RATING: 5 Keys RESULT: Win REMAINING: 7:51
A tantalizing dinner party in the lavish Craft Family Manor, and somehow we made it onto the guest list! Wait, nope, that’s the menu. $@#%.
The Craft family has a twisted tradition. Simon Craft was a colonel in the Confederate Army. After the war he was deeded a piece of land between Pigeon Forge and the Cherokee Nation. The Craft family made a fortune from selling timber to the US government. However, there was a brutal winter when the Crafts ran out of food and resorted to cannibalism. They grew fond of the taste of human flesh. Today, the Craft descendants, led by Simon’s psychotic and unhinged great-great-great-grandson, feast on the unwitting tourists that make their way to the Great Smoky Mountains.
The Captured takes a stab at (see what I did there?) the bold approach of having one underlying theme that links each of their games. Centered around the infamous Craft family, this, at its core, is a family story that you’re sure to find heart-warming (in an oven!)
Ok, I promise I’ll stop with the puns. But The Captured has found a formula that truly works well for them – linking their games without making them episodic in the sense that you have to play them in any particular order. Each experience is a sort of stand-alone page out of the Craft Family Cookbook – deliciously enjoyable a la carte or as a multi-course meal.
Just the same, let’s begin with Chapter 1: The Cellar –
You have just unwittingly entered into the Craft holding cellar…in other words…you’ve been captured. Sebastian Craft has locked you and your group in his cellar. You will have 60 minutes to escape by finding clues, solving riddles, and completing puzzles. You will have to use your intellect, skill, and every bit of courage to escape becoming dinner.
This Chapter begins, appropriately, in the Craft family dining room. Once seated around a large dinner table, we’re greeted via video message from Sebastian Craft himself. The evening’s festivities are interrupted by a frantic actor, under the guise of rushing us off to safety. Naturally this is a trap.
While we’ve seen actors in games, The Captured marks the first time we’ve encountered them instead exclusively in the game’s pre-show, but not in the actual game itself. We found this to be a clever, intriguing balance – as even though *we* are fans of actors in games, we also recognize many of our readers are not. This technique, however, is sure to appeal to everyone.
The first striking thing of note with regards to The Cellar’s scenic is it’s absolutely massive scale. This game felt gigantic. From the moment we entered, the dining room pre-show felt large enough to easily be the first room of the game. In fact, for that reason we were quite shocked to learn there would be no puzzles to be had at that point.
The main open space of The Cellar is huge – perhaps one of the biggest single rooms of any game we’d seen. However, don’t let that fool you; The Cellar is not at all a single room game. Two more are hidden along the course of your adventure, waiting to be discovered. The honest truth is as the lights dimmed up, we really did assume based on the size of that first room that there would logically be no others. This just further speaks to the grandeur of this game’s total footprint.
The spaces are highly themed and intricately detailed. Nothing within feels like set dressing. Shelves and drawers are full of… stuff! Props surround you, adding realism to the world without ever crossing over into the dreaded “red herring” territory.
The lighting is dim and the ambiance is dank. The Cellar is unquestionably a threatening environment, instantly drawing us into its storyworld with a pure sense of urgency that cannot be denied.
One might instantly expect that a game of this theme would aim to have puzzles that are exceedingly difficult, but truly that is not the case with The Cellar. It goes without saying that our group is quite experienced by this point, yet we still found Chapter 1 to be a satisfying challenge. However, no puzzle is structured in such a way that it would be too daunting to a novice player – an important consideration in a heavily tourist-based town like Gatlinburg.
The puzzles connect to the storyworld in a way that they feel organic in the space, focusing on body parts and sometimes even severed entrails. (Make no mistake that this venue centers around a more mature subject matter!)
The game flows in a way that is logical and intuitive, and thus provides a highly satisfying experience to its victims. Your Craft Family hosts are quite hospitable, freely offering hints whenever needed. Sometimes this is a bit to a fault, with a large number of unprompted hints being offered whether or not you were hoping to receive them. If you are the type of player that wishes to not receive such a free clue, we recommend you bring it to the attention of your host prior to the start of dinner.
We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention one puzzle involving the Craft Family wine cellar that left a sour taste in our mouths. This puzzle, at its core was a pretty massive logic leap that hindered the flow of our overall experience. It’s worth stressing, however, that the rest of our escape was a smooth and compelling experience, allowing The Cellar to maintain it’s 5 Key score.
The Captured honestly blew us away. It’s a solid product with a highly theatrical flare. The over-arcing narrative is strong, immersing players into its world in a way that is both satisfying and terrifying at the same time.
The massive sprawl of the space that sets this game apart is instantly unique. It’s a luxury many venues in this genre are rarely afforded, and as a player it’s devilishly exciting to have *that much* space to explore in a single storyworld.
The truth is the wine bottle logic leap was such a big one that we actually debated heavily whether this game ultimately would earn a 4 or 5 Key overall score – and in fact as this review began it was in fact set as a 4 Key game. The puzzle is a bad one that is difficult to excuse. However, upon further contemplation there’s a whole lot of other good worth stressing about The Cellar- and though it may not be perfect, the fact remains that it is simply and unquestionably among one of the better games out there.
The tricky key here is that this horror-flavored subject matter may limit the audience willing to enter The Cellar to challenge Sebastian Craft, and frankly, that’s unfortunate. This game is truly a great one, and as much as it eats away at us to say (ok, I did promise no more puns) its very theme makes it one that will just not be appealing to all players. If you’re timid or easily frightened by horror-based subject matter, neither game at The Captured is likely for you. That being said, if you can find the guts to enter the Craft Manor, you’ll be in for the meal of your life. And if you can’t find the guts, perhaps check the Craft Kitchen’s floor.
Venue: The Captured
Location: Gatlinburg, Tennessee
Number of Games: 2
GAME SPECIFIC INFORMATION:
Duration: 60 minutes
Capacity: 8 people
Group Type: Public / You may be paired with strangers.
Cost: $30 per person