Written by Renkon
This article was featured in our 2023 September issue. Check out more articles and interviews in the full issue.
Have you ever felt like your home was just plain haunted? Some corners of the house have a distinct chill, or you hear a noise coming out of an empty room. You could swear that objects go missing only to turn up in unexpected places, or you catch a glimpse of movement in your peripheral vision. Maybe you have felt the familiar world around you crossing over with some other unseen dimension.
The Madorica Real Estate series by GIFT TEN INDUSTRY is a fantastic encapsulation of that sense of the real intersecting with the unreal. In these games, the titular real estate agency sends you to haunted houses that they are trying to sell, and you must exorcise the ghosts dwelling within. You print out copies of the floor plans, then use them to solve puzzles in the digital game. Just like with real-life escape room games, the idea is to hunt down and use the information given to you to gain access to new areas of the map, and finally, to exorcise the ghost and end the level.
Some friends and I gathered one weekend to play through Madorica Real Estate 2: The Mystery of the New Property. We bought a version of the game that came with a ready-made packet of printouts, but you can also print out the required sheets yourself from the website. These friends do not normally play video games, but they do love board games and puzzles. With everyone gathered around the table to inspect the different sheets and cutouts, it was a lot like playing a board game together. The digital game acted as a kind of overlay to the whole thing, creating a genuine sense that we were "moving" through this house and interacting with objects, much like we would in a real-life escape room game. It reminded me a lot of playing old school VCR board games like Star Trek: The Next Generation - A Klingon Challenge. It takes a bit of imagination, but it is like entering that liminal space between fantastic digital and tangible physical worlds.
Madorica Real Estate 2 starts off with a bang and only gets more intricate and intense as you go. At first, you can only access a couple of the puzzles to get used to the controls of the game. The general idea is to find the correct sequence of button inputs to perform actions such as moving to a different room or powering on electronics. Your printout floor plan will show you how the rooms are laid out, as well as spots where the player can stand. There is also a row at the bottom of the sheet for players to write in the various codes they find, and includes a legend of symbols the player will need to fill in. Once you have found a code, you close your eyes with the shoulder button and enter the button inputs to perform the magic spells. If you were correct, you will perform the given action. However, if you were wrong, you will get hit with a time penalty.
Each level has a set time limit, and if players cannot exorcise the ghost in time, they will have to start over. Luckily, players can also open the menu and scan the level's QR code with their phone, which brings them to a site with hints that nudge them in the right direction. In addition to that, you can also turn off the time limits if you would prefer to take things at your own pace. Once you have cleared a level, you will receive coins to unlock new and more difficult levels. There is a lot of variety in both type and difficulty, with each level centering around a different theme. The puzzles for this second game were provided by Tumbleweed, which organizes escape room events and other real-life puzzle challenges. Their obvious expertise imbues every level with a ton of interesting tricks and mechanics.
The puzzles require the player to do interesting things with the paper pieces, such as cutting or folding the sheets, coloring in shapes, and so on. One of the rooms has you essentially fold and color a paper dice using the floor plans. There is a ton of creativity on display here, and having everyone engage with the physical components is a lot of fun this way. The digital part is also interesting and can incorporate puzzle ideas that would not be possible in a real-life escape room game, such as "connecting" electric lines based on the player's camera viewpoint, or warping into giant sushi to travel around a massive conveyor belt. There is just so much going on in these haunted houses!
Although it is a game about exorcising ghosts, the spirits you encounter are incredibly cute, and there are no horror elements to these titles. The story is very simple and sweet, and each ghost has their own charming design that matches the theme of the house they are haunting. These little touches of personality make each level that much more memorable. The music is also quite charming, and helps set the mood for a nice evening of puzzling.
I enjoyed my time a lot with Madorica Real Estate 2. You can play it alone and enjoy the escape room game experience by yourself, but I suggest gathering a bunch of friends to play together. I highly recommend the Madorica Real Estate series and especially this second title. They are fun augmented reality games that delight in turning the mundane objects around your home into playful toys to solve puzzles.
Madorica Real Estate 2: The Mystery of the New Property is out now on Steam and Nintendo Switch. Find more digital and analog games by GIFT TEN INDUSTRY on their homepage.