02 March 2021
Heeeeeeeeeeere’s another Shining game!
Whilst “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” is a mildly terrifying thing to hear or see once you’ve seen The Shining, as someone who very clearly enjoys board games, it’s a decent mantra to coax someone into playing yet another game with you. It’s even more accurate when it’s a game based on the Shining, such as Escape from The Overlook Hotel Game. Not to be confused with The Shining Game by Prospero Hall released within the same year, Escape from The Overlook Hotel is a Coded Chronicles game, part of a style of game which began at the opposite end of the spectrum with Scooby Doo: Escape from the Haunted Mansion.
What that means is, you’re using numbers on different components to put together a code, which then provides clues to unlock more, until you’re tumbling through the story and panicking that Jack is only seconds behind you. The style of game isn’t new, as it’s a sort of ‘escape room in a box’, but this one comes with a ‘red’ difficulty, and true to that, is by far the trickiest I’ve played. I can’t help but be thankful there was no timer to it, and there were a few bits where I had to go and make a cup of tea and come back with a clear head. Despite that, it didn’t impact the overall enjoyment of the game at all, as with hints and nudges, it challenges you without being unachievable. With a little perseverance, it offers a solid (spooky) evening of fun.
To play, you’ll use four books, which contain entries under different four digit numbers and a small snippet of narrative. These are made up of two journals of Wendy Torrance, one of Jack Torrance, and the visitors’ book. Once you’ve found or compiled the number, you look up the entry in the book. This may send you to another code, or ask you to complete a specific action. Whilst it does mean it can suffers from the delay and faff in swapping between books or flicking through pages for information, the more confident you become, the more this instead builds tension. As the narrative itself is brief but engaging each time, you feel involved in the process, and if you share those journals out between players, everyone feels a part of it, no matter how easy/difficult uncovering the code itself was.
Speaking of which, there are moments when you’ll get the code completely wrong, which are referred to as unscripted endings. You’ll mark these down on the track, and try again, but the more points on this the worse the achievement – over 9 mistakes and the game suggests you should have worked more and played less. Whilst at the end of the game it doesn’t matter all that much, it’s something that aids engagement when you play solo.
As you go, you’ll be exploring the hotel by laying out room tiles, and placing the characters where they need to be at any given moment. As a cooperative game though, no one plays as a character, or conversely, everyone plays as every character. That means, as above, solo mode works just as well as tackling it as a group.
Obviously, if you know the story of The Shining, you know what to expect. The game leads you around though, pulling you through the story and giving you the opportunity to experience it from a more personal point of view (than from behind the sofa) which builds the tension surprisingly well. You know how it’ll eventually end, but the mastery of this game is in how the process takes you there. As a result, you may want to come play it…forever…and ever…and ever… (or simply however long it actually takes you).
Shining fan or not, this is a really engaging and tricky game, where you can find out if you could really escape from the Overlook Hotel…
It’s the same style of game, pursuing clues and uncovering a story, but with a horror theme and a difficulty dial turned up.
Designer: Jay Cormier, Sen-Foong Lim
Publisher: The Op
Time: 120 minutes
What’s in the box?
- 4 Journals
- 4 room Tiles
- 44 Clue Cards
- 11 Secret Envelopes
- 1 Act 2 Envelope
- 2 Character Standees
- 1 Hotel Guest Guide
This feature originally appeared in Issue 52 of Tabletop Gaming. Pick up the latest issue of the UK's fastest-growing gaming magazine in print or digital here or subscribe to make sure you never miss another issue.
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