Writers: Megan Gates, Charlotte Holder, Ruth Mestle, Harry Smith and Sophie Whitebrook
Director: Joe Strickland
Flavour Text is an online escape room for a single player and, importantly, which is not against the clock. A restaurant owner has mysteriously disappeared and it’s the player’s job to work out what’s happened. Navigating a series of specially designed webpages, the investigator is swept into a parallel world full of dark conspiracy theories.
It’s apt that Graham, the restaurant owner who is reportedly in debt up to his eyeballs, was a super fan of a band called Rabbit Hole, because soon the player falls deep into labyrinthine tunnels that are hard to escape from. There’s a lot to process; social media platforms, review websites, blogs, and even links to ‘real life’ conspiracy theories such as Britain’s phantom black dogs. To read everything would take, Chronic Insanity suggests, a few hours.
For escape room and, indeed, escape zoom enthusiasts, it’s refreshing not to be playing against the clock and to be able to enjoy all the hard work that has gone into making this other world, which gives the four main characters a sense of life, complete with backstories. But the lack of urgency, is also Flavour Text’s undoing; after all, beating the clock comes with its own rewards.
As the game is not a timed experience, the investigator can come and go, and play at their own pace, but it might be best to complete it in a single sitting to remain immersed in the paranoid world. Apart from a few pages which seem a little clunky – could none of the team find the £ sign for instance? – and the many tabs that stay open, the experience is a smooth one, and even features a song written by director Joe Strickland.
But after 30 minutes or so, the way through becomes clearer as each new move is to similar to the one before, and the journey becomes more predictable. As the title proclaims, this is a text-based game, but a few YouTube videos wouldn’t have gone amiss to add some variety to the mix.
Chronic Insanity is aiming to create twelve new shows in twelve months; Flavour Text is its latest coming after the frustrating 24, 23, 22, in February. The team certainly has the ideas, but perhaps need a little more time to present them with finesse.
Runs here until 31 December 2021