“Months go by and John sends his letters back home to his dearest Emily.“
Completion Time: 45 minutes (with breaks)
Date Played: 7th of May 2020
Party Size: 1.5
My Dearest Emily really surprised me – it feels less like an escape room and more like a beautiful story told through the medium of letters.
John, separated from his sweetheart Emily, ventures off to the USA during the Oklahoma Land Rush in search of a place where the two of them can be happy. John writes her one letter a month and includes a little puzzle for his dear to solve. Skip to today, you come into possession of these 12 letters.
There isn’t really an ‘end goal’. The goal is very self-driven, if you want to learn the story you just have to play. For this reason it reminds me more of videogames like Dear Esther, or Whatever Happened to Edith Finch. Sure, you can ignore the plot. You can whiz through it and solve the puzzles and go “yes I’ve finished!” but the beauty in games like this is taking time to listen to the story. And let me tell you, it must be hard weaving puzzles into letters without ruining the integrity of the story, but The Panic Room does it very well!
The puzzles are clever and enjoyable! At least two of them were enormously tricky, but there’s a good balance in there for everyone.
You’ll notice at this point I noted the number of players as 1.5 – we started the game as a couple but Player 2 soon got distracted by a phone call and so I powered on without him. It was still just as fun playing solo as it was in a couple and not too challenging in either case.
If I had just one tiny negative it would be that this game is best played on a screen, not printed (don’t let my photographs mislead you!). This is due to the need for passwords at each stage. But that’s definitely just a personal preference. My tiny laptop screen makes it hard to crowd around, so any more than 2 players I’d recommend plugging into your TV to play together!
But any negatives are easily redeemed by how lovely the ending was. Did I mention there’s a beautiful little song you get to keep? Album launches of the future should be like this! “My Dearest Emily” (the song, this time) was recorded by a professional musician based on the story. The whole game’s soundtrack was then worked by a composer so that when you finally hear the end tune, it’s comfortingly familiar, even though it’s the first time. This time, effort and attention to detail deserves all the praise in the world!
Overall, I’m rating this 4 stars!
My Dearest Emily can be purchased for £15 on the Panic Room website.
Mairi is the editor-in-chief and covers escape rooms/immersive theatre in London, play at home games, and video games.