The Mermaid’s Tongue review – turn detective for this dazzling online gothic thriller

It’s bad form to make personal remarks about the performers, but I was rubbish. What were they thinking when they cast me in this online adventure game? I should never work again.

Luckily, I’d brought with me a six-strong team of agile minds with the ability to come up with answers before I’d understood the questions (or even realised there was a question). Their efforts took us, stumblingly, through a 90-minute quest created by Swamp Motel in which we begin, innocuously, as participants in an online drawing class before a classmate’s appeal for help turns us into cyber detectives.

The Mermaid’s Tongue
Nerve-jangling collective enterprise … The Mermaid’s Tongue

Picking up texts and video messages, we are catapulted from gallery to auction to university classroom and onwards to destinations I can’t reveal without giving away clues. Our mission is to find an ancient artefact before a nefarious gang can get their hands on it. There are hints of untimely deaths, ritual sacrifice and the supernatural. Scanning CCTV footage, handwritten notes and ciphers, we become protagonists in our own gothic mystery thriller.

From the makers of Plymouth Point, it is an escape room for the age of social distancing and it leaves your nerves just as jangled. Perhaps if you stopped to think about it, you’d see how daft it all was but, of course, you don’t have a second to think about it. You’re too busy cracking codes, sifting out the false leads and panicking.

The work of Clem Garritty and Ollie Jones, The Mermaid’s Tongue is inventive, gorgeously designed and technically dazzling. Crucially, at a time of enforced atomisation, it engages us in a collective enterprise. What matters is less the puzzle than the act of cracking it together.

Available online.

The Guardian

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