Boonabo Farm • Mad Genius Escapes • Host Led Interactive Puzzle Game Review
Mad Genius Escapes (Based In Portland, OR, USA)
◣ GAME'S SPECS
💪 Difficulty not specified by company.
⏲️ 60 minutes duration limit.
🔢 Accommodating 8 (minimum) to 16 (maximum) players, private booking.
💬 Hints and helpful tips provided via host, possibly at times unprompted to help move things along.
📝 Note potential time difference between your location and the host's (check time zone).
🛒 If you BOOK GAME due to this blog, please give EscapeMattster.com a shout out! ;)
◣ MATTSTER'S TAKE
💪 Difficulty: For Matt's Team of 8, difficulty mainly stems from intentional communication barriers & time pressure, 5/10.
🔢 Ideal Team Size: I honestly can't imagine playing with more than 8. Even with 8, there's a lot of voices talking over each other. For a game that is primarily aimed for team-building, I would limit to 10 maximum well-behaved, respectful individuals who would know when to speak up, when to shush, when to lead, and when to follow, ie team players.
🤷♂️ Best Fit For: Those wanting an intense hour of co-op fun. I promise you--you will walk away so happy, as such: 😂!!!
😀 Overall Takeaway: Following the success of "The Truth About Edith", Mad Genius Escapes once again brings us a unique and different type of remote entertainment option. While the narrative isn't as mysterious and the live video component not as essential as its predecessor, "Boonabo Farm" ups the ante on teamwork-based challenges, maximizes their fun factors, and most definitely holds its own. One of few games to date that has made me laugh throughout the hour!
OOOH. ME LIKEY.
THIS JOINS "RECOMMENDED" RANK!
The Boonabos are a happy bunch. They enjoy basking in the "sand" atop the graham cracker that they live on, playing croquet, and eating barbecued jellybean and leaf pies. But one night, someone took a bite out of their universe and sent them flying onto the ground! The road home has many obstacles, but if the Boonabos work together they just might make it home!
A LITTLE ANT COLONY WITH A WHOLE LOT OF IMAGINATION
Boonabos is a little known arthropod specie that's a fraction of the size of your everyday ant, and also the titular star of the game "Boonabo Farm". These almost microscopic insects can make a home for its entire colony out of one single graham cracker, so yeah, they're really, really small.
One day, their delicious, honey-infused residence has crumbled (quite literally) at the mouth of a hungry camper; but fortunately, a large chunk of the wafer has fallen off in the distance before being devoured, as have the Boonabos themselves. Still gratefully alive, the Boonabos see that their home is still largely functional, albeit oh-so-far away.
These small but mighty fighters are determined to journey their way back to home sweet home (again, quite literally), even if the great distance--maybe 20 feet, I suppose--between them may bring unimaginable obstacles and havocs!
I must say, the guys over at Mad Genius Escapes are a creative bunch. Just recounting the backstory has made me realized how adorably ridiculous, yet so refreshingly inventive it really is. A simple directive of "getting 'em back home" sets up nicely to what's to follow in the next 60 minutes. Elementary, straightforward, but effective.
A FLASHY THROWBACK
Once I've gotten over the silly introduction, (because c'mon, seriously, a graham cracker home? That's some daring, out-there writing), I quickly see that "Boonabo Farm" will be a heavily animation-based online game.
As far as the animation aspect goes, it's unapologetically retro. The game logo is pulled straight out of a 80s workout VHS tape, and the game interface itself screams "Macromedia Flash". (Remember those games from 2 decades ago?) This isn't the best visuals I've seen, nor do I think it's intended to be. What it's meant to achieve, is to provide a cute and practical supporting background for which the puzzles can shine, and that it indeed does perfectly.
THE JOURNEY BEGINS
The first challenge that's thrusted upon my team is a stone wall and gate, completely barring any paths leading back home. Darkness suddenly engulfs our entire environment, but each of us is equipped with a flashlight just powerful enough to illuminate a small portion of the screen. Quickly coordinating everyone's light sources together, we are able to see multiple symbols, equations, and numbers inscribed on the wall that do not seem to make any sense.
First, we are confused. Then, we start to talk to each other, and through constructive and meaningful conversations, we quickly realize that certain players see one version of the wall, while others see another. The game is testing our ability to put 2 and 2 together (especially applicable here, since it's a math based conundrum), and as a team, to produce the whole picture from parts, and then to finally solve the actual puzzle.
The first hurdle, though not without its learning curve, sets up tone and expectation nicely for the rest of the experience. It is at this point that why the theme of ants is chosen becomes abundantly clear: Almost every game will require help from fellow team members. Your own pool of information will not be enough to advance! Much like little ants, (or Boonabos,) you must work together, fast and efficiently, if you want to complete your mission before 60 minutes is up!
AND THE RANDOMNESS CONTINUES
From there on, "Boonabo Farm" becomes a mesh-up of two Disney animations, an almost "A Bug's Life" version of "Alice In Wonderland". Much like Alice, these tiny bugs find themselves in a strange new world, and all they want to do is to find their way back home--but not without encountering some strange characters on the way first.
A tongue-tied viper, an ebi fry looking anglerfish, and even some eccentric sock puppets, every well intentioned passerby offers assistance in the form of a co-op mini game. Each completed puzzle yields one step closer to Boonabos' destination. The first challenge involves the somewhat arguably unwelcome (or not) subject of mathematics; the subsequent puzzles touch on a wide array of other topics and game formats--surely, there will be something that strikes your fancy.
Never had I considered a modest game of memory card match can be embellished and elevated on not one, not two, but three levels of innovation. (Quite possibly my favorite segment of them all. Pop culture, anyone?) This game also marks my first attempt of a virtual group painting, and it's much more exciting--and more hilarious--than I've ever envisioned. With 6 incredibly enjoyable levels to conquer in a game spanning exactly only 60 minutes, emotions run high. I remember giggling silly one moment but also anxiously worried the next because time is ruthlessly running out fast!
Truly... an unexpected high from an otherwise tame-looking game at first glance.
EXCEPT FOR EDITH'S LOYAL FANS, SKIP THIS SECTION
For those who are returning to Mad Genius Escapes for this new virtual escape game experience, "Boonabo Farm" does contrast with "The Truth About Edith" in a handful of significant ways; and among those, worth mentioning are:
This is a much more to-the-point adventure. There is no mystery to solve. And there is no hopping from site to site all over the inter-web to dig for the truth. In fact, there's no need to even jog down any notes beyond the first math-based challenge. The key to success and maximal joy is to communicate, mingle, and interact with your fellow group members. So keep chatting, mix it up, and laugh aloud. This is as much team-building as it is hanging out.
While there is also one live video feed component within "Boonabo Farm", it is nowhere as extensively employed, both in the narrative or game play perspectives, as it is in "Edith". In the case of "Edith", the live video functions almost as a grand finale reveal that ties all loose ends together; while in "Boonabo", it's more of a bonus, even sort of a tagged on afterthought. Like the very essence of this game, it's still cute, but just not as impactful.
Backstory of our team name? Because we're just useless in the games. A-duh.
What made "The Truth About Edith" so memorable is its innovation and unusual vision to Zoom remote gaming, and I wholeheartedly confirm that the Mad Genius has done it again with "Boonabo Farm". However, it is imperative to note these are two entirely different games--each with its own unique charms, best to be both experienced with separate expectations and mindsets.
To accurately illustrate and support my recommendation for "Boonabo", I will tell you plainly, this is one game that has me laughing out loud throughout the hour, a feat not easily or commonly attainable. It's honestly a lot of fun! Candidly speaking, I recognize that I cannot attribute all credits to the game makers, for it is my lovely teammates that reliably and consistently say and act outrageous things that crack everyone up. However, it is "Boonabo Farm" after all, that sets the perfect stage and opportunity for us to enjoy the puzzles, the humor, and of course, each other's company.
★ You may consider asking the host on proper input method prior to each segment; some are not perfectly intuitive.
★ Read instructions carefully. Slow down, breathe, and read. It may be hard only because you're rushing!
★ When dealing with passwords, a literal interpretation may just pave the way home...
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