We need to review the message log from the research team. There must be a clue that we’re missing. But before we can ask Dewey, the library’s robotic assistant, to pull up the audio file, Zevran Kane jumps in with a charming smile. “I have it right here!” he says excitedly. “And I made some improvements!” The file he pulls up on screen emits a hilariously dance-remixed version of the original distress message. Audience members bop their heads and collapse in fits of laughter, even as we review the message’s missing words. Once the laughter subsides, it’s time to figure out who might have had sinister intent towards our research team.
The Secret Library is a 90-minute remote immersive mystery experience with high-interactivity from its participants. In the style of the game of Clue, players move through a series of virtual rooms interacting with characters who become allies and/or suspects. Leveraging a unique online platform, the secret library confines conversations and scenes to various “rooms” where only those in the same room can see each other’s’ video feeds and clue tracking boards. With a lot to see in-game and a holiday edition starting it’s run, this is a highly repeatable experience. Audience members can expect to enjoy eccentric characters and a heartwarming plot that brings the audience together as a team.
Fundamentally, The Secret Library is a thought-provoking experience about the unique human magic that we can use to heal a broken world. Timely in its urgency and poignant in its emphasis on connectivity, the premise proposes that the audience members are oracles whose very presence will allow the characters to unlock the library once more, putting right the things that have gone wrong. The show walks participants through the act of working together and getting to know those around them, which ultimately is the key to what they’re looking for. After a year that has been deeply difficult for many, the quest to unlock ancient knowledge really hits home in a world that feels like it needs saving.
In addition to heartfelt and intimate small group character interactions and a pervasive sense of mystery, the show is also a lot of fun, with memorable characters that represent all different forms of human knowledge and often clash heads. In some moments riotously funny and in others very thoughtful, this show is fun for the whole family and has something for everyone. Expect to see characters reveal their most hilarious and heartwarming back stories as they learn to see beyond their differences, modelling the very behavior that is the key to the story. The moments of laughter are also by design, as the show reveals a unique purpose and magic to human laughter. Many younger audience members took the lead and were rewarded for doing so with special recognition from the characters. Expect a playful, sandbox style, explorative game, anchored to key plot points to ensure you are never lost. Get to know the characters, they are sure to surprise you.
The Secret Library’s all-star cast is a main aspect of what makes this show so memorable. The characters are each deeply unique and representative or different facets of the archetypal human quest for knowledge. Often subject to suspicion and always likeable and heartwarming, they are completely available to open conversation with audience members, which causes them to feel very real. The characters make no secret about leaving participants with a “moral” of sorts, and it’s one that is likely to stick with participants. Zevran Kane was my personal favorite, the hacker who is always one step ahead, complete with an offbeat sense of humor. Agent Teddy Dixon’s character was surprisingly intimate, his gruff exterior melting away to reveal truly hilarious and touching stories of misadventures in his search for truth that led to completely innocent bar fights. With connection as its main theme, characters will often ask participants to take on special tasks. The plucky Casey Clark recruited a young ally in the first 5 minutes, letting her play the interrogator in the first large group scene. Moments like this allow the acting to be highly interactive and memorable. Ultimately, the acting is conversational, casual, and intimate in the way that immersive fans really love.
The Secret Library is a mystery, and to this end it takes place on what is basically a giant, interactive, virtual clue board. Scenes and moments are limited to small groups, and participants can follow a single character or bounce from room to room. The rooms are welcoming and homey, and participants are encouraged to keep voice and video on at all times. Participants may go from room to room in search of clues, or may need to gather information from various characters to solve a puzzle. All of the information is given via emotion-driven monologues or hilarious stories, creating fun and interactive scenes even while puzzles are being solved. It’s easy to navigate the board and to jump from room to room as needed, or when prompted to do so by characters.
A sense of urgency is created by timers that count down each scene time. When the timer runs out, participants will be regrouped in a main area for a core scene. The transitions feel natural, and the longer format of the show means that there is plenty of time for characters to go on tangents or express themselves authentically. The regular regrouping gives participants a chance to meet characters they may not have seen and to make decisions about who they might like to get to know. Using video chat rooms and tying them to actual board game rooms made for a seamless experience that felt a lot like pre-covid sandbox style immersives. It was also impressive how the characters were easily able to transition audio, both from small rooms to large ones and from audio file clues to audience participation and discussion. The game space was so well organized that I could move through the show without thinking too much about the interface itself. The immersion factor here is really impressive, and gives the experience a truly exploratory feel. The production team sends out instructions beforehand and these are worth reading. With a bit of advanced setup, you can look forward to a really strong virtual experience.
A core theme of The Secret Library is that you have to ask questions, connect, work together, and learn stories to solve the mystery. To that end, there are many different paths through the experience. A pre-show personality survey will give you your first mission, as well as a character to contact on arrival. This fun twist ensured that I immediately knew where to start upon entering the space and also helped me connect with my initial character interaction. While the story is relatively linear, the path and moments feel special and collaborative (i.e. clues are derived from asking characters for their stories). The story is progressed by interaction, until key plot points are triggered by audience discoveries. The narrative itself is heartening and unique, and the puzzles tie into this theme nicely, never seeming like superfluous busywork. Overall, what seems like a mystery is really more of an exercise in human compassion. Hiding emotional richness in humor and clue hunting allows this story to really pack a punch.
The Secret Library is a heartwarming story of an adventure to discover the wisdom at the heart of the human experience. With a flawless interface, intimate character interactions, and generous pre and post show content, this show really feels immersive, compassionate, and human focused. Great for young audiences, this is one that will leave you feeling more connected and less hopeless during a difficult time. With a high level of conversational interactivity and a magical and adventurous plotline that feels part clue, part Indiana Jones, this is a show that is sure to make you smile. I definitely recommend the experience, and can’t wait to check out their Christmas experience!