Agent Venture bills itself as an online escape room. It’s the first game / online immersive theatre / interactive thing I’ve played that truly delivers on this claim.
The CEO of B.A.D. Corporation (yes, the show leans heavily on light comedy, rather than horror or thrills as some similar experiences) has been up to something bad. I’m never quite clear what exactly. Should have read my mission briefing better! Regardless, it necessitates breaking into B.A.D. Headquarters and finding the vault with incriminating evidence in the CEO’s office.
Our agent, Venture, will be the field operative, heading into the lion’s den. The players (us, the public) will be his or her eyes and ears, directing the operative over Zoom. We have ‘radio contact’ with the agent but not visuals. Our man will need our help to hack into their systems, profile the staff, use maps to navigate his path, and to phone up various relevant employees for distraction or dissembling.
We’re each placed into specific roles, which is a big part of what makes the game run smoothly. Rather than all shouting over each other (as I’ve experienced in similar experiences), each team member has a different resource pack with access to unique information. It necessitates working together to succeed. Creative attention has been put into designing these packs, so we find ourselves reading convincing newspaper cuttings, office notices, leaked HR directories and more.
One thing really sets this show apart, though. Spoiler warning! To break the fourth wall and reveal how they make the magic happen, each team of four or five has their own actor playing the part of Agent Venture, narrating what they see and hear over their radio. That means, just like in a real escape room, we’re free to try out whatever ideas come to mind, not limited to typing codes into websites or scrolling through endless text.
That said, there are well-designed puzzles with actual answers, which means we aren’t simply relying on the good-will of a ‘dungeon master’ to allow us to win at a roleplay that exists only in her mind. If you enjoy codebreaking, hacking into mainframes, and controlling robotic sharks, you might enjoy the hacker role – but it’s always possible to share your screen and get the whole team involved.
I’ve mentioned the sense of humour woven through the experience, and credit has to be given to our operator, Jason, who really brought the experience to life. He improvised delightfully, kept us apprised of the situation without ever hand-holding to get us through. At no point in our run-through did any of the twists or turns come down to being deceived by the person who is reporting what he sees, which could have so easily been a quick way of injecting tension, but which to my mind would have broken the flow.
Instead, at all times we felt in confident hands, and I absolutely found myself holding my breath to see if a play would work, scrabbling through my info pack hoping to find a way out of the latest scrape, and cheering with the group at successes. It felt like every team member got a nicely-balanced level of input. By necessity of its structure, the game has hard time constraints. Attention must have gone into getting these right – and the amount of content to get through – judging by how close to the limits we scraped in.
A great evening, with challenges, tension and laughs, and one that I can highly recommend.
Review by Ben Ross
The Agent Venture series of online, secret agent themed immersive adventures is created by The Adventure Is Real (TAIR). TAIR has been delighting players since 2018 with our actor led games that combine immersive theatre and escape rooms to create choose-your-own adventures where player decisions really matter!
Agent Venture takes this concept online, bringing friends and family together remotely – no matter where they are in the world.
3 missions available, each lasting approximately 75 minutes
For groups of 4 – 5 players