Hourglass Escapes: Rise of the Mad Pharaoh (Digital)

Rise of the Mad Pharaoh! A one to six player co-operative online puzzle adventure starring the voice of Peter Parker and Spider-man, Yuri Lowenthal! Do you have what it takes to stop the Mad Mummy’s ne-Pharaoh-ous plan? You find clues and solve puzzles in this amazing multi-player online escape room designed for co-operative play. Based on the award winning game in Seattle.

Rating: Impressive!
Completion Time: 40:41
Date Played: 21st June 2021
Party Size: 4
Recommended For: A ‘play anytime’ digital game for 6 players

Rise of the Mad Pharaoh is the latest play at home escape room from Seattle based escape room company Hourglass Escapes! Last time, we blasted into space in The Navigators and the Call from Beyond. This time, Hourglass Escapes have done something a little different… The Rise of the Mad Pharaoh is a real life escape room converted into a point-and-click experience with a few very creative differences!

…In fact, dare I say it, I believe this might just be the best example of a room-into-digital game I’ve ever seen?

But let’s get into why that is:

The Story, and the Original Room

You and a team of 6 intrepid explorers find yourself in a mysterious room in the Seattle Archaeological Antiquities division. In the centre of the room a sarcophagus… Locked! Of course.

By bringing the sarcophagus here, Dr. Carter, a professor at the museum, paid the greatest penalty – death! But not before the spirit of the mummy possessed him and turned his office into a ne-pharaoh-ous den of puzzles. With no other hope, it was left up to us to solve all the puzzles and put the Pharaoh to rest. Thereby saving humanity, of course.

This is where the original room and the online version deviate a little. From what I can tell, in the original escape room your goal is to save the archaeologist Dr. Carter. Unfortunately for us digital-players, Carter is long dead. Oh no.

But, for this reason, even if you’ve played the real life room, I reckon you could still play this digital version and experience something brand new! There are many puzzles in Rise of the Mad Pharaoh that simply couldn’t work in a real life setting, so it’s clear the team have gone to great lengths to personalise it for a digital audience.

But in order to save the world, we first had to…

Choose-Your-Character!

This was one of the things I loved the most about Rise of the Mad Pharaoh! Everyone needed to choose a character. Practically speaking, this meant that each player could see a portion of the information available and could work together to solve the bigger puzzle. Impractically speaking, it meant we got to dress up and talk in character the whole time!

Here are the characters you may choose from:

  • The Cartographer

The cartographer is obsessed with paper maps and perhaps just a little bit bitter and twisted that the world doesn’t love them as much as they do. This was the role I chose, immediately grabbing a hat and a stack of books about maps. Wait… Doesn’t everyone have a bunch of map books?

  • The Egyptologist

Dressed in tweed with a pipe in hand, the Egyptologist is convinced everything is cursed. You know what? I think they’re probably right in this room!

  • The Cultist

They LOVE CATS. Okay so this role immediately went to our in-house cat fanatics Al & Ash 😉

  • The CIA Codebreaker

Every escape room team has gotta have a codebreaker. This role was to be played by someone confident in cracking codes quickly, and equally confident in shouting “Eureka!” each time.

  • The Antiquarian

Just an Antiques Roadshow enthusiast looking for their big break. I don’t blame them.

  • The Poet

Exactly why a poet is joining us on this expedition I don’t know, but heck they were useful to have on the team! For this player everything begins with “An Ode To…” and they definitely have the best costume!

Just like being in the same room…

Rise of the Mad Pharaoh is played in Telescape, and each player is given a view of their character’s ‘desk’, and a 360 degree view of the escape room. If you play with any less than 6 players, as we did, this meant that a few players were able to take on more than one role, or the whole team could share the workload and click between each other’s desks.

If you chose the Cartographer, the tools you’ll have on your desk revolve around maps – a compass, a ruler, a letter, and a space to examine maps. The same goes for all other characters – the CIA Codebreaker is able to see the cipher key, the Cultist has tools that let her examine certain cult-related objects closer.

Compared to all other escape room experiences I’ve played, this is a super creative setup! For starters, you video and chat is within the web app itself. No need to wrangle Zoom or Facebook Video Chat – just hop right into your link and go. Secondly, anything found by any character in the main room gets placed on the desk of the relevant puzzler for them to pick up (click and drag) and use to solve puzzles.

It’s almost as if we were a real team of Ancient Egyptologists working together on six desks side by side. The level of immersivity is second to none.

Global pandemic, eat your heart out! I’m here with my friends studying sarcophagi.

But how difficult was it?

In terms of puzzles, I’d rate this around ‘medium’ level of difficulty. That is to say, we didn’t use any clues nor get too stuck at any point – but it is definitely a game best played with a full house of 6 and whatever part of your brain that controls puzzle solving switched on.

In particular, the game rewards you for fully exploring your environment and thinking intuitively about how to solve each puzzle. I really enjoy this in an escape room, after doing so many often you get into a cycle of “Well I’ve never seen a puzzle solved this way so it can’t be right.” But heck, in Rise of the Mad Pharaoh the trick is to do the thing!

Players can expect to encounter a lot of puzzles. All characters get to search around the room, and click objects to interact with them. Depending on which character you choose, you’ll encounter different styles of puzzles – so play to your strengths! As Cartographer, I had to read maps. A lot of them. But I also dipped into the CIA Codebreaker role frequently to help translate a thing or two, or watched in envy as my team mates had more spatial awareness or physical manipulation puzzles.

It’s no understatement to say that there is something in this room for everyone though!

The Verdict

Really impressive stuff from Hourglass Escapes. Rise of the Mad Pharaoh is an excellent example of converting a real life escape room into the digital format and it’s just as exciting and immersive no matter how you play it. They’ve once again used the talent of Yuri Lowenthal to add some magic to the game and once again I was hooked from the start!

This is one for the “DO NOT MISS” list!

Rise of the Mad Pharaoh (Point & Click) can be purchased for $15 USD from Hourglass Escape’s website here.

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