The Mystery of the Deveaux Family
Whoever has played with Heiner knows: Heiner loves horror rooms. Whoever has played with Heiner probably also knows: he isn’t afraid of anything. Neither am I. We have tested horror games, just the two of us (other teammates fell ill), but it didn’t work. We just rummage through the rooms like we were going through any other kind of room, often ignoring the actor’s attempt to scare us, sometimes even laughing at it, occasionally poking the “corpses”, and searching scattered body parts for clues, but mostly just working towards escaping without interruptions. We are obviously missing out on some experience, and it’s not fair to the actors who do their best to scare us. So, Heiner’s theory now is that we should always have somebody with us who is scared enough for all of us.
Unintentionally, we put together the perfect team for The Mystery of the Deveaux Family, so we had a chance to test his theory. The two of us—Heiner and I—were joined by a young man who was more worried about playing in English than about ghost interactions, another one who was visibly questioning his life decision of deciding to come with us for a game night, and a Parisian woman whom we literally had to drag with us from a previous game. According to her own account she hated “everything scary”, and she was just convinced by the game master of our previous game that Panik Room is scary only if you choose it to be.
Once on location it became clear that the game doesn’t necessarily have to be “too scary”. The game format is most unusual. The team sits down in front of three big screens, and they won’t even have to move from the sofa if they don’t want to. Not all of them anyway … The mission is to collect personal items of the Deveaux family, extract memories from them and reveal who is haunting the mansion.
In each “chapter” of the game there is some (un?)lucky volunteer who will become the “hand” of the operation. He or she enters the mansion—you guessed it, blindfolded. Equipped with a walkie-talkie, a map of the building, and a live camera feed from the blindfold teammate, the rest of the team becomes the eyes of the operation from the comfort of their sofa and provide their chosen ghost hunter with instructions and guidance through the haunted mansion. Judging by the reaction of our more easily scared teammates, just watching the creepy house through the screen, and spotting the randomly showing apparitions was scary enough, but walking through the house was a whole other story. They deprive you of your most trusted sense, your sight. Even if you aren’t scared much, you will feel uneasy for having to explore an unknown place completely blind. The place is filled with everything you would expect from a haunted mansion: with creaking, creeping, singing, giggling, whispering, breathing, slithering, and sneaking; and again: you don’t see a thing. The communication with the team is one-sided. You can just communicate with them with some hand gestures (not the rude ones), and that makes your quest even more difficult. With the group’s guidance you have to find a personal item of one of the Deveaux, and get back to the comfy sofa to extract the next memory of it. Does it sound easy enough? Maybe not! While you are half-confidently making your way back, the ghost randomly can appear out of nowhere to block your way. You won’t see it, but you definitely won’t miss it when it happens. Your team will start screaming instructions in a craze to help you to avoid being captured. If you are quick enough, you can escape, if you aren’t you will be ghostnapped until somebody volunteers to save you.
Slowly we convinced one of our more scared teammates to explore the “other side”. He quickly realised the sofa didn’t prepare you for what was waiting inside. We couldn’t hear what he was hearing, but from the on-camera movement it was clear he was nervously turning his head after each noise and movement around him. Misunderstanding our instructions from his nervousness, instead of grabbing the item we needed, he dismounted the skeleton of one of the Deveaux’ beloved family members, and just calmed down a bit when he heard the team bursting into laughter on the other side of the walkie-talkie.
The game is quite simple in a way: somebody goes in, grabs an item, and comes out avoiding the ghost. The further into the story, the quicker it becomes to get in and out again as everybody gets familiar with the layout. There are no puzzles to be solved—because of the unusual format of the game it wouldn’t be practical to do so, so I wouldn’t necessarily call it an ‘escape room’ in the strict sense. It’s more like an immersive ghost-hunting experience. Communication is the key. From the sofa, it’s hard to remember that the teammate in the room sees nothing, and completely relies on the team’s navigation. That of course leads to a lot of comical scenarios, such as walking into walls, accidentally dismantling skeletons, or walking back and forwards through doors trying to avoid the ghost while trying to understand instructions from the team that tries to scream at once.
The absolute win would have been if we could have convinced everyone from the team to have a go in the mansion. Nonetheless, we all had a blast. The easily scared teammates were definitely scared and that added a lot to the experience. It wouldn’t have been the same without surprised gasps, or jumps from the sofa when a random ghost appeared or something unexpected moved on the screen. After finishing our mission, we were allowed to walk through the mansion, and the painstakingly decorated corridors made me wish we could have actually searched through the house without the blindfold but, then again, the unusual format of live camera feed is what makes this game so special. It’s definitely a must-play.