Online, Jun 2020
The Wizard’s Lair had much to recommend it and I really wanted to like it – and in many respects I did. At the same time, this was one game which I thought didn’t translate so well to the remote experience. Much of that was due to the game’s more sophisticated elements – the very things that would have made it more fun to play in real life meant it didn’t translate at well as many simpler games do.
Our mission was to rescue a kidnapped fairy from the lair of an evil wizard, a fantastical premise that translated into a very pretty game set – all the charm of a Harry Potter game with none of the IP infringement. The theming was heightened further with the help of a YouTube audio track, provided ahead of time, which added atmosphere without interfering with our ability to communicate.
Note that they use two Zoom feeds simultaneously, the livestream feed being supplemented by a screen share showing the room from a fixed camera angle. Due to the quirks of Zoom this means you’ll want to connect with a laptop or desktop; if using a tablet you may find you’re stuck with the livestream in a small thumbnail only.
There is additionally an inventory system, provided in a browser tab. In our play-through it seemed confused. It was well presented with high quality photos, but sometimes seemed to contain items that we hadn’t yet found and sometimes not contain items that we had. That may have been specific to our game, but even without that it felt fiddly (having to refresh to get updates, and click back and forth to see items in full detail) and rarely useful (because what was in the inventory generally wasn’t solvable without looking elsewhere in the room).
Although the game uses a small number of padlocks, far more of it works by ‘magic’ via hidden mechanisms. As well as suiting the theme, these were inventive, varied and clever – and yet lost some of their charm over the camera link, as well as some of the game’s ‘flow’. I don’t think there was a lack of signposting; but the signposting that existed in the room was harder to pick up via the camera. Or rather, it initially hard or impossible to pick up, then very easy to pick up when our host pointed the camera in the relevant direction, with the result that the impression was of being led to the answer by the gamemaster.
Your mileage may vary. My teammates seemed to find it a smoother and more satisfying experience than I did, so perhaps I just had an off game. Certainly it’s full of cute ideas, and also benefits from nice decor, a energetic host, and an absence of logic flaws. So it has all the right ingredients; for me the mixture fizzled a bit, but might brew up better for you.