Published May 18th, 2018 @ 2:13 pm EST by Michael

UFO VIDEO – Gainesville, FL (Solo review, by MM)

Note: Conventional ratings don’t really do this room (one of my favorites anywhere ever) enough justice… take the numbers above with a grain of salt.

People like me, who love obscure archives of odd videos, pirate radio broadcasts, and forgotten zero-budget TV shows, will love this venue. Archaeologists of such material scour flea markets, tag sales, and privately owned video stores everywhere, and the gifted impresario of this Gainesville venue has adapted the hunt into a multi-layered game experience.

I can’t speak to how challenging the games are because I played them at the tail end of a marathon weekend of escape rooming, and my brain was fried — I can say that I found the puzzles rewarding, consistent, and even at their most challenging, they were never infuriating or unfair. I did not do very well at them. The proprietor was patient and welcoming, and since the place has a museum quality, I should mention that if you should feel curious about any of the oddities in there, he’s probably got something interesting to say about them.

The game designer’s artwork factors both into the look of the room and into the game play. Painting, collage, and ink drawings presented in a vivid paranoid-folk-art / outsider style that works with the theme. It’s not just cool looking, it guides game play. Though the sigils and shapes (some from real-world mysticism, some from the game’s story) seldom break out into a pure scrawl, they never settle down into an ordered or predictable alphabet either–after a bit, inspecting it feels like deciphering alien graffiti. The art elevates the game experience from mere code-breaking to an eerier sense of “catching on” to what’s happening in the room, rather than just being told. It’s the fun part of paranoia, in other words, and it’s a gently intoxicating. For those who really crave more conventional, Orlando-style spectacles, it might not appeal, but that’s okay, the experience isn’t so arty that it should discourage anyone from just playing the game.

For each of the two rooms we played, once we caught on to the gist of its puzzle style, it never really varied. To me, that’s potentially a strength, but some people might like a little more variety. The games were distinct from one another, so it will reward multiple visits. I can imagine the room being very divisive–you’re more likely to enjoy it if you like channels like NightMind, No Wave cinema, or public access TV oddities. The facility as a whole is definitely a cabinet of curiosities.

I can’t think of anything that could have made the experience better, but I can think of a few things that would have made it worse—and the designer tastefully refrains from doing too much. It felt like an art installation to me; not a pretentious one, an inspiring one. Plenty of time and effort went into making it what it is, and it’s definitely worth a trip if you’re within even a couple hundred miles. The experienced followed me home, I think because of the way the venue makes so many ordinary objects seem uncannily significant. The whole experience gave me a quirky metaphysical lift. It felt great.

605 NW 53rd Ave A8a, Gainesville, FL 32609

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