Sunday, July 14, 2024

The Witching Hour Creates a Spooky, Boozy At-Home Escape Room

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If you’re like me, then at some point in the past two-ish (three? Four? Ten?) years, you’ve had a friend comment, “Hey, we should go to an Escape Room at some point.” And you, feeling the exuberant high of being thought of and invited to something by another person say, “Yeah! Absolutely!” before, seconds later, your assent already given, the punishment for your hubris (thinking you could go outside) sinks in, and you remember that you, for very good reason, are never leaving your home again.

Well, good news! Seattle-based theater-restaurant Cafe Nordo has brewed up a delivery option for those of us seeking an immersive experience from the comfort of home.

If you’ve ever wanted to go on a behind-the-scenes tour of a particularly bizarre museum, and/or you’re a fan of The Magnus Archives and its upcoming sequel 2Magnus2Archives (that title can be licensed for a fee, if anyone’s wondering), and/or you love magic, hijinks, and mystery, and/or any or all of the above, then walk with me into The Witching Hour, an at-home escape room game from Nordo’s Room Service.

Your delivery will show up in a sleek black box with the Nordo’s Room Service logo stuck on there- And this is important, not just because oh, cool, your game’s here, but also, there’s food and spirits in there. You’re going to want to make sure you refrigerate that sooner rather than later.

There’s a lot I’m willing to do if there’s cake involved.

There are two very important envelopes enclosed within- One, with a white flap and a picture of a key, reads “Open First” on the front. This will explain your experience in more detail, including what you’re eating (for any players with food allergies) and how to properly mix the included spirits into a signature cocktail.

Additionally, this first letter includes the URL for where you’ll find the “Library,” the virtual part of the experience that will guide your game.

This is the homepage of the virtual library, which will help you throughout the game and through your journey.

The second all-black and larger envelope will have “Open Immediately” written on the front. While that might be a little confusing after “Open First,” I do want to stress that the instructions for the actual game are in the smaller envelope. So think of “Open First” as addressed to you, the player outside of the game, and “Open Immediately” to the character you’ll be playing once the game begins.

And get ready, because there’s a whole party in there. We’re talking a formal letter to you and the rest of your party, called “Initiates” in-game, welcoming you to the Society of Nocturnal Mysteries. We’ve got a brochure from the Museum of Cryptozoology, where our story will take place. We’ve got an incantation. There are also some “Fear Cards” included, which are like tarot cards, but weirder.

“Museum of Cryptozoology?” you ask. “Nocturnal mysteries? Is Mothman there? Can I smooch him?” This is not the plot of this game. It is, however, a free suggestion for a sequel experience.

Also included in your Room Service box is an altar cloth, a candle in its holder, a book of matches, and three velvet bags. You will be opening the bags and examining the contents within at later points in the game. Take note that each bag has a small tag on it with a rune- That’s a surprise clue that’ll help you later.

Once you’ve got yourself ready to go, enter the virtual library for further instruction.

This is Head Adept William Westcott, and he’s going to kind of be a big deal in the plot of the game. Just a little protip from me to you.

From here, everything else is spoilers!

The Witching Hour is going to test your group in a few ways. Can you solve the puzzles presented, and answer each question correctly? How will you react each time new information is presented? I recommend playing this game with a person or persons you feel comfortable collaborating with. Possibly as a date night activity? Starting at $75.00 (currently 40% the sticker price of $122.00 for a party of two) plus $16.95 shipping (or pick-up for free in Seattle’s Pioneer Square, if you’re local to the area), this game is meant to be savored and enjoyed. It could even be a bit romantic, if you like, you know. Doom. There’s candlelight!

Additionally, in my neck of the woods, it’s roughly $120.00 to rent an escape room for a private party. Consider the convenience of playing from home, and also of knowing that you’re not in a room that other people were in, putting their hands on things that you now also have to touch. That makes the sticker price well worth it to me. And consider, this is a great game to dress up for! My partner and I played it the weekend before Halloween, costumes and all. I don’t want to be perceived solving puzzles in a butler costume by other people, but I loved doing it from the comfort of my own dining room.

And also, you get to keep the rocks.

In all honesty, Nordo is presenting a unique and carefully crafted package that you can tell had a lot of time, effort, and love put into it. If you want something new to play and would like to support a cool small business at the same time, I’d give this experience a try. We had an enormously fun time playing- My partner solved the puzzles, and I did all the incantations.

If you’re interested in visiting The Museum of Cryptozoology yourself, check out The Witching Hour from Nordo’s Room Service, available to purchase here for a “coven” of two or four. Other Room Service experiences, Curiouser and Curiouser (Wonderland-themed adventure) or Do Not Disturb (haunted hotel murder mystery) are also available for purchase.

Will I be coming back for another experience? Absolutely. We’ll likely be dipping our own toes into the pool (hoping there’s a pool) at the Hotel Nordo of Do Not Disturb very soon.

Images and review copy courtesy of Nordo

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