The gruesome murder of Goro Smith has the small town of Pondermere hiding all sorts of secrets. On the grounds of the beautiful Kimura Mansion, an art deco home now operating as a museum, Mr. Smith, a relative newcomer to town, was found stabbed to death with his body sliced into thin ribbons – over two hundred knife wounds. An ancient axe was found buried near his body, but there were also over 100 other blades found buried at the scene of the crime. Whispers of an ancient curse that turns household tools into angry spirits have been floating around town, but no one is willing to talk about it. Was it this curse that took Mr. Smith’s life, or is someone more nefarious afoot? burying the hatchet
The Pandora Network: Burying the Hatchet, the first experience created by Electric Goldfish (a collaboration between Faceless Ventures, Incognito Experiences, and Nick Hutson Music), was a week-long, fully interactive, remote experience that unfolded on social media through Facebook posts. Online agents (players’ in-game identities) are presented with facts and evidence from the field agents in Pondermere: Beatrice Blackthorn and Felix Chase. Online agents can suggest theories and ask questions for Beatrice and Felix to investigate by either commenting on their Facebook posts or starting a new post in the private Facebook group. It seems like player participation drives most of the action and forwards the narrative. The Pandora Network: Burying the Hatchet is a murder-mystery worth solving, and a nice way to get your brain churning during this time of shelter-in-place.
The Pandora Network: Burying the Hatchet brings players deep into the world of Pondermere and the murder at hand. With a map of the village, thorough but concise briefings, and frequent updates from Beatrice and Felix, participants are made to feel like agents working the case. While Felix and Beatrice are doing all the leg work “on site,” the online agents are tasked with researching any odd findings, diving deep into suspect interviews, and collaborating with fellow online agents as to who the killer may be. Players’ queries and findings become part of the case, with the Pandora agents expressing their opinions about the theories as the week goes on. Felix and Beatrice have a Mulder-and-Scully dynamic, which I appreciated being an X-Files fan. However, with these agents, Beatrice believes in the supernatural, while Felix is the skeptic.
The Pandora Network: Burying the Hatchet excels in their actor-player interactions. When I left comments on Facebook, they tagged me personally and were engaged with what I wrote. I was a day late to this experience, but when I finally made my “hello” post, Felix tagged me in the initial brief at the start of the case to make sure I was caught up. Felix even directed some sass toward me when I fell down a supernatural rabbit hole in regards to the case, and the banter continued throughout the week. Players were also offered a chance to play pub quiz with the agents in the middle of the week via Facebook messenger, which created an even deeper bond with these characters and was a nice way to break up an intensely curious case. This personalization and attention to each player is a nice and thoughtful touch, creating more engaged participants.
A crucial component that might keep players from fully engaging with the experience is the time difference for players outside of the UK. As a UK-based experience, most of the posts came out between the hours of 6am-2pm for those of us in the U.S. For someone whose brain is not firing on all cylinders until 11am, this time difference made it more challenging to keep up with information; I would wake up to multiple notifications from The Network, plus a slew of comments from other players.
Another unfortunate effect of the time difference manifests in the conclusion. Perhaps because there’s a sequel in the works, the ending of this chapter feels somewhat abrupt. My experience ran from 5/10-5/16, and I fully expected to be doing some investigating on the last day of the game. However, the suspect was caught on May 15th in the afternoon, and we were sent a debriefing on May 16th at 9am, making it impossible for me to contribute to the ending.
The concluding audio debriefing is a fun inclusion as it recaps everything the players came up with over the week. Our names were even used in the recap as “Agent [Last Name].” This debriefing, though long (30 minutes), immersed players even more, almost as an in-game way of thanking players for participating. It was even more fun to hear my name and be reminded of all our crackpot theories from the week.
Overall, The Pandora Network: Burying the Hatchet offers up a beautiful break from the slog of shelter-in-place boredom, and I am definitely interested in working on their next case – The Pandora Network: Nightlight Circus (July 18-24 and August 2-8, tickets on sale soon). Word to the wise though, The Pandora Network: Burying the Hatchet requires a moderate amount of mental and emotional involvement to reap the full benefits, so, although it is playable if you’re busy, it is in your best interest to make sure you have more free time to get the most immersive experience possible.
Find out more about The Pandora Network and their upcoming cases on their website and Facebook page. Purchase tickets to The Pandora Network: Nightlight Circus HERE. Check out our Event Calendar for more immersive entertainment throughout the year.
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