ANTS Theatre: We Still Fax

You receive a mysterious machine in the post. You plug it in and something strange happens… You connect with an alternate dimension; one in which the internet doesn’t exist and someone needs your help! To take on this important mission, you will need to crack codes, send faxes, unlock secret hatches and, when the time comes, push the big, red button. They are counting on you; their world depends on it.

Rating: Extraordinary!
Completion Time: 2hr +30 minutes for Easter Eggs
Date Played: 28th May 2021
Party Size: 6
Recommended For: People who know how to fax, and enjoy interdimensional travel between universes.

Disclaimer: No ants were hurt in the writing of this review! Despite my postman cautiously handing me an enormous box that says ANTS and pictures of ants on it, I can confirm there are no live ants in this game… Probably.

If there were any ants, they’ve travelled an extremely long way through many parallel universes to get here.

But do you know what there IS a lot of in this game? Faxing.

To prepare to play this game I extensively Googled what that word means… “What is a fax machine”, “Youtube Fax Machine tutorial”, “Why would people fax?”, and “Do Fax Machines still exist?”. I also enrolled the help of an absolute power house team consisting of Brett, Rich and Krista from the USA, and Phill joining me from the UK.

So how does this work?

We Still Fax is an immersive theatre experience played on a Fax Machine! It’s available from February – June 2021 in London, UK. Sadly, at the time of writing, it looks as if they’ve sold out until the end of the run – but that’s not to say We Still Fax won’t return again some day soon!

With humble beginnings as an Indiegogo campaign last year, We Still Fax might well be one of the most exciting play at home escape room games I’ve played so far this 2021? And that’s coming from me 2 weeks after escape rooms have reopened. This game is so immersive, quirky and ‘out-there’ that it defies definition and has excited me more than any other play at home game in a long, long time.

If I had to categorise We Still Fax, it would be a cross between live immersive theatre and tabletop escape room. The idea is simple – ANTS Theatre sends you a large Fax Machine in the post. This Fax Machine is a relic from another universe… A universe the same up until one key divergent point: The internet was never adopted and people still fax.

At your allocated time you open the box, dial the Helpline, perform your Fax Machine health checks and the game begins! Thankfully, as this game is Games Master-ed means that if anything does go wrong, they’re on hand to help.

The Story

The story centres around your Fax Machine, named Berna 3.142. In a strange blip in the space time continuum, Berna arrives into your possession and from here she acts as a communication device between you and a parallel universe. In this parallel universe the internet was never invented, Blockbuster and Woolworths are booming, Mars is on fire, Elon Musk is missing, and Jeremy Corbyn is in charge of the UK.

In this strange universe there’s somebody at the other end of the line, and they need your help! You’ve got to work together with your fax machine and save the day. The universe is counting on you!

As you power through the main storyline you’ll probably miss A LOT, but you’ve a handy 30 minutes at the end of your game to explore Easter Eggs along the way. By “Easter Egg”, I mean numbers you can dial on the fax machine’s phone to get additional content. There are around 20 of these numbers hidden throughout the game in the most unexpected places.

Ff you want to fully understand the world ANTS Theatre have created, you’ll want to press every single number you can. I absolutely adored the lore and worldbuilding the Easter Eggs in We Still Fax provided. Even now, days later, I’m itching to know more about the world – more about Berners Lee, Elon Musk, and more about the secret mystery of spoons.

The Fax Machine

Ok, so I have no idea what a fax machine is supposed to look like – but I’m fairly sure they don’t sing, flash rainbow colours, and pour smoke from a chimney at the back. But what do I know? I’m only from this universe.

Berna is the real star of the show throughout. What a beauty! We were warned she’d break if we insulted her, but it was easy to treat such a majestic machine with the respect she deserved! All that blue and pink flashing… *hair flick* I think Berna and I have a lot in common.

The Puzzles & Interactivity

Puzzles to solve come in a few forms, they’ll either be faxed to you, or they’ll exist on the machine itself. Players can expect to have to hunt around for 3 digit codes, padlocks and keys as well as analyse the ciphers and codes that come through intermittently.

More important than the puzzles were the moments of interactivity with the fax machine that the game presented. Funny “aha!” moments and surprising twists. By fax you’ll also be prompted to draw diagrams, answer questions and tick boxes, sacrifice objects (or in our case, people!) all whilst faxing back and forth in a two way dialogue with another universe. At one point something we said into the telephone receiver was played back to us which absolutely blew my mind! It was a real ‘wow’ moment how well it fit in, and I almost didn’t recognise my own voice.

I’d also be remiss not to mention how much I enjoyed the music. It was incredibly vibey. From “Dare” by Gorillaz, to hits from the 90s, to music composed entirely of the dialup tones. Did I mention the game’s also got the Nokia ringtone in it? Yeah. Can’t unhear that!

Playing Remotely

As a final note, I wanted to mention our specific experience as we didn’t play the game exactly as it was intended to play. There was a partial team ‘on-site’ as it were, playing with the physical box. Other team members followed along closely via Zoom. If you intend to play this way, I’d definitely get in touch with the team to help facilitate this!

Screenshot by Brett

Another note is that whilst playing We Still Fax we did come across a couple of technical hitches, but after chatting to the team after the game it seems like these are incredibly rare. For example, we were unable to join the call at the start of the game due to a software update on that very day, and later our ‘signal amplifier’ ran out of battery unexpectedly, requiring a remote reset. It also probably didn’t help playing the game with a team spread out across the world via Zoom, so we’re happy to forgive any hiccups. Thankfully the game is GMed remotely by the team, so they’ll very quickly pick up any issues that might arise!

Overall

I absolutely adored this game! Purchased as an early birthday present for myself and played along with some of the loveliest escape room people I know made it an all round great experience. If nothing else, We Still Fax is unbelievably quirky and innovative an experience! I mean… An escape room played on a fax machine? Wild. It’s made all the better by ANTS Theatre’s excellent writing and world building.

I can’t believe I’m saying it but… I hope more escape room games are played by fax machine in the future!

We Still Fax can be booked for £60 via Design My Night. Check out the ANTS Theatre website here.

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