Swamp Motel: The Kindling Hour

Beneath the placid surface of everyday life a storm is brewing. You and your team must use all your skill and guile to evade capture, infiltrate the dark heart of a powerful organisation, and bring it down from the inside. But who is the anonymous source trying to recruit you? How can you identify the true enemy? Who can you trust?

Rating: Dramatic!
Completion Time: 45 minutes
Date Played: 13th March 2021
Party Size: 4
Recommended For: 16+ people who enjoy ARGs

Okay we might just be the first team to accidentally book the ‘conclusion’ game first. That’s right, The Kindling Hour is the final game in a three part trilogy. Whilst the website says each game is a standalone experience, there’s definitely a narrative flow between the three… Oops! Brb, off to play Plymouth Point and The Mermaid’s Tongue!

There’s a lot of hype around the whole Plymouth Point series, but I’ll only be commenting on my experience with The Kindling Hour for now. That said, for all that hype I expected a little more- whether in length, or content, or exactly “what” more, I’m not sure. But it did seem a little quick and a dash confusing… But let’s get into it!

The Story

The Kindling Hour is your typical “super shady organisation taking over the world” game, in which there’s a mole deep within the structure that you’ve got to help. In an unusual ‘Arthurian Legend’ twist, the aim of this game is to take the sword (which I believe is the central plot of Mermaid’s Tongue – again, this connection was a little lost on us) and put it back into the stone from whence it came.

The game parkour jumps between “ancient legend” and “modern spy stuff” but plays out on the stage that is the ‘real world’. By this I mean you have to go onto the internet to look stuff up – you’ll be scouring Reddit, Instagram, old blog posts, and even real life museum websites. Want to crack someone’s login? You’ll have to hunt down what their ‘memorable information’ is and to do so the whole internet is your oyster.

The Tech

The one really, really cool thing about The Kindling Hour I’d love to mention is the technology. The whole game took place within a web browser, including both our own video communication with each other and interaction with actors. I say ‘interaction’, it’s actually very cleverly pre-recorded footage designed to feel like a live experience. Character drop in and out of your video call seamlessly and despite one technological hiccup, the whole experience feels pretty slick.

In particular, there’s a part in the game where you’re hooked up to CCTV tracking a character live around a location. Whilst of course this is pre-recorded, it was just such a nice addition to heighten the tension of the game! Will they make it in time? Are they being followed? *eek*

It’s encouraged that one user share their screen for everyone to see and yes, I’d agree with that for sure. As most of the ‘puzzles’ take place on the internet it’s very easy to get lost quickly. For example, a link might be offered by an in-game character, but that link contains several more links that different players can fall down rabbit holes into before they figure out the correct route.

The Game

Overall, we did enjoy it a lot! Definitely not as scary as it’s advertised. Perhaps it’s because we played at 3pm on a really sunny day, or perhaps I’m just hardened. The trailer shows people screaming and there was one “Oh my god what” moment, but overall more dramatic than scary!

I loved the parts where we were able to hack into things and see behind the scenes, and there’s excellent pacing throughout the game to keep the adrenaline high. Countdowns and time sensitive moments combined with having to make phone calls, text mysterious numbers, and rifle through secret email exchanges. As such, it’s also not your typical escape room. You’re not escaping, and the game is built on narrative rather than puzzles. So consider this when booking!

It’s pretty good value for money considering how high the production value is, and especially with a large enough team to split the cost! One of our 4 team members has decided not to return for Part 1 and 2 which means we’ll be paying slightly more per head next time, but really worth it compared to a lot of other experiences out there.

The Kindling Hour can be booked for £65 per team on The Kindling Hour’s website here.

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