Locked Amsterdam – The Submarine [Hivemind Review]

The Submarine is a digital adaptation of an escape game created by Locked Amsterdam in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

Room Escape Artist has a review of The Submarine in its original format from June 2017. This is a review of the digital adaptation of the same game.

LockedDown Complete sign with a view of the submarine.

Format

Style of Play: video adaptation of a real-life escape room

Required Equipment: computer with internet connection and headphones to avoid the echoes from Skype

Recommended Team Size: 1-4

Play Time: 90 minutes

Price: about €30 per person, varies slightly by team size

Booking: book online for a specific time slot

Description

In The Submarine, players direct a live avatar to explore the gamespace and interact with objects in a standard, linear escape room. The automatic on-screen inventory and 360-degree secondary view helped the gameplay significantly.

Sketch of a submarine engine.

Hivemind Review Scale

Read more about our new Hivemind Review format.

⭐⭐⭐

I recommend this game to escape room players at any time.

⭐⭐

I recommend this game to escape room players in quarantine.

I do not recommend this game.

Continue reading “Locked Amsterdam – The Submarine [Hivemind Review]”

Trapped Puzzle Rooms – Herbert’s Laboratory [Hivemind Review]

Herbert’s Laboratory is an audio game created by Trapped Puzzle Rooms in St. Paul, MN.

Herbet's Laboratory banner.

Format

Style of Play: audio game

Required Equipment: computer with internet connection, pen and paper. Note, the game is played through Discord so players will need to quickly make a Discord account if they don’t have one.

Recommended Team Size: 2-4

Play Time: about an hour

Price: Tickets are $15/person, with a 3-ticket minimum.

Booking: book online for a specific time slot

Description

When players log into Discord voice chat, the game master sets the scene, describing and providing pictures in some cases, of what the party sees. The individuals are allowed to explore the room and take actions by asking open-ended questions to the game master, who then describes what you see or what happens. This is a mix between an escape room and a role-playing game.

An overhead view of a laboratory. Each area of the room is labeled.

Hivemind Review Scale

Read more about our new Hivemind Review format.

⭐⭐⭐

I recommend this game to escape room players at any time.

⭐⭐

I recommend this game to escape room players in quarantine.

I do not recommend this game.

Theresa W’s Reaction

⭐⭐⭐

Herbert’s Laboratory was a delightful combination of Dungeons & Dragons and escape rooms, and it was a truly awesome experience. I know that this game will not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it hit all the right notes for me. The game incorporated some intriguing elements that are impossible in the real world. The puzzles did not necessarily have a “correct” solution, so our team had fun trying obscure solves. The game master was able to create clear and immersive imagery for the players. I’d strongly recommend this game to anyone who is open to the idea of an audio escape room!

Peih Gee Law’s Reaction

⭐⭐⭐

I thought this was a very charming game: cute story line, nicely done graphics, and a fun host. Playing this game felt very much like playing an old-school point-and-click adventure game – and that’s not a bad thing. I love old-school adventure games, and this was a fun way to experience it with my friends.

Puzzlewise, it was more of “figure out how to manipulate items in a certain manner to get a desired result” and less about solving a self-contained puzzle, although it did have those also. The puzzles themselves were on the easy side. However, it was fun getting to play in the sandbox of the scenario Trapped Puzzle Rooms had created for us, and I liked that we could be creative with a solution. I think that while the puzzles themselves were a little simple, overall the execution was very well done and an enjoyable way to spend an hour.

A Herbert's Laboratory Discord chat.

The Lone Puzzler’s Reaction

⭐⭐⭐

Really fun game for groups who cannot physically be at a live escape room. Different experience than in-person, but held up very well in comparison. Puzzles were engaging. Audio imagery was well done. Felt like you were part of a fun adventure with friends.

Theresa Piazza’s Reaction

⭐⭐⭐

Herbert’s Laboratory is delightful. Trapped Puzzle Rooms uses the digital elements of this new game to their advantage, allowing players to “do” things that would otherwise be impossible in a physical escape room. There’s a wonderful story, and our DM (I mean, our gamemaster), was great, indulging our jokes, desired actions, and sometimes ridiculous requests. Only light puzzling was required, which left plenty of room for exploration and descriptive storytelling. While some traditional escape room players might have difficulty embracing this style of game, those who have played RPGs previously will have no problem sliding into this theatre of the mind. Trapped Puzzle Rooms has one other room available in this format (with a third on the horizon), and I’m eager to play it!

Disclosure: Trapped Puzzle Rooms provided the Hivemind reviewers with a complimentary play.

Mystery Escape Room – Nancy Drew [Hivemind Review]

Nancy Drew is a digital escape game created by Mystery Escape Room in Salt Lake City, UT.

A spiral staircase in a stately manor.

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Format

Style of Play: light puzzle hunt

Required Equipment: computer with internet connection. Note, a computer (not a tablet) is necessary for the experience. The game will need to be played with multiple tabs open, a Google Doc, and Google Hangouts simultaneously.

Recommended Team Size: 2-4

Play Time: 60 minutes

Price: $85 for a private booking of 4-8 people

Booking: book online for a specific time slot

Description

You play via a website interface where you explore different rooms in a mansion by clicking around a series of images that make up a house. As you find clues and items, you add them to a shared Google Doc. Solving puzzles unlocks doors to other rooms. Each room opens in a new tab. (Don’t close them!) There is a gamemaster available to help you navigate through the mansion and give hints. The narrative is driven mainly through the game itself and not the gamemaster. Communication is key.

A large room in a stately manor.

Hivemind Review Scale

⭐⭐⭐

I recommend this game to escape room players at any time.

⭐⭐

I recommend this game to escape room players in quarantine.

I do not recommend this game.

The exterior of a stately manor house.

Crystal F’s Reaction

⭐⭐⭐

I really enjoyed the format of Nancy Drew by Mystery Escape Room. It felt very much like an actual escape room. There were several rooms to explore, items to find (and miss), and connections to be made. The puzzles all made sense and were varied. As with an in-person escape room, not everyone got to be a part of every puzzle, and some felt lost at times. If you are ok with that then I would highly recommend this game. I do, however, feel that this game could benefit from a more structured game inventory system. Even a labeled Slides presentation might help with keeping the game organized. For me, these were minor inconveniences in what I thought was otherwise a very authentic feeling experience.

Peih Gee Law’s Reaction

⭐⭐

The natural limitation of playing escape rooms via Zoom is usually that we are limited to one view point, and thus the games tend to follow a fairly linear path, with the entire team working together on one puzzle at a time. Nancy Drew was innovative in allowing each player to follow their own path through a mansion while gathering clues and sharing them with each other to solve various puzzles.

On the one hand, it was really fun being able to work independently, but cooperatively. However, I found the inventory system very disorganized: basically everyone just cut and pasted the clues they found into a Google Doc. As a more methodical type player, I found it disjointed and confusing to follow some of the clues because they were pasted haphazardly in what grew to be a 12-page document.

I also wished the rooms in the mansion were easier to navigate. It was slow loading for me, and each room opens in a new tab. It wasn’t made clear to me that we would have to keep that tab open to have access to the room. So to “enter” a room, I found myself constantly having to interrupt other players to ask what was the code to enter, so I could explore, since many times it was a room I didn’t work on.

I think the concept and puzzles were very fun. I just wish the execution was smoother. However, this experience has come the closest so far to replicating the chaos of having multiple people playing an escape room together.

"Winner" screen depicts a police officer escorting someone in an orange jumpsuit.

Tammy McLeod’s Reaction

This game is apparently normally run as a corporate team-building activity, which, given its design, makes a lot of sense. While its theme is very escape room-like, I felt that our group of 5 experienced players was expending most of our game time and effort in accumulating and coordinating the discovered puzzle pieces. It was a huge exercise in team management. The puzzles were fun and the game would be fairly enjoyable for a single player, though the interface is not as polished as many other similar games that I’ve seen.

Theresa W’s Reaction

⭐⭐

Nancy Drew had a lot of content jam-packed into an hour-long point-and-click adventure game. The puzzles were fun and spread throughout a mansion, with plenty to keep our team of 5 players busy. The system did not allow teammates to affect one another’s experience, so each member had to type the answers and communicate what they had solved. The team was encouraged to use a Google Doc to share relevant information, yet this felt clunky and unorganized. Throughout the game, there was a Wix banner that was odd and distracting. This experience could benefit from some polishing, but was overall enjoyable.

Andrew Reynolds’ Reaction

⭐⭐⭐

Nancy Drew is a frenetic point-and-click game set in the official Nancy Drew-niverse. Just like a physical room, the team split up and explored different areas of the Forsyth Mansion, collecting clues and puzzles along the way. This information was shared in a document that the gamemaster provided to us. While the components were easy to find and share, organizing them and making sense of what other people found was initially challenging. Once we had a handle on the system, it worked – but we had to put some effort into making it work. This is one area that could use a little polish. Apart from that, it was a lot of fun exploring the house, forming small groups to solve puzzles, and coming together for a team solve at the end. If you’re okay with not being a part of every puzzle, Nancy Drew is worth playing.

Disclosure: Mystery Escape Room provided the Hivemind reviewers with a complimentary play.

Bewilder Box – Sector X: The B.R.U.C.E. Project [Hivemind Review]

Sector X: The B.R.U.C.E. Project is a digital game created by Bewilder Box in Brighton, England.

Read more about our new Hivemind Review format.

In-game: A robot in a techy room labeld "Sector #1"
Image via Bewilder Box

Format

Style of Play: collaborative point-and-click adventure

Required Equipment: computer with internet connection, pen and paper

Recommended Team Size: 1-4

Play Time: about an hour

Price: £15 per team

Booking: Once you have ordered, a confirmation email along with instructions and a product key will be emailed to you and you can start playing.

In-game: A robot surrounded by letters.
Image via Bewilder Box

Description

Sector X: The B.R.U.C.E. Project was a point-and-click puzzle adventure in the style of a short Lucas Arts game from the ’90s. The twist was that we each had a cursor in the game and when we clicked, all teammates saw the result of our action.

Because of this twist was one reviewer recommends that “in order to see all pieces of puzzles at the same time, you need to screen capture images of puzzles” and another recommends “for the full experience, I would strongly urge you to play in the browser and not screenshot.”

In-game: A series of symbols attached to sticks of varying lengths.
Image via Bewilder Box

Hivemind Review Scale

⭐⭐⭐

I recommend this game to escape room players at any time.

⭐⭐

I recommend this game to escape room players in quarantine.

I do not recommend this game.

Cara Mandel’s Reaction

⭐⭐⭐

This was a delightful, collaborative puzzling experience. The interface was really well designed for multiple players to access it remotely. We could see each other’s cursors on screen and could all take turns controlling the navigation. I would recommend either having a pen and paper handy or the use of photo editing software to aid in your solving. We also ended up taking a lot of screen grabs. The game was a charming mix of good puzzles and bad robot humor!

The Lone Puzzler’s Reaction

⭐⭐

There are two reviews for this game: If you are good with managing multiple screens, taking screen shots of puzzles, etc., this game can be a lot of fun with humor and solid game play – worth playing. If you are not as tech savvy, this game can become frustrating (as it was for me) as the game allows all players to click on the various puzzles at the same time – effectively changing everyone’s view. Since solving puzzles typically required looking at two or more of the clickable objects at the same time, it ultimately forced me to print key pages to play. Best played with 2 or 3 people who work very well together to fully enjoy the nice puzzles and team interaction.

Brett Kuehner’s Reaction

⭐⭐⭐

  • + Impressive web client, which runs locally in each player’s browser, and players can see each other’s cursor and control the game at the same time
  • + Interface graphics are attractive and usability is very good, allowing players to focus on solving
  • + Just plain fun. We had a great time interacting with the game (BWAA BWAA BWAAAAA)
  • – Generally it was difficult for players to work on different puzzles because of the shared interface
  • + However, one puzzle made very good use of multiple player simultaneous play
  • + Great personality in writing, voice acting, and graphics
  • + Good variety of puzzles, including ciphers, audio, graphical, logic, and mechanical puzzle simulations
  • + Self-service hinting
In-game: A cipher wheel beside a series of multi-colored ciphers.
Image via Bewilder Box

David Spira’s Reaction

⭐⭐

Bewilder Box’s escape room-y take on the classic Lucas Arts point-and-click puzzle game was first and foremost hilarious. The 5-stage game played out as a streamlined point-and-click puzzle game with a light narrative underpinning the whole thing. As a twist, each player had their own cursor within the game and we all saw each other’s clicks in real time. It was neat.

It was frustrating that the game felt like a tug of war with my teammates. The net effect was that we went crazy taking screenshots of things (which added other complications). Really, I loved the setup and structure of this game. However, I felt like the puzzles were in conflict with the concept. We should either have been solving puzzles that required lots of action on the screen or we should have had parallel, collaborative paths. Splitting the difference undermined the otherwise amazing concept and execution.

This game promised a sequel and I have such high hopes for it.

Disclosure: Bewilder Box provided the Hivemind reviewers with a complimentary play.

Deadlocked Escape Rooms – The Insiders [Hivemind Review]

The Insiders is a digital puzzle game created by Deadlocked Escape Rooms in Reading, England.

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A control panel with a variety of buttons, switches, and displays.

Format

Style of Play: light puzzle hunt

Required Equipment: Computer with internet connection, printer, scissors, pen and paper. Recommended to use a touch screen computer / tablet for one of the puzzles. Note that it’s extremely challenging to photoshop-hack around the printing and we do not recommend playing without a printer.

Recommended Team Size: 2-4

Play Time: 3 sessions played over about 1 week, with each session at 60-90 minutes

Price: £9.99 and that £9.99 cost can also be redeemed against the cost of a live escape room once Deadlocked Escape Rooms reopens

Booking: Your adventure begins with a cryptic message within your confirmation email, as soon as you purchase.

Description

This is an online puzzle hunt with a storyline. Gameplay included social media sleuthing, printable paper puzzles, video games, some light ‘hacking,’ and a digital scavenger hunt. It’s basically a digital puzzle sampler pack.

A web page for a corporate job posting.

Hivemind Review Scale

⭐⭐⭐

I recommend this game to escape room players at any time.

⭐⭐

I recommend this game to escape room players in quarantine.

I do not recommend this game.

Richard Burns’ Reaction

⭐⭐⭐

I really liked this game. The storyline was interesting and developed. There was mystery, suspense, twists and turns. I liked the anticipation of waiting to be contacted between the puzzling sessions. The puzzle volume, quality, and variety were beyond what I had expected. The Insiders includes several hours’ worth of content including print-and-cut, online sleuthing, and even classic video game dexterity puzzles. The game difficulty is perfect for a lone player of some experience, but there were several sections with parallel puzzles that could keep a small team occupied. The hint system was very well done. Great overall value.

Andrew Reynolds’ Reaction

⭐⭐

The Insiders provided three sessions of extremely varied puzzle play, essentially a sampler pack that shows the range of what online puzzle hunt/ escape room hybrids can be. The variety of puzzles kept the game interesting nearly the whole time; they did not lean on one puzzle structure more than once. Unfortunately, some of the puzzles that could have been fun and interesting wound up going on for too long or had directions that were too vague. These missteps brought the fun to a near stop, replacing fun with tedium. Any puzzle can become frustrating if it goes on for too many iterations. The value is definitely there, considering the amount of time I spent with the puzzles. If some of the computer-based puzzles were streamlined, this would be something I’d recommend fully, quarantine or not.

A collections of papers, cipher dials, and a pink paper bowtie.

Brett Kuehner’s Reaction

⭐⭐⭐

  • + Lots of content with multiple hours of playtime for a low price
  • + Very wide variety of well-constructed puzzles, including printable, website interactions, papercraft, and digital games
  • + Storyline is interesting and puzzles progress the story, instead of simply being tacked on to a theme
  • + Digital interactions were fully custom, looked good, and operated well
  • – One puzzle was fun… for the first iteration. It required far too many repeat solves and became a grind.
  • +/- The same puzzle (almost) requires two people to solve, so playing with a friend is recommended
  • +/- The game is in three parts with a several-day gap in between, but since there is no timer, self-paced would be better

Theresa Piazza’s Reaction

Full of content, but not my cup of tea. Meant for hardcore puzzlers, The Insiders is a game jam-packed with puzzles of all shapes and sizes. Yet after most solves, my teammates and I found ourselves more thankful the task was completed than celebrating that we had bested a puzzle. It’s clear that Deadlocked Escape Rooms poured a lot of time and effort into this game, using so many different formats to keep things interesting for players, but it didn’t deliver an engaging experience for me. My favorite part of this game was interacting with our handlers between chapters, as having to correspond not only helped us believe the story, but also added a bit of levity to the experience.

Peih Gee Law’s Reaction

⭐⭐⭐

I think Deadlocked Escape Rooms has set a new standard for what online puzzle games can be. From the minute I received my booking confirmation email, I was suddenly thrust into a world of tech espionage and intrigue. We were tasked with infiltrating a corporation, and boy, with the level of detail they put into world-building, I started to find myself looking over my shoulder, convinced that secret agents were tracking my moves. The puzzles were very fun, in a range of difficulties and styles. In fact, the entire experience felt very fresh to me because despite the numerous puzzles, none of them felt stale or repetitive.

There was only one part that I found frustrating, and it’s mainly because it’s a type of puzzle that puts a lot of pressure on you to input correct codes in the correct sequence, and it gets more and more complicated as you proceed, with a reset if you mess up. However, as with any challenge, there was also a huge sense of accomplishment after I finished (and I also needed a large glass of wine to soothe my frayed nerves afterwards!).

I think this is a top-tier online puzzle game with detailed world-building and a large variety and type of puzzles. It was like eating at a gourmet buffet of all my favorite puzzles.