Headlocked Escape Rooms – The Keeper & the Fungus Among Us [Hivemind Review]

The Keeper & the Fungus Among Us is an unusual, avatar-led, live streamed escape game created by Headlocked Escape Rooms in the UK.

A puppet with evil eyes, closed captioned, "I put the fun in fungi."

Format

Style of Play:

  • Online native experience (can NOT be played IRL)
  • Avatar controlled by the players
  • Video-based experience

Required Equipment: computer with internet connection

Recommended Team Size: 2-5

Play Time: 90 minutes

Price: £75 for up to 6 players

Booking: book online for a specific time slot

Description

This is a Zoom-based game with standard avatar-led gameplay… except your avatar is a hand puppet and the game area is a series of changing miniature dioramas. It also includes videos and a bangin’ soundtrack.

A large turtle puppet in a diorama beside a bule spider puppet.

Andrew Reynolds’ Reaction

Every now and then you’ll hear a description of a new project and your first response is to ask the describer to repeat themselves. “Did you say puppets?…Did you say musical?” These are just two of the questions that led me to jump at the chance to play Headlocked Escape Rooms’ The Keeper & the Fungus Among Us. Yes, the protagonist is a hand puppet you direct around a series of miniature world tableaux. And yes, there are musical interludes that are good and entertaining. The form factor of this one is creative and novel, but makes so much sense that it seems other companies could have been doing this months ago.

There is plenty of praise to heap on The Keeper & the Fungus Among Us, but it is not a perfect escape game. Most of the puzzles flowed very well and made good sense, but a very small number of them didn’t land quite right to me – cluing was too subtle, or there were multiple ways to provide a solution that was at least somewhat satisfactory. That being said, this genre-bending game – an escape game that sometimes felt like an RPG – did a lot of things right. Scene transitions were perfectly executed; well-written musical elements added to the enjoyment and left us wanting more; and the amount of tongue-in-cheek was spot on.

Theresa W’s Reaction

The Keeper & the Fungus Among Us was an incredible performance consisting of cinematics, puppetry, puzzles, and a soundtrack that continued to keep us engaged. With such an unusual compilation of different media, the overall experience absolutely pulled it all off in a comprehensive game. The story was wholesome and adorable, including a lovable main character who was fun to interact with.

With the exception of one or two, the puzzles overall were very strong and integrated in the miniature world. As we progressed through the story, our small puppet friend navigated us into colorful and detailed sets that were fun to explore. I didn’t think this experience could be pulled off, but I was proven extremely wrong — Headlocked Escape Rooms made a whimsical masterpiece that we loved from beginning to end, and I hope they create even more adventures for us to go on in the future!

Matthew Stein’s Reaction

Equal parts interactive cinematic experience and escape room, The Keeper & the Fungus Among Us is the Rocky Horror meets Labyrinth of the remote escape room world. It was a bold juxtaposition of puppetry, miniature worlds, video games, and musicals, and this cascade of experimentation coalesced into something weird, wonderful, and enchantingly unique.

I was impressed by the clever simplicity of the game’s central innovation. Using only a small amount of space in your home, how do you create a remote escape room that still feels expansive? Well, by making a bunch of tiny sets and making the avatar a puppet!

Highlights of the game included an EP’s worth of pun-filled original music numbers, a caringly handcrafted art style, and gameplay which creatively made use of the miniature sets. The design wasn’t flawless: I found two particular puzzles to be less than elegant in implementation, but honestly, like many a cult classic, the idiosyncrasies and flaws perhaps added to the charm.

The Keeper & the Fungus Among Us was a breath of fresh air, accompanied by an hour of nonstop laughter. Even if you’ve tired of the remote escape room format, do yourself a favor and give The Keeper & the Fungus Among Us a play. You won’t regret it.

David Spira’s Reaction

Puppets, puzzles, and funk, The Keeper & the Fungus Among Us truly had it all.

I’ll keep this simple: I am back to playing real life games, and I’ve lost interest in playing virtual escape rooms unless they are special. When I tell you that I loved playing The Keeper & the Fungus Among Us, it means something.

At this point there are two questions that I ask about a virtual escape game:

  1. Is it fun and well crafted enough to justify recreationally sitting in a video call?
  2. Is there a great reason why this game has to be online?

In this case, the answer to both was a resounding yes. The puppets, puzzles, and funk were fantastic; there were no weak links. And The Keeper & the Fungus Among Us most certainly needed to be an online game. It’s a remarkably strange and delightful experience, the kind that I never could have imagined. I’m as surprised as I am glad that it exists.

This is a top-tier virtual escape game and it deserves your attention.

Disclosure: Headlocked Escape Rooms provided the Hivemind reviewers with a complimentary play.

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