💰 PRICING: $60 For Up To 4, $15 For Each Additional Player
► STAY-AT-HOME GAME SPECIFICATIONS ◄
🖱️ DISTRIBUTION ROUTE: Online, By Appointment
🎧 PRODUCT TYPE: Audio Led Escape Room
► PREMISE AND OBJECTIVES ◄
Official Premise (from Red Lantern): The year is 1988. You are high-schoolers trying to find out what happened to a classmate who’s gone missing at Hardin House—you know, the house with all the locks and puzzles? The house where a famous archaeologist disappeared without a trace a few years back? The house where people see strange lights and hear odd noises? What could go wrong!?! So grab your Members Only jacket, throw on some leg warmers and get Nancy Drew-ing!
► GAME ESSENCE AT A GLANCE ◄
📚 NARRATIVE: Strong game element, satisfactory and lovely short story
👀 VISUAL: Not much to judge from, mostly stock images
🧩 PUZZLE: Would appreciate a little more variety and difficulty for experts
🧠 IMMERSION: More effective than I expected; was really into the plot!
🎮 REMOTE INTERFACE: Easy to use, a bit laggy when images transition
🏪 VENUE: N/A
💁♂️ STAFF: Game host was an expert at hosting audio led games, props!
💭 OVERALL: Something new and of decent quality to try
🎟️ BEST FIT FOR: For puzzle lovers with medium experience
🎫 IDEAL TEAM SIZE: Stick with company's admission of "up to 4", or less
► POINT & CLICK + "D & D" ◄
When I was first asked by our good friends at EscapeTheRoomers about joining in on an audio led escape room, my honest reaction was, "Ummm, what the [bleep] is that?"
Is there only audio and nothing else? Like a podcast?
Needless to say, I was completely foreign to this format of game play, and therefore was instantly intrigued. Having never done one before, I firmly assured that I wanted to be part of this. And oh boy, did I learn a lot!
First of all, thankfully, it's extremely easy to pick up. There is no "special" skill needed to start, per se. If you know how to operate the Zoom app, and know how to follow along a PowerPoint presentation, you're good.
Like, PowerPoint, you can also annotate to interact with your game host
Now, it is true that you only get live audio from the game master. So yes, in comparison to a remote escape room, you do only get audio live feed, and not the video component.
But it is not true if you assume you have nothing to see. Visually, you have plenty to feast on. In fact, you still rely on that to solve puzzles. However, you will not see any live footage from an actual escape room location.
Instead, you're presented with many still images pre-organized and pre-arranged by your game host. You will then verbally instruct your game master on what you want to do.
For example, say, you're standing at the front door. And you see there's an option of "Key Lock" on the door. You can then ask your host to try any found key on that lock by spoken command. The host then replies back on what happens next: Did the key work? If it did, do you choose to go inside?
First step: find a way in
This overall procedure will guide you through the many, many rooms as we as a team unravel the mystery behind the Hardin House. As you advance from one place to the next, you will be presented with new images, new clues, and new points of interests, in a PowerPoint slide like fashion.
Speaking of the Hardin House, what exactly is "The Hardin House Mystery"?
Well, people just keep on going missing after visiting the Hardin House!
What we do know is the archaeologist who once owned the house loved puzzles. The house is full of 'em. What we don't know is exactly what happens to these disappearing residents.
Your classmate, Heather, is the latest addition to the list. You, being her good friend, need to get to the bottom of this. Power of friendship, activate!
Since the story took place in the late 1980s, the entire premise gave me a very strong "Stranger Things" vibe. They also shared another common point: a curiosity initiated by the vanishing of a beloved character. This particular angle, I found quite interesting pre game.
Post game, I can now say with certainty that the plot was, arguably, the best element of the whole product. Although I don't think there was any twist or turn that was especially shocking, I was not able to actually foresee the true ending--which is good. I don't like tales that are far too predictable.
There was a fascinating introduction, various curious and gradual reveals, and a satisfying conclusion. It felt complete, like a heartwarming 80s movie.
The other aspect that I found most valuable was the game host's storytelling capacity. He turned out to be quite the narrator! His vocal undulations painted quite a clear picture of what's happening. Along with some occasional sound effects, the story became alive effectively.
In addition, since an audio led game is not confined to a pre-existing physical set, players are welcome to get creative and offer outrageous solutions, and the host can reply with equally great flexibility. Each experience will therefore be slightly different and unique to the group.
The game host (Roy, I believe) later informed us he has much experience exercising his imaginative mind and expressive voice via years of training--a long history of hosting Dungeons & Dragons games. Oh! That's it! That makes perfect sense why he was able to lead such a great game.
(So quick side note, if you want to try an audio led escape room, Red Lantern is probably one of your best options on the market.)
And in many ways, "The Hardin House Mystery" is almost the exact hybrid of D&D and smart phone point-and-click escape room game apps. You're not at risk of injuring yourself in a virtual space, so you can touch/click on everything. The difference here is: you benefit from a lively storyteller.
Seeing a doggo just made me all lit up--that smile doesn't lie!
At the same time, this game does suffer the same way some of these game apps do. Sadly, the puzzles tend to be repetitive and monotonous. If you're an enthusiast, there won't be much of a challenge here.
Although there is a total of 8 "rooms" to conquer before reaching the final climax, our team of 4 did not have to struggle much to advance. With the exception of one puzzle in the living room area--which I found sneakily difficult and therefore *loved* it for being slight tricky--it was too easy.
There was a consensus that once we entered a new area, we pretty much knew exactly what we needed to do to solve for the solution. Since not much thinking was needed, there left something more to be desired. I would imagine this is much less of an issue for less experienced players.
Of note, I did appreciate the "bonus puzzle". Always love these.
A victory picture taken at where it started--the front lawn
Overall, I don't think this was technically a typical escape room experience, since it didn't feature an actual set that we had to interact with. It was somewhere in the middle. That is, in fact, the reason why I have categorized it as an "At Home Game" on my website.
I would suggest anyone interested to somewhat abandon the idea what an escape room should be like and enter the Hardin House with an open mind. Puzzles come in many forms, and this was, to me, novel and delightful.
As an audio led escape room of its own class, this experience achieved what it set up to be, and though I have little past experience to compare with, EscapeTheRoomers think it's one of the most well executed audio rooms available. And you can trust 'em; they're pros.
► DISCLAIMERS ◄
We at "Escape Mattster" appreciate this company's hospitality and the opportunity to publish an honest review. Though game access was complimentary, we aim to provide *only* genuine & unbiased opinions.
All official media are provided by or credited to respective contents owners, and are used with proper permission for the purpose of this post.