Player Review: Prototype 161 Mare Vitreum

Editor’s note: The following is a recap of the Prototype 161 event on October 31, 2008 in New York City. Originally brought to our attention via a lovely piece of glass swag, the game took players to the streets of NYC on the spookiest night of the year, and intrepid player Jim Babb covered the event for us. Thanks to Jim for his eye-witness account of what transpired.

This past Halloween night, I was member of a group of elite investigators that brought down an evil cult mastermind and his super genetic computer. Yep, a first for me, but just another night for Prototype 161. The event had an online pre-game that Prototype assured us was not necessary for the game and which I enjoyed. The pre-game even had a clue drops in five cities across the country.

At 7pm the event started in New York City’s Central Park when investigators were each handed a folded piece of paper, sealed with wax (a nice touch in my book). The first part of the night was a foot race around Central Park solving simple clues in order to build a map that would come in handy later when we moved over to Roosevelt Island. For those of you that have never been, Roosevelt island is accessible by means of a Tramway and was also the home of New York’s abandoned mental institutions. The Tramway offers an excellent view of the city and was my favorite part of the night — I am glad that the Puppet Masters included this in the game. Roosevelt island offered an excellent backdrop for the rest of the night, because of its size, roughly 0.3 square miles. However, despite the amazing setting of the game the night quickly hit some snags.

We were met on the island by a “professor” giving a lecture on the occult at the local youth center. The youth center would become our home base for the rest of the evening and into the morning, which was decent enough until the soda machine ran out. Most, if not all, of the teams became stuck on the first puzzle (my own team was out of commission for 2 hours). The puzzles were difficult and fun if not entirely related to the premise of the event. One of the major problems I had with the game was after the first clue was finally solved: it provided an answer with which we didn’t know what to do. We were supposed to be looking for a six-letter word, but there were not hints to this effect.

Finally, my team got back on track as we split up to get the rest of the clues. The island was used to full advantage by the PMs. They had us running up and down the area, from a Chinese restaurant to get puzzle containing fortune cookie, to a garden that was totally creepy and dark at night. I am pretty sure that the drunk guys outside the garden were out-of-game, but nevertheless they provided a nice atmospheric element. Other snags included one of the puzzles being vandalized (pumpkins smashed), restaurants used in-game that closed because it was too late, and the police breaking up the big groups of people.

However, my team was determined not to give up, but we were far too frustrated and tired to put in the needed effort to finish with a bang. We all received text messages informing us to stop what we were doing and see the finale. We had lost, but everyone did get to see the end acted out. The problem here was that the finale only made sense to those that had played the online pre-game, but was interesting enough even if a little anti-climatic.

I was excited to try my hand at an alternate reality game and I thought Prototype 161 would provide a good crash course in the genre, and while it did provide me with a feel of ARGs I wish it had gone a little smoother.

1 Comment

  1. I went on this event, and I enjoyed it for the most part. The thing about the words; you ultimately had to give those words to the “Professor” and he would give you clues that would lead you to other puzzles. I bet this was good for the organizers because it allowed them to keep track of where everyone was in the game. However, it ended up feeling a little artificial for the players; you had puzzles on your map-sheet that didn’t actually mean anything without the information “keys” from the NPCs. It’s an interesting tradeoff and I think there might be room for more improvement here.

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