Published on May 9th, 2017 | by Dean Love0
History Mystery, Norwich – Body of Evidence
Whereas History Mystery’s Archived Alive offered a whistle-stop tour through some of Norwich’s historical highlights, Archived Alive instead takes a deep dive into a genuine historical murder case. The gimmick here is that it’s set in actual gaol cells that are so old they still spelled jail like that. The website even comes with a warning that while the game might be suitable for kids, with nothing particularly scary or offensive, some of the graffiti on the cell walls might not!
What’s really neat about this game, that takes place in actual gaol cells, is that the setup is not the “you’re a prisoner and have to escape” one that a million other games use. Instead you’re trying to find evidence to clear your own name; with the progression of the room essentially following the progression of the real case: the victim was mutilated and different parts were discovered at different times. You’ll find these parts, along with other clues as you progress through the game. The story is actually delivered pretty well: there’s a neat device for keeping track of all the characters involved that will likely delight anyone who enjoys filling in sticker books or collecting video game achievements, and also provides a good way to measure your progress through the game.
Also take from video games is the use of FMV cut-scenes to deliver story beats – at a few points throughout the game completing certain puzzles will trigger a video clip. It works as a neat reward for solving a given puzzle and helps push forward the story. Yes, it’s easy to state that a real life escape game should “show, not tell” but given it’s trying to stay historically accurate it needs a certain amount of leeway to actually deliver that story.
And that story has a certain problem: the actual case lay unsolved for 18 years, and apparently it’s ‘against the rules’ to have an 18-year-long escape room, so the way the game handles the time jump is a wonderful marrying of theme and mechanics and probably the most inventive use of a combination lock I’ve ever seen!
Which leads us to the one downside of this game: it does rely very heavily on traditional escape room tropes: padlocks, black-lights, codes and so on. Despite the real-world setting, there’s still parts where you’ll find a four digit code somewhere random and it’ll inexplicably open an unrelated four digit padlock. The game sits very much on the edge of being a real-life murder mystery but rather than jump fully into that, takes a step back into the safety of a traditional escape game. It’s a very good traditional escape game though, with a wonderful flow to the puzzles, some neat moments and one of the strongest stories I’ve ever seen.
Both games at History Mystery were great fun, but hugely different in flavour. This one just edges it out as the best for me, though (as we discovered) Norwich is seemingly so far away from anywhere else in the country that if you’re going to make a trip you should definitely play both. And for enthusiasts, I’d say that trip is well worth it. They’re both good games and History Mystery are doing something a little bit different with the concept.
Oh, and the final fate of the victim’s remains? Buried just down the corridor from your cell. Happy nightmares!
Result – we escaped in 50 minutes, just creeping on to the top ten leader-board
Date played: 29 Jan 2017
Team: Dean, Katherine, Jess
Summary: A great game that's on the cusp of being something really brilliant. By far the best hour I've spent in a cell.