The year is 2220, a century into human colonization of Mars. Times are different but Humans remain the same: two planets are in constant political conflict. Unexpectedly, your space ship picks up a distress call from a Martian spy. The spy has discovered the secret that could stop the upcoming war! Now, encrypted Martian files are in your hands, together with the future of Earth and Mars.
Completion Time: 1 hour
Date Played: 29th April 2021
Party Size: 1
Recommended For: People who want more interesting post through their letterbox, and especially fans of sci-fi!
📢 ANNOUNCEMENT 📢
You can win a copy of Distress Call from Outer Space from now until May 5th by heading to our competition page. Good luck!!
I LOVE SCI-FI! And… If there’s one particular genre of sci-fi I love the most, it’s the very specific sub-genre where we’ve colonised Mars but then Mars splits from Earth in a dramatic war of independence. Yeahh… It’s kinda The Expanse vibes, but you know what else fits into this genre? Scarlet Envelope: Distress Call from Outer Space! And I LOVE IT. They don’t call me mairispaceship for no reason!*
Actually that’s a whole other story- when I was a young kid I was gutted everyone else in my class had a middle name and I didn’t, so I told my teachers it was Spaceship. Mairi Spaceship. Someone must have believed me because until I reached high school all my official documents said “Mairi Spaceship” on them, my parents just rolled with it and I hang onto it even today.
So onto the game! I played Distress Call over my lunch break at work and then again finished off the grand finale before dinner that same evening. It’s equal parts an exciting escape room in an envelope, and a whodunnit mystery that must be unravelled carefully.
You are an employee of SHD&CO on a routine trip through space, when you suddenly intercept a distress call from the great beyond! If you remember SHD&CO from Scarlet Envelope’s first experience, this is where we found out the organisation is employed in the repair of used spaceships and parts for sale. Basically, normal space stuff. But, as an obligation to the interplanetary laws of space, you must answer the distress signal and do what you can to help.
What follows is a twisty space opera that puts you in the crosshairs of an intergalactic war on the verge of going nuclear. It’s your job to figure out who is behind the deadly threat and more importantly figure out who you can trust!
So far, this is my favourite Scarlet Envelope experience for sure, but what I love most about is how intuitive it feels. First, you log into your work portal – after solving a quick puzzle to remember your password, of course! From here you intercept the distress call and the game takes a very non-linear format. From here, you can ‘solve’ anything in any order to reach the end goal.
The game is around 40% what you see in your envelope and 60% what you can find online. Put simply, the items in your possession are objects you’d have in your ship – your ID card, star maps of the local area. But the year is 2220 after all! To crack this case you’ll need to scour the alternate reality through the medium of the internet – read articles, hack communications, learn the Martian language, and contact the authorities for help.
The other thing to mention is that this game has one of the slickest online interfaces I’ve ever seen- genuinely! It feels like you’re stepping into the future and everything is just so shiny and responsive! Wow! Yes, yes… I think playing “at home games” in lockdown has made me a web-layout snob. That or I grow tired of a simple “puzzle then password box” interface. This takes it up so many notches you’re no longer sure what is real and what isn’t. I’m impressed!
At the very end, in order to ‘win’, you must answer a series of questions to see how well you’ve been paying attention. It helps therefore to take notes as you go- a piece of advice I DID NOT follow, and so got one question incorrect. However even with one wrong, the game still lets you proceed.
I find Scarlet Envelope to be on the harder side, and Distress Call from Outer Space is no exception. I think I used around 3 or 4 clues and needed to check my answer once. But I did find this game a huge step up in terms of signposting from their previous two, which makes all the difference!
Players can expect to encounter a fun mix of puzzles – some I’d never seen before and some familiar faces, such as ciphers, sudokus, and map puzzles! But overall, plenty to do! I didn’t formally time myself but with a half an hour lunch break and a bit of extra time at the end of the day I came in at around 1 hour but that hour was packed. I was cutting, folding, measuring, and holding things up to the light a-plenty.
My favourite puzzle revolved around trying to disprove something, towards the end. When presented with information you’ve been collecting throughout the game, there’s an instance where you need to make a decision. But first you must figure out what is possible and disprove the impossible. It was fun seeing parts come together, being like “ohh thats why the game made me figure this fact out”.
Other Cool Things
- This game comes with a suitably space-y playlist. That is, if you can find it in the game!
- Each chapter in the Scarlet Envelope universe is connected – there’s a bonus hidden puzzle in each game that when solved will give you a letter. Combine all letters once you’re finished to unlock something extra special!
This was a stand out experience and I’m really stoked to have played. In fact, just as soon as I finished it I turned to my partner (occasional player 2 on this blog) and practically forced him to play it too. “You LOVE space, cmon!”. I think this game worked fine in a team of 1 but would be even better in a team of 2, 3, or even 4 if you have enough people with you.
Don’t forget, I’m hosting a contest with Scarlet Envelope right now where you can win a game of your choice! Enter here! But if you can’t wait that long, you can subscribe to Scarlet Envelope for $20 CAD (~£12) per month on their website.
Mairi is the editor-in-chief and covers escape rooms/immersive theatre in London, play at home games, and video games.