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ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

Play-at-Home Series 'Isklander' Is Bringing Its Film, Game and Escape Room Experience Down Under

This online thriller is part interactive movie, part puzzle game and part scavenger hunt — and you and your mates can play along together from your respective homes.
By Sarah Ward
September 17, 2021
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By Sarah Ward
September 17, 2021
  shares

When lockdowns started sweeping the globe at the beginning of the pandemic, the entertainment industry responded in different ways. With in-person events off the cards for a significant period, streamed gigs and performances kept creatives and audiences alike busy. New at-home audio experiences popped up, too — so, between making jigsaws and baking sourdough, you might've spent some time listening to eerie radio plays.

For the team at immersive entertainment company Swamp Motel, the situation inspired a new three-part online project that turns a night at home — or three — into a sleuthing experience. That series: Isklander. It's proven such a hit in the UK and US that it has been optioned by Gaumont UK, the studio behind Lupin and Narcos, to be turned into a TV show. In its current playable digital and format, however, it'll be available in Australia and New Zealand from Thursday, September 23.

Isklander is designed to be played in groups, but everyone can be in their respective houses. It also unfurls a different mystery in each of its different chapters. So, with Plymouth Point, you're tasked with searching for a missing person. In the titular locale, Ivy Isklander has disappeared, and you need to work through clues, solve puzzles and crack codes to get to the bottom of it.

Then, in The Mermaid's Tongue, you're sent looking for the eponymous ancient artefact, which could bring about doom if the wrong person gets hold of it. Finally, there's The Kindling Hour, which is described as "a corporate espionage thriller". Accordingly, you'll need to work your way into a powerful organisation to bring it down from the inside.

If you're wondering how it works, Swamp Motel is all about blurring the lines between theatre, film and gaming — and turning the results into a shared live experience. Isklander is never the same twice, and it features everything from live-action performances and newsreel footage to fourth-wall breaking research (that is, the kind you do yourself). And, while it'll have you and up to five pals using the internet to investigate as part of the game, it also resembles a film at times and an escape room at others.

The fact that the cast includes Dominic Monaghan (The Lord of the Rings, Lost), Dino Fetscher (Years and Years) and theatre performer Bathsheba Pipe helps nudge Isklander in the direction of a movie, but you won't just be sitting and watching. No, this isn't like another night glued to your streaming queue. You'll be playing a part — including hacking into emails, scouring social media posts, making phone calls and looking at websites — which means that you'll be experiencing a series that's part puzzle game and part scavenger hunt as well.

To keep things running, each session is also directed live by an in-character aid, with Swamp Motel's team of 30 stage managers guiding you through all three chapters of Isklander — whether you choose to play them all, or just pick one or two. And, the whole experience unfurls in real time, with a ticking clock, so you'll definitely feel a sense of urgency while you're puzzling.

Check out the trailer below:

Isklander will be available in Australia and New Zealand from Thursday, September 23.

Images: Matt Hass.

Published on September 17, 2021 by Sarah Ward

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