Over the previous four years, the organizers of Club Drosselmeyer have hosted an event in Boston set in a nightclub during World War II. The events have featured era-appropriate costumes, music, puzzle solving, dancing, and even a swing-time version of the Nutcracker Suite!
But given the current global circumstances, this year they redesigned their magical December event, and for the first time, folks outside the Boston area took part in a virtual Club Drosselmeyer puzzle experience presented as a radio show from the same era.
The first event was this Saturday, and your friendly neighborhood puzzle blogger was in attendance. And I just have to say… I was absolutely blown away by the show.
I’ve done a lot of puzzle-from-home things, from crossword tournaments to escape rooms, but none of them had the same style, ambiance, and energy as the Club Drosselmeyer Radio Show.
Allow me to explain a bit more.
Participants could either order a box of physical material to be delivered to the house (your Drosselbox) or download and print the necessary materials. But either way, you had puzzles and helpful items in front of you during the show.
[Some of the contents of your Drosselbox.
Puzzle materials excluded to avoid spoilers.]
Then you log into your account online, which gives the Club Drosselmeyer team your phone number and sets up your unique radio show page, which you have running online.
Every participant — or group, since you could play with up to five people (or more if people wanted to share roles) — had a scheduled two-hour window for the full solving experience. The radio show itself serves as musical performance, ambiance, and a built-in two-hour timer for your solve!
Plus you would periodically call into the Drosselmeyer Industries Switchboard with your phone to interact with prerecorded performances with the characters. A push-button system allowed you to answer questions and input puzzle solutions, which is already really cool. But, during the scheduled performance times, at points, you would be kicked over to the ACTUAL PERFORMER who voiced the prerecording you had just interacted with!
I must confess, I was startled virtually every time a voice said “Hello?” and then called me by name.
The interactions were so cool, and really immersed you in this fun roleplay aspect of the game as you gave them your solutions and were directed what to do next. The performers weren’t just professional, they were charming and helpful and it was an absolute treat to have these unique interactions with them.
Plus, your phone interactions would affect your individual radio show as you listened. You could trigger plot-specific updates and one of SEVEN different conclusions based on your contributions to the night’s events!
Oh, and what were the night’s events? Well…
In this scenario, puzzlers take on the role of an air raid warden and a civilian defense unit during World War II. It’s supposed to be a quiet night in Massachusetts while you listen to your favorite radio show. But suddenly, an air raid siren blares into the night, and you’re called into action!
I won’t go into the puzzles themselves, since solvers can still interact with the automated system, but I do want to highlight the radio show itself.
The music and sound design were absolutely top-notch, really adding to the whole experience. The music varied from soft lilting pieces to absolute big-band bangers, and it all felt so perfect for the time period. (I actually had to go back to listen to some of the song performances afterward, because I was so in-the-zone with my puzzle solving that I barely registered them.)
There was a post-show videochat so that players and performers could show off their period-specific costumes and interact, and I had the pleasure of speaking to several of the performers. They were incredibly welcoming and interested in the players’ solving experiences, and the mellow after-show aspect was a delight.
[Just some of the characters you interact with through prerecorded messages AND live chats during the actual show!]
I inquired whether they’d be doing another Club Drosselmeyer Radio Show in the future, but the performers seemed quite anxious to get back to their usual live show format. I can appreciate that, but I sincerely hope they do this again. Eschewing videochats for a pure radio show-style feel was so engaging and felt so fresh and vibrant, and the phone interaction system (both automated and live) was truly impressive.
I simply cannot say enough good things about this experience. The puzzles were cleverly designed and varied in challenge (to allow for easier solving paths for less-experienced players or puzzle-light listening experiences), and the performances were outstanding. The entire team, from puzzlers to technicians to performers to musicians, should be very proud.
The Club Drosselmeyer Radio Show was an absolute blast. I loved every minute of it. (Yes, even the minutes wasted making dumb mistakes on a puzzle. *laughs*)
[Please check out their website here for all things Club Drosselmeyer.]
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