80 Days: A Real World Adventure – Underbelly Festival, London

Designer: Fire Hazard Games

Reviewer: Richard Maguire

This scavenger hunt along The Embankment and within Covent Garden will certainly leave you breathless and excited. Based on Jules Verne’s thrilling novel, 80 Days: A Real World Adventure is the new interactive game devised by Fire Hazard, a company renowned for their site-specific challenges such as Citydash, a true sprint for clues across London. All you need are a phone, and plenty of energy.

After checking in with Baron Pendleton at the Underbelly on the Southbank, you are quickly sent over the Hungerford Foot Bridge to meet with your patron in Embankment Gardens. After a few more instructions you are then released into the city, chasing down clues provided on Fire Hazard’s impressive website/app. Answering the clues will give you the money to buy your provisions for your journey around the world. But you have to hurry as the train leaves in 80 minutes, and you can’t be left behind!

It’s the time limit that really makes this game exciting, and you can see the clock ticking down on the app, piling on the pressure. You don’t have to run – but some teams certainly will – and it might be wise to organise your team before dashing out on to The Strand without a plan. It’s like Treasure Hunt without a helicopter, The Apprentice without Lord Sugar.

Some knowledge of the area will certainly help, but even well seasoned Londoners – like this one – will be racing down alleys they didn’t know existed. And while it may be terrific fun, it’s also interesting how one’s relationship with the cityscape changes. No longer passive consumers of the city, we are detectives like Sherlock Holmes, perhaps seeing buildings and people, including London’s many homeless, in a different light.

The only disappointment is that the promised journey around the world, much heralded before you collect your supplies, turns out to be a virtual circumnavigation carried out on the app in a bar in the Underbelly. Sadly, you won’t be wearing any of the clothes you’ve worked so hard to obtain, but the previous 80 minutes are so exciting that this let-down is only a minor frustration.

Even though the thrills are mediated through the app, the small cast of five add a little more drama to the voyage, especially Nicholas Anscombe who plays the smarmy Baron, and Kelly Long, the sympathetic Navigator Nightingale. Matt Vickery is Hawkins, the Botanist, nervy but, as you might find out, ruthless.

Leave your bags at home, and put on your running shoes. This might be the most fun you have all summer.

Runs until 29 September 2019 | Image: Sofia Romualdo

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