Two months ago, magician and puzzle enthusiast Chris Ramsay received a chained and padlocked filing cabinet in the mail, along with a letter from Batman’s most infamous villain, the Joker. After solving his way through the puzzle box, Ramsay uncovered a coaster featuring to the website InfiniteRabbitHoles.com. At the time, the site featured a countdown clock and sign-up form, teasing visitors with the allure of a project that would show “Gotham City like you’ve never seen”.
That project was eventually revealed to be BATMAN: The Arkham Asylum Files, a series of three narrative puzzle boxes designed to bring Gotham City to life, created by many of the team at 42 Entertainment who worked on Why So Serious, the multi-year alternate reality game leading up to the release of The Dark Knight. Their goal: to take the wonder and surprise of Why So Serious‘ expansive campaign, and create a standalone game that could be more intimately experienced at home, among family and friends. The crowdfunding campaign is running through July 22nd, with the first box promised for delivery as soon as Christmas of this year.
The Rabbit Hole Before Infinite Rabbit Holes: A Puzzle Box Shaped Homage to Why So Serious
Chris Ramsay’s video solving the Joker’s puzzle box was a highly tactile experience: after unlocking the five locks keeping the filing cabinet chained up, Ramsay was able to get his hands on an additional layer of puzzles keeping him from unlocking one final box concealing his prize: a birthday cake from the Joker, resting on a coaster with the “Infinite Rabbit Holes” URL.
Ramsay’s unboxing video is a compelling video in its own right, but doubled as heartfelt homage to Why So Serious for viewers familiar with the alternate reality game, with multiple puzzles referencing key moments in the prior game. A few of the more obvious puzzle-shaped shoutouts include:
- The Joker’s Ransom Note – Infinite Rabbit Holes‘ filing cabinet unboxing started with Ramsay reading out a ransom note assembled from magazine clippings: the shapes of some of these clippings were key to solving the box’s puzzle. Why So Serious‘ Halloween 2007 challenge asked players to reconstruct their own ransom note, by taking photographs of 49 locations across the United States and sending them to the Joker. A letter from the logos of each of those locations was then added to the WhySoSerious website.
- Batman’s Mask – After opening the filing cabinet, Ramsay reveals a Batman mask with red-tinted lenses as reward for completing the first phase of the puzzle, as well as a key tool to solve a later puzzle. For Why So Serious‘ San Diego Comic-Con scavenger hunt, players were tasked with a series of missions (including getting dolled up in clown makeup themselves), and were rewarded for their efforts with a clown mask of their own.
- Return of the Cake – One of Why So Serious‘ most memorable moments involved cake deliveries for the holidays: in December 2007, players were sent to 22 bakeries across the United States, with the instructions to ask for a pick-up for “Robin Banks”. The first player to each location received a cake, iced with instructions to call a specific number. Once dialed, the cake started ringing and the lucky recipients had to dig inside the cake to recover their new burner phone. Ramsay’s cake-themed finale might have a different message iced on top, but the experience itself is the clearest homage of the bunch, and the full video is worth watching for that moment alone.
At the time this video was uploaded, these connections seemed like the puzzle box’s creators were just ardent fans of Why So Serious, who wanted to pay homage to a fixture in immersive Batman history. However, there was one additional hint that more was going on. A few weeks prior to Ramsay’s unboxing video, Dave Cobb tweeted out a link to a curious advertisement for Infinite Rabbit Holes, printed in programs for the Thea Awards (an award show for the Themed Entertainment industry). The advertisement noted that Animal Repair Shop was involved with Infinite Rabbit Holes: a company helmed by quite a few familiar names from 42 Entertainment.
And with that, the homage transformed into a promise: key figures behind the Why So Serious alternate reality game would be returning to the Batman franchise in some capacity, more than 15 years later.Continue reading