Online, Mar 2021
The list of avatar games that have actually been created for that format, rather than built for physical play then converted through necessity, is exceedingly short; but the release of Showdown extends that list by one. And like some of the others on that list, it’s an exceptional game that experiments with the genre format to make a highly distinctive experience.
The mission involves infiltrating a suspect’s apartment, a premise that’s somewhat similar to that of two other well-known and highly regarded avatar games (Miss Jezebel and Assassin Artist). It also shares with them a quirky humour, though involves much less actor interaction and has its own very unique style and story. In fact that’s an understatement. Showdown is very singular indeed, brash and surreal, with an intro that left me amused, confused and entertained. The surprisingly extensive cast were no doubt authentically German, but I suspect they were also hamming up the accents for the foreign players.
Once you get into the meat of the game, the bulk of Showdown is not so different from many other avatar games, though still a very well executed one. The Telescape inventory system is used skilfully: it makes it easy to get a closer look at important items without distracting from the main action, with moments of interactivity used sparingly but well. It is an occasional convenience which can be ignored for large parts of the game, which is exactly as it should be.
The overall experience achieves a kind of magic in doing things that you wouldn’t expect to be possible from an avatar game, with a particular stand-out moment that comes partway through. There is some magician’s sleight of hand involved in what the game does, but for me the seams were invisible.
If there’s a drawback, it’s that the game’s noisy Euro chaos may be off-putting to some; my teammate found it a bit too raucous and confusing. If you enjoy a surreal edge to your entertainment then it’ll probably suit you well.
The clever effects and presentation are what really make Showdown memorable – but if you dig past those, there’s a very solid avatar escape room underpinning it. The wacky style might not suit all tastes, but it’s energetic and imaginative and a lot of fun, and a great example of how avatar games could continue to be more than worth playing even as physical rooms open back up.
Disclaimer: We played this game on a complementary basis. This does not influence the review or rating.