George Wylesol 2120 Review | You’re Wade, a schlubby middle-aged computer repairman, sent to fix a computer in a vacant, nondescript office building. When you get inside the door locks behind you, and you can’t get out. Now the adventure begins! You have to explore this building and try to find your way home. The building is huge on the inside with a lot of sprawling hallways and empty rooms but your only hope is to uncover clues and try to work out the mystery this whole experience hangs on.
Date Played: June 2023
Time Taken: 3 Hours
Number of Players: 1
Wait, hold on a minute… Is that… Is that Avery Hill Publishing?
A couple of days ago I spotted a review on my friends Room Escape Artist’s website for a book by none other than one of my favourite authors at my absolute all time favourite publishing house. Is it strange to have a favourite publishing house? Maybe. But I’ve backed just about every Kickstarter they’ve ever run, and any time anyone gives me money and tells me to treat myself, I head immediately to Avery Hill’s website. I don’t know why this started, and I’m not like this with any other publishing house. It’s just whatever they publish I know I’ll love. I haven’t disliked a single book they’ve produced, and that’s cool.
But wait, I’m getting ahead of myself. This isn’t’ about Avery Hill, this is about George Wylesol’s 2120. My love for Wylesol started way back with Internet Crusader – a book I’m proud to say isn’t just on my shelf, but is now also on the shelves of most of my good friends too. According to Wylesol’s website, Internet Crusader is:
“full-length graphic novel telling the story of a doomsday cult and the fight against the literal devil, told through collages of chat windows, video games, and other early web design.”
I… LOVE IT.
So when I found out 2120 had come out via spotting a review on REA, I did a double take. Not just a new book, but a new book literally packed with puzzles. Sign me the heck up.
What is 2120?
And why am I writing about it on The Escape Roomer?
Well, I would describe it as a choose-your-own-adventure escape room in a book. Yes, it’s a graphic novel, but one you don’t get the luxury of reading left to right. No, you have to choose your path carefully and many of those paths will be blocked by puzzles. Fiendishly difficult and sometimes slightly obtuse puzzles… But hey, I’ll take puzzles in books wherever I can take them.
The story of this experience puts the reader in the shoes of a computer repair technician called Wade. You show up at the mysteriously vacant office building at 2120 Macmillan Drive and, after stepping in, you find the door locks suddenly behind you. You have no choice but to venture further into this building. But where on Earth are all the computers?
What follows are pages and pages of wandering around a labyrinth of non-descript office corridors. Occasionally you come across untold manmade horrors, but more often you just find locked doors. Sometimes these locked doors have padlocks on them. Yay! Sometimes they just stay locked. Boo!
It’s like if House of Leaves had a baby with a graphic novel, and also the year is 1999. From the plastic yellow, to the sinister shadows just out of the corner of your eye, to the building that just seems to get bigger and bigger and bigger… It’s a true horror. Chilling and disconcerting and definitely not one to ‘read’ right before bedtime unless you enjoy trippy nightmares about faded carpets and strange cupboards with strange blurry photographs inside them. For some reason the book made me feel like I was reliving the Y2K bug, like some unspeakable technological nightmare awaited me on the next page. But no, it’s just a book. But good books should make you feel things right? This one gave me all the feels.
Okay, I get it, but you’re not selling it…
If you don’t like horror, this might not be for you. But if you like innovation, outside the box thinking, and wacky surrealism, then this is definitely for you.
I don’t want to describe it in too much detail, because I found that going in with almost no expectations was the best way to approach it. It made each new puzzling twist and each new reveal as I turned a new corner even more surprising. The book does a good job at avoiding spoilers – unless you go looking for them really hard, usually the next page you need to flick to to progress is within easy reach, meaning you don’t have to go walkabout too far. So in true nature of not spoiling it for you, I’ll leave it at that.
Although I was itching to complete the experience – the very weekend after 2120 arrived, I had friends staying with me. One of them made the mistake of asking “what I was currently playing”. Expecting me to launch into an excited discussion about video games, I shook my head and grabbed 2120 by George Wylesol and opened it up to one of the many bookmarked pages:
“I’m playing this book right now”
I wasn’t expecting much, except that everyone started to gather round and make helpful suggestions as we flicked through-
“Hey, go through that door” and “What’s this? How do we solve this?”
It’s safe to say, 2120 has been a hit with pretty much everyone I’ve shown the book to so far, even in passing. I’m proud to have it on my shelf. So even if it doesn’t initially look like something you’d be interested in, I’d implore you to reconsider and give it a go.
Choose Your Own Nightmare
In terms of the gameplay, since it’s choose-your-own adventure, it’s no surprise there’s an element of choice. However on successfully completing the book, I flicked back through and found that most (if not all) of the paths I’d already found. Since there are so many puzzles in the experience, I often found myself pausing and then retracing my steps to find a doorway I didn’t go through, or a cross-roads at the end of a long dingy corridor where I could try taking the other path. Eventually, the book allows you to loop around and come back to where you started in a seamless way, if you want to go back and rediscover more. In this way, although there are some alternate endings the player can stumble across, I did get the impression I’d “completed” the game by the time I finally put it down. But I’m not sure if “complete” is really the right word with an experience like this.
Like, did I complete the game, or did the game complete me?
But it worked so well. 2120 definitely encourages the player to be exploratory. Often the solutions for the puzzles the player encounters can only be solved by taking meticulous notes and by retracing their steps to re-examine something that seemed innocuous earlier but turns out to be central later.
The feeling the book manages to evoke is definitely that of early 90s computer games. Not just the strange, blocky illustration style, but also the text and the way you feel as if you’ve “clicked on something” every time you go to look at something closer up. In that case, it was possibly missing an inventory system, especially to collect clues as you go – though how an author could pull that off, I do not know.
Overall, I did find the puzzles erred on the side of difficult. I’m not shy for a puzzle or two, but more times than not I found myself putting down the book in frustration, or aimlessly flicking back through the pages I’d already consumed in annoyance. More than once I ‘cheated’ to get ahead – having found part of a solution but being entirely unable to find the remaining part, I made some educated guesses about where the book wanted me to go, and found those to be correct. But this may just have more to do with my own expectations of ‘reading a book’ and wanting to hurry on with the story, than any particular flaw with the puzzles. It’s an interesting medium, and the author used it to a fantastic degree, so I can’t fault them for that.
2120: The Verdict
Maybe I’m just not as used to booked like this – the usual “escape rooms” I consume are the physical or tabletop kind. But I was seriously impressed by 2120. I’m less used to experiencing my escape rooms in book format, but I enjoyed it. A lot. I hope this kind of book becomes more popular, and more puzzle designers consider it as a medium for telling interesting stories and sewing the seeds of interesting puzzles.
For this reason, the verdict is very simple – we adored this book, and we think George Wylesol is a playful genius when it comes to creating visual experiences.
Who do we recommend this for? Everyone, and no-one at the same time. This book is for you, and it’s also probably not for you. I don’t make the rules.
2120 can be purchased directly from the publisher by heading to this link.
We were sent a complimentary copy of 2120, but this doesn’t affect our review in any way whatsoever!