RATING: 1 Key RESULT: Win REMAINING: 14:39
We have the brains to get off this doomed ship. Now if this AR tech will just work…
You are on a mission to evaluate planet Kepler-452b as a suitable “Second Earth” and an unknown Alien force has attacked your mother ship! Do you and your fellow space travelers have the mettle to power up the escape pod and flee to safety before the space station self destructs?
Let’s address some story issues to start with:
1. The idea of investigating another planet as a suitable home doesn’t play into the game at all.
2. The “Alien Force” doesn’t ever make an appearance.
3. Why does the space station go into a self-destruct mode when attacked? Doesn’t that seem like a bit of a self-defeatist mindset to take?
4. Why is there no mention that for some reason everything on the ship is written in Russian?
Alien Attack is a case of a presented story not at all translating to the experience. In reality, players find themselves trapped on a powered down Russian space craft and must restore power and boot up the ship’s systems in the allotted time. The reasoning isn’t clear other than that’s what the giant countdown clock says.
There’s minimal scenic dressing that places us on a ship, but the reasoning for being on the ship, or any narrative thread about what happened on the ship before we got there is non-existent.
This is a very small game taking place in a single room with a couple of closet sized spaces attached to it. It feels like stepping into an office space, not a spaceship. Each closet has a standard tablet outside of it that requires a puzzle to be solved, or answer to be entered to open the door. These look just like out-of-place tablets and not really an integrated system of the ship.
Another poorly presented element is the cell phones every player is given to use as a tool. The idea is that they are some type of futuristic device with programs to use. But they’re not. They’re just cheap cell phones with wonky and difficult to use apps.
One app is just a flash light, which at least functions fine. The second is a translation tool. Throughout the ship, everything is written in Russian. So, need to get a phrase to solve a puzzle? Find the name of a crew member? Know what’s written on a door? You have to use the translation app. While a cool concept in a small dose, having to rely on the translation app for every single step of the game becomes tiring quick. Even worse is that the app is using a somewhat outdated translator that had great difficulty recognizing the Russian text unless the camera was held in a very specific position. This often resulted in the screen jumping between the incorrect and correct translations adding on an unintended level of difficulty.
We’ll talk about the last disaster app down in the puzzle section…
Using a camera as an AR tool is a trend I’d like to see more of in Escape Rooms. There’s an opportunity for many unique puzzles and gameplay elements using AR. None of that is in Alien Attack.
Instead, players hand assemble the markers used in the AR portion of the game. This may not sound like a problem at first blush, but considering the material the four composite pieces are made of has edges that alter the shape of the symbol if the are not placed in an exact right manner, and there becomes an issue. Players can assemble all the pieces in a way that looks correct to the eye, but to the phone it sees it slightly differently and registers it as a different object. Tap on the object with your hand to slightly shift the symbol and it registers as yet another object.
When I talked to the employees at the end of the game and told them why the tech wasn’t working properly and how to fix it, their response was, “Yea, that part just messes up for everyone.” That’s not an acceptable answer.
Other puzzles featured as security tests for this space ship were a sudoku and a sliding picture puzzle of the Kremlin. Just like a real space ship.
Puzzle design in Alien Attack just doesn’t feel natural or in line with the environment.
Space themed games come up over and over again, and with rare exception, they usually are not done well. It comes from a fundamental gap between expectations of what “futuristic” technology should be and the limitations of low-budget current technology. When a space room succeeds, it either has a budget to pull off impressive tech, or grounds it in a way where the tech is merely set dressing to otherwise well designed puzzles.
Alien Attack’s attempts at tech integration stand out as the unmodified, and un-tested feeling elements that they are. The flippant, “everyone has problems” response we received was baffling, but even if that piece of tech had worked properly it was still an unexciting puzzle. Alien Attack was not quite as bad as Manhattan Mayhem, but it still made us regret getting Lost in Space.
Venue: Escape Entertainment
Location: New York City, New York
Number of Games: 3
GAME SPECIFIC INFORMATION:
Duration: 60 minutes
Capacity: 10 people
Group Type: Public / You may be paired with strangers.
Cost: $29 per person