Update at 08:00 on 08 February 2021:
Original post at 06:00 on 08 February 2021:
I’ve had the pleasure of completing several experiences which aren’t strictly video games over the past few months. There have been treasure hunts around towns, jigsaw puzzles with hidden clues and online murder-mysteries.
The most recent were Post Mortem Los Angeles: Death in La-La Land which was gifted to us by Kevin from The Lawful Geek, a choose-your-own-adventure about a murder which made us feel as though we were dropped straight into our own noir thriller. Next up was the more ‘budget-friendly’ The Mysterious Museum version of Exit The Game, an escape-room-in-a-box we’d purchased a couple of years ago but only got around to playing during a power-cut one evening.
I’ve really enjoyed experiences like this since taking part in my first escape room in 2019 and am always on the lookout for more. Fortunately, there have been a few Kickstarter campaigns to scratch that itch. I backed Key Enigma’s project for Hack Forward last February when I heard it had been ‘so carefully designed that it may be impossible to distinguish reality from fiction’ and, after receiving an email from the company at the end of last month, pledged my support to another campaign they recommended.
Natalie and George created one of the first European escape rooms their native city of Lucerne, Switzerland back in 2014. Four years later they felt the need for a new project and the Sealed Book Project was born in early 2018. Readers are faced with mysteries and puzzles that must be solved to progress the thriller narrative in what they’re calling ‘challenge book games’, and the experience is complete with visuals, sound effects and music to ‘intensify the overall effect’.
The first two games are already available from the App Store and Google Play and are completely free. PRAELUDIUM’s story starts with an announcement by a representative of both the Church and Science that he has created something considered impossible; where is this artefact all these years later and has it ever been used? The tale continues and gets even more complicated in CODEX, when Zoé and Marc set out on a journey that takes some unpredictable turns and lifts the curtain on a few secrets.
Sealed Book Project’s Kickstarter campaign is for the third challenge book game in the series. Not much is given away about EXITUS’ narrative on the project page but we’re told that it begins in Switzerland before readers are sent all the way over to the other side of the planet, to a place ‘veiled in mysticism, legend, mystery and buried secrets’. It sounds as if it can be played as a standalone experience however so there’s no need to have completed PRAELUDIM and CODEX first.
So how does it work? The EXITUS app on your mobile device reveals the story and, when the main characters are faced with a riddle, it’s there for you to solve in the accompanying physical book. You’ll also need to occasionally use the ‘artefacts’ that come with the game to reach a solution. Once you have your answer, you can enter it into the app to discover whether you’re correct and continue your journey; and there’s an additional Riddle Only mode for those who are all about puzzles rather than narrative.
The creators say that some of the challenges will require the same specific solving strategies that you’d use when completing a real-life escape room. Players will need to apply not only analytical thinking, attention to detail and ingenuity, but also certain physical actions. Don’t worry if you get stuck though: an in-game hint system will give you three progressively more informative clues before revealing the full answer so there’s no need to feel frustrated or reach for a walkthrough.
I decided to back this campaign despite never having heard of the Sealed Book Project or their first two challenge book games because of my love for puzzles and escape rooms. EXITUS is estimated to be ready in November 2021 so there’s plenty of time for me to try PRAEDULUM and CODEX before it arrives. We’ve got a lot of streams coming up for #DaysForDonations for GameBlast21 so if we can manage to hook up our tablet to our software, you might see them on Twitch soon.
At the time of writing this post, over 180 backers had pledged more than 80% of the £11,033 target so there’s every chance that the campaign will be successful by the deadline of 17 February 2021. Check out the Kickstarter page if you’d like to get involved and give the Sealed Book Project a follow on Twitter to stay up-to-date on the project’s progress.