reaction
My experience with this game was rather frustrating and tedious.
This game is implemented in a series of Google Forms, and navigation is accomplished by submitting a form to either solve a puzzle or select a destination “room.” Puzzle pieces are displayed on the page representing the “room” in which you find them. This is a cumbersome interface. Unlike a real escape room where you have a spatial sense of where things are, I got rather lost within this game. I ended up taking screenshots of relevant information so that I wouldn’t have to constantly switch back and forth between forms.
The puzzles themselves generally worked, except for an exasperatingly broken solution that required you to enter abbreviated forms, which made some terms have the complete opposite meaning. On the plus side, there is an effective hint system for clues and answers, should you be stuck on any single puzzle. The Google Forms are set up to be very rigid in their accepted answers, but at least they detail their expected format if you submit a wrong answer. More often than not, instead of the satisfaction of cleverly solving a puzzle, there was only relief after repeatedly guessing at the designer’s intentions.
Brett Kuehner’s Reaction
The story behind the games from Trapped in the Web is lovely. The creator made a game for his girlfriend’s birthday, and friends and family got to play together at a time when they couldn’t meet in person.
Unfortunately, after playing two of the Trapped in the Web games (A Night at the Theatre and Space Race), I can’t recommend them. The games are based in Google Forms, which hobbles them substantially from a technical standpoint. There are some creative attempts to work around those limits, but they aren’t enough. The navigation is difficult and the puzzle solution entry is inconsistent. Some require commas; others take spaces. Some need to be all uppercase; others all lowercase. Even within the constraints of Google Forms, this could be improved.
Puzzle difficulty is equally uneven. Some puzzles are quite easy; others are extremely difficult multi-step puzzles with inconsistent clueing. This is made even more challenging due to the necessary information for puzzles being scattered throughout different virtual locations, with no quick way to hop between them, and no way to know which pieces of information connect to which puzzle, other than by looking at hints. There are also several examples of logic leaps that I’m sure were clear in the designer’s head, but which are anything but clear to players.
On the plus side, detailed hints are provided, which allowed us to continue past puzzles we would otherwise not have solved. However, the hints are all on one page, so it is difficult to find the hint you need without seeing others you don’t want to read.
In each game, there were several puzzles that were enjoyable, but that’s not enough of a reward for working through the rest of the game. I really wanted to like these games, to the point where I played the second one just to be sure I was giving them a fair chance. After playing both, my conclusion is that there are many better games out there, and you should play those instead.