Trains, puzzles, and Tokyo: if you find any of these appealing, consider relinquishing a free afternoon to spend it embarking on a very-Underground adventure.
Text and photos by Natalie Jacobsen
The mission? Prove just how up to speed you are on the underground, and re-discover the magic of this massive city all over again. Outside knowledge is not necessary, as the provided game kit has everything you need to play: a Tokyo Metro map, tools, a booklet (“designed to be used as a guidebook, as you go around exploring Tokyo while solving the various puzzles”), and a handy folder you can continue to riddle yourself with afterwards. Perhaps best of all, it comes with a 1-Day Tokyo Metro pass. Tokyoites who have become numb to how quickly money on their Suica runs out will enjoy giving it a break while they play the game. “[We want to show] how convenient and easy it is to ride the Tokyo Metro,” says director Takao Kato of SCRAP, a Kyoto-based publisher.
SCRAP has been working in the field of (very tricky) real-life games for some time now, and when Tokyo Metro approached them with the idea of developing an extended puzzle game on the subway system of the world’s largest city, they recognized that it simply wasn’t the kind of opportunity that you turn down. “Tokyo Metro – The Underground Mysteries” was born.
As Kato explains, it was a hit last year: “over 20,000 people enjoyed the game, [so] we decided to organize it this year as well.” This time around, they have introduced English and Mandarin Chinese – thanks to localization assistance from Vivid Creations in Singapore – which allows for a seamless understanding of the puzzles and easing navigation.
The kit can only be purchased at Ueno station (between 07:40 and 20:00), but you’ll have to read the first set of instructions to figure out where the game truly starts! Kato explains that “it took around two months to decide on the train stations, and solidify the puzzles and game contents [and] how to make [them] more interesting. We did test runs again and again. That took another two months.” The kit itself took some time to make: as players will find out, there is more than meets the eye with the booklet, and as Kato adds, this part of the game required plenty of tweaking as well: “We had to revise the content many times over for it to finally work.”
Clues and enigmas will have you going to various stops around the city, but seeing each station in a new light – even the ones you might visit the most. “[Players will] get to discover interesting parts of Tokyo they never knew about.” We pored over the art and surroundings we’d blown by on the way to work as we scrounged for solutions in nooks and crannies. Players won’t be cooped up underground constantly, as the game takes you outside to go on a treasure hunt nearby the stations too. Be prepared to take the stairs – this element of the game grew out of a natural need to stick to lesser-used exits to cut down on congestion. It was also a necessity that came with a benefit of its own: “[we] used interesting places as the checkpoints,” Kato explains.
One of the highlights of the game is its flexibility. The reasonable price of ¥2,160 and open-ended mindset of the puzzle allows you to take your time and spend the day not just thinking deeply about the alphabet and numbers, but actually enjoying the adventure with friends, family – or all on your own. Vivid Creations, who handled the translation, claims that “70 percent of the puzzles were … based on either numbers and patterns; the biggest difficulty was when there was a reference to something only Japanese were familiar with … we had to do quite a bit more explaining in the English and Chinese versions … while being careful to not give away too much.” In our experience, there were no hiccups or confusion with the language parts – take your time, but don’t overthink it.
The entire game is estimated to take about 3-4 hours without any stops, but we recommend doing it at a leisurely pace and granting more time to humor yourself.
You’ll have to act fast, though – the game is running now, but it’s running away after January 31, 2016 (thanks to popular demand, it has been extended past its initial end date of December 27).
For more details about the event, visit http://realdgame.jp/chikanazo/2e/
You can pick the game up at Ueno Station between the hours of 7:40 and 20:00. The price for “Tokyo Metro – The Underground Mysteries” is ¥2,160 and includes a 1 Day Tokyo Metro Pass.