Every month—well, every two months now—on this blog we highlight a handful of tabletop and digital games to spread the word about interesting experiences and support other creators. This month’s roundup leans toward the digital and narrative-driven. In fact, it does not actually contain any tabletop products... but don’t let that stop you from checking out these games. We’ll be back on the tabletop train next month.
Reboot is an online immersive theater performance with puzzles. The audience solves these puzzles together across Zoom and using various websites, while also interacting with the performers. While the puzzles were on the light side, Walking Shadow Theater Company did a great job with integrating them into the story, which was also enhanced by the plot twists in the writing and the excellent performances. Where it feels like they missed a bit, was in setting expectations and onboarding. Some of us felt put on the spot at the start, having to answer big philosophical questions without any sort of warm-up or introduction to the group. This can feel jarring, especially in a public booking. At the end, we were asked to make a decision as a group and ultimately take a stance on some thought-provoking questions. I really appreciated the nuanced moral dilemma given to us, and the fact that we got to control the ending of the story, but the decision-making felt a bit rushed. This experience made me think back to the moral quandary presented in The Verdict by Logic Locks, where we were given plenty of time to discuss and come to a consensus. Reboot could have benefited from the same, but if you like interacting with actors while doing some pleasant puzzling and engaging in thought-provoking dialogue, you will probably enjoy Reboot.
Wizards Against Lizards is another online interactive theater experience with puzzles, but with a very different tone than Reboot. With a hilarious premise and equally amusing performances, this experience is unique for its absurdity alone. The puzzles were not difficult, but felt well-balanced and integrated into the experience. Note that there are also some group improvisational elements involved, so I recommend that at least part of the team be comfortable interacting with actors. This is one to play when you’re feeling goofy and just want to have a good time.
Down the Rabbit Hole is a VR puzzle adventure game with some familiar characters and witty humor, but a reimagined story. You play as a young girl looking for her cat—a refreshing take on the traditional Alice in Wonderland narrative. The rendering of the rabbithole in VR really made it feel like I was entering a different world, and the navigation was unlike one I'd seen before. You switch between controlling an avatar of the girl, to controlling a sidekick character in order to solve certain puzzles, to being the girl herself in room scale and seeing the space from a first person POV. The environments are dreamlike and enchanting, and although part of the main seeking mechanic can get a little obtuse at times, you don’t have to find every single item (if you're a completionist, the good news is that going back to previous areas gets much easier in the middle of the game when fast travel is introduced.) I do wish they would integrate a hint system of some sort, even though I never got stuck enough to need it. All in all, a delightful little adventure with a story that exceeded my expectations with its depth.
Escape from Mibo Island is an adorable virtual team adventure that makes great use of a new platform, which I hope more creators utilize in the future. It was so fun to see our group members’ actual video in their avatars and run around the digital space. This game would be excellent for beginners and kids, and although the puzzles were on the easier side for our experienced team, we still had a great time interacting with the environment—my only real disappointment was that we had to leave so quickly, just after it felt like the game was really ramping up. I could easily see this being one chapter in a larger game/story/world.
True Colors is a game about finding home. As in the previous Life is Strange games, it is the heartfelt story and diverse set of characters that really make the experience shine. This season is centered around a girl who spent much of her life in foster care, and what I really appreciate about the developer of these games is that they always touch on subjects not often found in gaming. While it is not particularly puzzly or mechanically complex, it is satisfying when your choices actually affect the outcome of the story. The narrative is also emotionally compelling, and the game even gives you the opportunity to replay scenes and see the other outcomes, which I enjoyed. If you like narrative-driven games and want to chill out with an engaging and resonant story, you will probably enjoy True Colors.
Time: ~9h split between several chapters
Night Terrors is a live avatar escape room experience played online. It felt somewhat like a classic escape room in terms of puzzle design, with an exciting twist in its premise: you play as the subconscious voices in someone’s head, guiding them to wake up from their nightmare. This idea is not only unique, but also makes brilliant use of the digital escape room format, and was further enhanced by the acting. Night Terrors was spooky without being scary, and consisted of smooth gameplay with a satisfying ending. This game also has two sequels, which I look forward to playing. A great pick for the Halloween season!
Firewatch is a beautifully rendered digital narrative adventure that tells an emotional story as you explore the forest lands you are tasked with maintaining. The story takes place over conversations with just one person on the other line of your walkie-talkie, and develops an engaging mystery throughout. In some ways, it felt like there was a missed opportunity to do something more here—add some puzzles, interactions, decisions—but I realize that isn't what the game is trying to be. If you like games like Gone Home or Life is Strange, you will probably enjoy Firewatch.
What have you been playing lately?