Published on June 23rd, 2018 | by Dean Love1
French gaming company Argyx games are currently running a Kickstarter for an escape game in a box type thing. There’s quite a few of these around at the moment: the Unlock and Exit series being the most well known, but this one looks a little difference. To get a real feel for it, they sent us a preview puzzle to try out and it’s pretty neat.
Rather than abstracting out the experience into cards or a booklet, Apocalypse instead gives you a collection of items and leaves you to solve the mystery. It’s a good approach and definitely gives things a more real world feel – you’re not inhabiting the role of someone elsewhere, you are you, in your room, trying to piece together a mystery.
To make this all work is the unique element of this game: it uses the internet extensively. This comes in both bespoke websites and content designed for the game, and to provide a way of entering answers you figure out from the physical items, but also in terms of just using Google and finding tools and information on the internet to help with your investigation. It’s the game’s biggest strength and also its biggest drawback – we had great fun with it but once we realised the entire internet was essentially “in play” as clues we vanished down quite the rabbit hole that involved using Shazam to try and identify a piece of music linked to the case! That wasn’t the answer at all!
The other thing that sets Apocalypse apart is that the contents of both this preview and the main box are hand-made. That’s really cool, though when it comes to Kickstarter it can be something of a red flag. In this case it seems fine: they have a fairly low target and look to be planning to make a few hundred games which seems viable. Were it to take off hugely and they were to get 50,000 orders, then scaling up production might be an issue! The other thing that worries me a little about the hand-made element is that it introduces the possibility of human error creeping in in an inconsistent way. The preview game had elements with things hand written on them, which is great from an aesthetics point of view, but if something was written incorrectly it could break the entire game. And unlike a mass produced item that error won’t be the same for everyone so it’s a matter of just issuing errata. Quality control is going to be absolutely key in creating a good product!
The preview game itself was really quite good. It was harder that most of the boxed games we have seen, erring more towards the easier end of a puzzle hunt experience than the harder end of escape rooms. They’re also aiming for a 3-hour experience out of the box, so it’s certainly seems designed for those into their puzzles, rather than the mass market. The macabre theme, involving catching a serial killer, and “fear and mysticism, with a tinge of erotica” certainly takes it out of the family market anyway!
At around £36 plus shipping it’s reasonably priced (that’s the cost of three one-hour Unlock or Exit games for a three-hour game) and enough that it seems worth taking a risk on – we will definitely be backing it and look forward to trying out the real thing in December.