Russ Builds: CITIZEN

Four crime scenes, one thief at large, a race against the clock. Can you catch them in time?

Rating: Exciting!
Completion Time: 28:54
Date Played: 10th April 2021
Party Size: 3
Recommended For: Everyone!

Russ Builds is BACK! Following the success of Airlock and Endgame, in comes CITIZEN – a brand tabletop remote avatar game that I was super excited to play last week. Joined by the A-Team of Escaping the Closet, we took on CITIZEN this Saturday and (at the time of writing on Monday) are joint 1st in the leader boards with a respectable score of 14 points! Woohoo!

I really enjoy the games Russ makes because, as mentioned before on this site, they’re built with a lot of love. As a part time hobby, Russ uses donations from the previous game to improve on the next one and builds these tabletop escape room experiences from his own home. They’re delightfully clever and impressively high tech and more often than not- fiendishly difficult! Although that said, this one is slightly easier than any previous in this series – that, or we were on tip top form during our game session.

The Story

Setting the scene is an introductory audio file from your host Russ, who remains perfectly in character the whole way through the experience. The story goes that you, an intrepid team of detectives, have one chance to catch a mysterious super criminal known only as “CITIZEN”. Think Moriarty to your Sherlock Holmes. You’ve never been so close to catching him, in fact, he has laid a series of clues for you… Solve them, and he’ll hand himself over to the authorities. Fail, and he’ll disappear forever, your one chance to catch him gone up like a puff of smoke.

The Experience

CITIZEN falls into a category I think I made up, but that I like to refer to as “tabletop escape rooms”, meaning everything you need is on top of a table in front of you. No need to stand up, no need to look underneath the table. It’s all there before you. Via Zoom, you control the host to act out anything you’d like him to do- take a closer look, push a button, lift something up, and so on.

To help you, you’re also given a password protected PDF, the password for which you’ll find somewhere on the table in front of you. Within this PDF contains all the real juicy puzzles and clues you’ll need to find in order to ‘escape’ in time. I personally recommend you use two screens, or at least split your screen so you can see everything at once – oh, and a notebook would be handy too!

Some added elements to CITIZEN also include a playlist which is perfectly curated to ‘guide’ you through the mood of the whole 60 minute experience, ramping up in excitement towards the end- eeek! Another delightful addition is the audio file I’ve mentioned previously. I don’t want to give any spoilers, so I’ll just say this is also important to the game, so listen up!

The Puzzles

CITIZEN is a non-linear game, meaning you can tackle anything you like in any order! Awesome! At this point, this is probably my favourite style of escape room, or online game – it essentially means everyone has got something to do at once! One team member solving a cipher? Well you can move onto the next puzzle and save a bit of time. Of course, two (or three) heads are better than one and I think throughout CITIZEN we definitely needed to work together. In fact, there wasn’t a single puzzle that someone solved alone, there’s always a bit of conferring. What can I say? Team work makes the dream work. *cringes that I just said that*

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Players taking on CITIZEN can expect to encounter a range of puzzles. In front of you on the table are around 5/6 distinct ‘areas’ to be solved, so there’s plenty to get stuck on. There’s a directional puzzle, a few ‘search and find’ puzzles, some codes to be found and solved, some wires to (very carefully) cut, and so on. Absolutely no locks anywhere in sight – another cool thing about this experience, not that I have anything against locks.

Overall

CITIZEN is a really fun game! Everything Russ Builds has made has been a step up from the previous and CITIZEN is exactly the same. I’m always excited to hear each time there’s a new game in the works and if you can find the time you should give this one a go before it’s gone forever!

In particular, I really enjoyed playing with Escaping the Closet. The previous two experiences I brought my partner, Player 2, who enjoyed them a lot but overall isn’t really an escape room enthusiast. I think the bigger the team and the more people to puzzle it over with, the better.

Another super important point is that CITIZEN is completely free to play! Donations are hugely appreciated of course, and any money donated gets immediately put into the next escape room project which is very cool too. So if you enjoy it, consider

CITIZEN can be played for free (donations encouraged) by getting in contact with Russ Builds directly.

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