Along with Tik Tok dances and home deliveries, interactive adventures have been the hit of the pandemic. Somewhere between escape rooms and immersive theatre, these online games allow you to imagine yourself freed from your sofa and engaged in the outside world.
They include Hidden City, which casts you as a private detective in search of a criminal mastermind; Agent Venture, where you are an undercover operative tackling a corrupt company boss; and The Mermaid’s Tongue, which asks you to stop an ancient artefact falling into the wrong hands.
The added novelty of The Lucky Ones, by the Leeds company Riptide, is that it takes place across a week. By way of letters, emails, Signal messages, voice memos and videos, you become embroiled in a seven-day conspiracy.
As the week begins, you’re invited to take part in the Happiness Project, a blandly corporate scheme by the Capital Experience, with its motto: “Your happiness is our primary concern.” Within 48 hours, you’re tied up in a massive data breach and a back-to-basics rebellion.
One day, you’re hacking someone’s email account; the next, you’re trawling websites to find a missing insider.
I’d hoped the extended timeframe would blur the line between fact and fiction – and, to an extent, it does. Last Tuesday’s headline about real-life “internet sleuths” decoding a message on a Nasa parachute could have come straight from the show with its love of puzzles and ciphers. And it took a while to realise Wednesday’s press release about A Lovely Time was not part of the Happiness Project but news of an actual podcast.
But the show also insinuates itself in less welcome ways. Usually art is a respite, a break from the working week. But The Lucky Ones, written by Chris O’Connor and directed by Alex Palmer, adds to the information overload.
Its daily requests for help start to feel like homework. Worse, it’s the humiliating kind of homework that makes right answers impossible without help (or was that just me?) Telling a story of data sabotage through our own tech devices is a neat idea. And as the missing agent makes her bid for freedom, it is pleasing to follow her around the world. But the show is more about evidence and detective work than characters to care about, making it hard to invest emotionally for such a long time.