Online, Aug 2020
In the grand tradition of sequels, Agent Venture’s second game is everything their first one was, but more so. Where the first had you infiltrating a building, this time round your target is the island where the bad guy is building his cyborg army. The plot continues from the other, but works fine stand-alone (and fortunately didn’t take into account the fact we’d got our agent killed the first time round!)
As before, it’s a game for exactly 4-5 players where each character has an assigned role and their own set of tasks to perform. Everything is based around audio descriptions plus online documents; there are floorplans and maps but only the Navigator and Coordinator roles get to see them.
My impression was that the gameplay in this second episode was a little more polished than in the first. Specifically, it seemed more consistent in making sure all roles were involved at every step, without overwhelming anyone with too much to do all at once, and a slightly clearer structure about how we could tackle the various obstacles we faced. Then again, that might equally have just been due to us having a better idea what we were doing, or a more soft hearted gamemaster.
It was certainly not easy. Quite the contrary – both Agent Venture games are remarkably intense and demanding. Each person has their defined role, and each person needs to be on the ball from start to finish – you can’t have an off day and rely on your teammates to pick up the slack. At least, that’s the case with four players; the fifth role is designed to do precisely that, to step in to help anyone who’s struggling.
We had a different host to our previous game, but he was equally impressive in his effortless voice-shifting and ability to portray one character after another. (His Agent Venture spoke with an unexpected Lancastrian burr, entertainingly incongruous for the suave super spy.)
It’s critical to have players who’ll enjoy their assigned roles. The Hacker role will be miserable for anyone who doesn’t enjoy logic puzzles; the Communicator really needs to be someone who likes improvisation and actor interaction. A mismatch of roles could easily ruin this experience for the whole team.
I’m sure the lack of a livestream or avatar will put many off this experience; and of course the puzzle style is rather more free-wheeling than a traditional escape game, whether audio or no. With the right team though, this is as frantically engaging and entertaining as almost any of the games I’ve played over a videoconference call, and I’m eagerly awaiting a third chapter.