Published on April 28th, 2017 | by Dean Love0
History Mystery, Norwich – Archived Alive!
I loved the set-up for Archived Alive from the first time I read it, just for it’s glorious silliness:
The City Historian is trapped in the archive vault. He ate the last fluff-covered boiled sweet from his pocket hours ago and his cup of tea didn’t last beyond the first day!
Crammed full of puzzles, curios, stories and surprises, his office contains clues to unlock the vault, so you can save him before he becomes part of history himself.
It’s a set-up that’s further developed through video scenes before, during and after the game and it could easily be an excuse for yet another escape game set in an office. And it sort of is. But it’s a historian’s office. Which is significant because, well the company wasn’t joking when they called themselves History Mystery.
The games are based out of Norwich’s Guildhall, a civic building dating back to 1407 that had been left empty until fairly recently, and you’re given a brief bit of historical information about the building from the host as you’re led in to the game. Archived Alive doesn’t use the setting in quite the same authentic way that Body of Evidence does, but what it does offer is a whistle-stop tour through the history of Norwich. One of the first things you’ll do on entering the room is find a bunch of information about its historical train stations, and use that information to crack a code. I’m aware that might sound a bit dry, but that’s where Archived Alive truly excels. You feel almost like you’re doing historical research, without the game ever making you do actual historical research. You never have to, for example, look something up in a book. It’s very clever sleight-of-hand, almost akin to the way Guitar Hero makes you feel like you’re in a rock band, without the awkward necessity of having to learn to play guitar.
The puzzles themselves are strong, and while many involve observing historical facts, there are plenty of other types too so it’s not one-note. There’s also a good mixture of puzzles, though it tends more towards the cerebral end of things rather than physical items to play with. That said, it does make use of some neat devices within the game that are also on theme. Clues are provided as needed via a screen and we were given them at appropriate times.
It’s tricky to put my finger on exact what History Mystery is. By the end of it I knew a bit more about the history of Norwich, but I really mean a bit. This isn’t a museum exhibit dressed up as an escape game, it’s very much a game first, with historical flavour added in. A very good game at that, and one which really clicked for us in terms of puzzles and pacing. It just gets most things right: the room is busy but there’s not too much searching. The puzzles are good without being too easy or hard. The setting looks like what it’s meant to look like but it’s not exactly aiming high.
It’s hard to pick fault with it but it’s equally hard to really talk about in exciting terms. I mean, if all you ever really wanted to be as a kid was a historian, but were unable to follow your calling because the real world insisted you became a particle physicist instead then this is clearly the perfect game for you. For everyone else it’s a really great game and it would serve as a nice introduction to Norwich as part of a larger trip to explore the city’s historical landmarks.
Result – we escaped in 57 minutes
Date played: 29 Jan 2017
Team: Dean, Katherine, Jess
Summary: A great game that takes a unique theme and follows through.