As we all moved online in 2020, the concept of escape rooms did too. You no longer have to be locked in a physical space to complete a series of puzzles and save the day. All you need is a computer or tablet and an internet connection.
Online escape rooms take many forms, from fully interactive (an actor is on the Zoom call with you and will look at and report on clues in their physical room) to a hybrid (an escape room employee straps a GoPro to their head and takes direction from you) to a fully digital setup, which can be either an interactive digital space, sort of like the 360-degree tours you find on real estate websites, or a videogame-type setup.
Bad Altitude is more in the last category, and it probably properly belongs more in the category of story-based online videogame than actual escape room. But let's not quibble. The setup is this: You are with some number of friends, either clustered together around one computer screen, using different screens in the same room or in different locations and linked via Google Hangouts, Zoom or any other video chat you want. If you're in the same physical space, we suggest clustering around the largest screen you have and nominating one member of your team drive the action. Your mission is to solve problems aboard a plane, from overly sensitive passengers to lost luggage to, as you might expect, landing the whole damn thing.
There is no human on the other end in real time, but several different cartoon characters help or hinder you on your quest. Your primary contact is the flight attendant on board, a very friendly but slightly inept Welshman named Rhys.
The puzzles are a variety of standard escape room material (ciphers, maths-based, formulas, the classic cross-the-river-with-an-alligator-hen-and-grain type), and none have a time limit. Most people finish the game in between 60 and 90 minutes, and you can ask for clues if a particular puzzle is foxing you out. If you are really stuck, you can skip a puzzle altogether.
There's a lot of storytelling in the game, which can feel a bit superfluous as you listen to various incidences of Rhys' flirtation – but the story is sweet, if circuitous, and the puzzles are straightforward and challenging.
Creativity of puzzles: ✮✮
Best quote: “Have you checked the goat's travel documents to see if it likes showtunes?”
Our tip: It's easier to play in person, if you can, with one participant entering the answers.