You’re a stranger here, who you trust is a choice. So, choose. When your friend goes unexpectedly missing, you are the one tasked with finding the answers. But, in a dangerous world of high-stakes dealings, rapidly eroding ancient lands, and volatile shifting alliances, do you have what it takes to untangle the web?
Completion Time: 1 hour
Date Played: 3rd June 2021
Party Size: 2
Recommended For: The environmentally conscious
I really wasn’t sure what to expect when I saw the words environmental crime thriller… But heck, I think that’s the best way to go into this interactive show. Routes was so immersive and exciting. I felt on edge from the moment it started, asking myself whether I should be there and what kind of difference I could make to this story as it unfolded precariously around me.
At it’s core, Routes is a cross between the video game “Papers, Please”, a theatre performance, and a play at home escape room. The idea is deceptively simple – one of your friends Axle is missing. He’s left behind a trail of breadcrumbs but, due to the sensitive nature of his work, you can’t alert the authorities yet. Instead you’ve got to access his laptop and see what you can dig up in his files and password protected documents. Your main aim is to find out what happened to your friend. Is he alive? Where could he be? But you must hurry, the connection will only last 1 hour!
The ‘keep a low profile’ aspect was actually what made this game brilliant for me. You see, Axle has a day job at the Ministry of Parks and Preservation. Applications for logging permits come in at regular intervals, as do emails from his boss and other colleagues. You’ve got to approve forms, reject forms, and most importantly try not to do anything out of character.
For this reason I’m glad it only lasted an hour as I made the ‘mistake’ of not even reading the new employee induction document and I probably let through a LOT of dodgy logging permits. Oops! That explains the angry emails from my boss.
For sure, it is less a traditional ‘escape room’ style experience, Routes feels more like a discovery game – a treasure trove of information as you dig further and further into the rich landscape they’ve created. It’s intriguing each time you crack a password and access a USB, or another hidden folder – but all the while you’re pulled back into the ‘present day’ as *ping* a new email from your boss comes through.
The video content you find and discover weaves a tapestry of a story tackling big environmental issues and, after choosing your own ending, the game also leaves us with a startling message which, despite the fictional setting, grounds us in the real life disaster that is deforestation.
Overall, it’s utterly charming and excellently designed to give a sense of tension all the while easing you slowly into the story. Lately I’ve been super impressed by escape room-style games and immersive theatre designed by young people and Routes is no different. 23 young creatives at the Egg Assembly have put together this performance piece in a comparatively short amount of time and honestly… They’ve aced it!
A day later I’m left wondering if I did make the right decision in the end. Thankfully, the game will let you replay as many times as you like in the same day any time between 2pm – midnight. Will you make a different choice the second time round? Will you discover something new? It’s worth giving it a go!
Routes is running from the 1st – 31st of June and tickets can be purchased from Theatre Royal Bath for £10.
Mairi is the editor-in-chief of The Escape Roomer and writes about news, and reviews covering London and UK south.