Photo above is property of One Mystery Club
Company: One Mystery Club
Game: The Delaware Papers (Season 1)
Country: Greece 🇬🇷
Language: Greek, English
Type of Game: Digital Escape Game 💻
Genre: Mystery, Detective
Date Played: June 1, 2023
Difficulty (based on 2 players): 7/10
Size of Team: Unlimited
Time: Approximately 4-5 Hrs to complete
Price: €9.99/ Season 1
Even before playing the Delaware papers, The One Mystery Club was, well, quite mysterious. I can only say that I found it through a friend, and who knows how they found it. The website is meant to feel like you've stumbled across some kind of secret portal, a world beyond our world - a world within the world, a glitch in the matrix, a hidden door, the entrance to the rabbit hole, the escape from our tired mundane and inauthentic lives that we so desperately crave...to finally have the veil lifted from our eyes...it seductively intimates that when you - yes, you Neo - accept this dark invitation you will be subject to secret knowledge, and no longer able to turn back. So of course I had to know. I thought they nailed this cryptic mystique because I was quite piqued even before playing. But to put all mystery aside, yes it is a game - or is it a tv show, or is it a movie? - and it fully sucked me in with its brilliant and mysterious aesthetic. But onto the Delaware Papers: what are the Delaware Papers? What aren't the Delaware Papers? The story is probably influenced by the real world Pandora Papers, which uncovered a global financial conspiracy of world leaders and power players hiding their money from public scrutiny and taxes. This story all starts with a mysterious narrator, a British agent, who you later learn to be code named Belvidere, cluing you into a fragmented narrative he assures you you will never be able to fully piece together. You know, it starts at the bottom but goes all the way to the top. It all begins to unfold with a dinner party gone murderous, which is your first introduction to the other protagonists which you will be shadowing, two Greek detectives, who have been put on the case. Together you are slowly pulling the strings and unraveling the biggest global conspiracy of the 21st century, one episodic yarn at a time. Solving this murder leads you to uncover the mega rise and mega tragedy of a Tiktok super music group, but this group are only pawns in a game of profit by corporate power players, which leads you to uncover even greater conspiracies...Capital in the 21st Century, monopoly, hegemony, coverups, corruption, who to trust - who to believe, murder, money, power, control, and a mysterious group known only as Pluto...
Video above is property of One Mystery Club
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Ok, so beyond the allure, what is the actual gameplay. Not to take anything away from the mystique, but basically it is an episodic interconnecting story, broken into chapters which are generally linear and chronological in nature, where you first watch a scene and then at the end solve some kind of conundrum related to what you have just witnessed. A good solid formula that does well to balance story with gameplay and puzzles. The production is kind of low budget, a bit campy, but for this kind of project remarkably well done. The actors are great, fun, believable, the acting is seamless, the story is top notch albeit somewhat outlandish. I mean they swung for the fences with the whole global conspiracy thing, and even by the end of the first season its all rings quite plausible, with its twists and turns being credible moves of a realistically unfolding narrative. There are minor editing aberrations in the videos but elsewise the final product is pretty solid. Half of it is in other languages but the caption and translation are on point. The music is effectively thematic. This is all to say that despite whatever doubts I had at first given the ambition of the project by the end my impression was that they delivered. They do a great job of bringing you along for a ride, through all these myriad scenes and dramas and different locales. The nature of the gameplay is such that the end question will have you following closely along and thinking through every detail and possible connection and keep you as glued to the scene as much as possible. That's why I think this format is really powerful and interesting - when done well - because it enlarges the scene and narrative to such a degree that it makes the puzzle at the end all the more capable of being rich and complex therefore.
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At the end of every scene you are faced with a puzzle. Who killed who, where did who go, what is the passcode, which antidote to use. You have to both give your answer but also select from a large possibility of whys and hows; so you have to explain how you got your answer as well. This format works really well, and it also kind of delimits and guides the player who at times can be overwhelmed by the question and the amount of evidence laid before them. My opinion on the content of the puzzles shifted several times over the course of the game, but overall I think they came up with some very clever stuff. There are a lot of classic puzzles in this game, is how I would describe them, and often with a twist. Sometimes they were a little too easy, a little too hard (which you should never mind) , a little too obscure or reaching, but never completely implausible. Its quite rewarding and challenging sifting through all the information and working through all the possible leads, going back over the video and thinking through everything you've seen. Returning to a classic criticism of mine though, the test of a great mystery is whether the story and the puzzles interpolate in a kind of perfect organic unity, and in the game itself, most puzzles were adjacent to the grand mystery itself and were more connected with quirks in the scenes themselves. This is not a fatal criticism, because the quirks were all quite clever, and you still had to follow along with the plot to get the motive that was being given to you. Creating and solving a narrative puzzle out of unraveling the conspiracy would have been a steep challenge for both creators and players alike, but I do think in later seasons that the puzzles should connect closer with the logics of the twisting conspiracy itself, and that this would suck the player even more into the nuances of story, conspiracy, and puzzles.
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Did the Delaware Papers live up to the gravity of its mysterious pretensions and hype? I didn't know what to expect when I came into it, but by the end I wanted more. It's not just a tv show, it's not just a game - it's art, which in a way holds the highest form of human mystery. I think there's a lot of genius behind this project, and in a way I think they've taken this online mystery game format to another level. To do what they've done, put together a great ensemble, a great production, intelligent puzzles, a smart overarching plot that actually says something, is quite a feat. They really have an aesthetic vision and commentary which we can feel they are trying to bring to life. And this is just the beginning; on the website there is the promise of many more mysterious projects as yet to be released. I hope they get enough attention to keep the production going. I feel like they have this great vision, and this power to innovate in strange and imaginative ways, to finally push this medium into the realm of art where it belongs.
(If you do decide to try this game, give us a shoutout or tag us on social media so we know you heard it from "ESCAPETHEROOMers"!)
Disclosure: We thank One Mystery Club for providing us with samples of the game. Although a complimentary experience was generously provided, it does not impact our opinion on the review whatsoever.