July 06, 2021

Article at Medium

View original

Breaking The Burger Code: LA’s ‘Codename Burg3r’ Gamifies Dinner (Review)

K7, your guide to your sci-fi burger-themed missions. Photo: Codename Burg3r

When you play things before the general public, you often get a slightly different version. And sometimes that version will be a little buggy and you just have to roll with it. So, to be totally transparent, that was the case for me with Codename Burger. While I did end up figuring out how the game would go if it all went off without a hitch, that was not my experience and I’ll note that in this review where applicable.

Codename Burger (stylized Codename Burg3r) brings together some of the best minds in the L.A. food delivery + puzzle scene that arose amid the pandemic, including Josh Sugarman (Vampire.Pizza), Ariel Rubin and Julianna Moreno Patel (Escape Room in a Box), and Marlee Delia and Anna Mavromati (Shine On Collective). They’ve collaborated on a series of interactive missions that combine tech and physical puzzles inside a light-hearted sci-fi universe.

Signing up for Codename makes you a new recruit with the Bureau for the Unexplained and Non-Normal (B.U.N.). As an agent, you’ll be dealing with aliens, cults, and all manner of sci-fi/horror/fantasy fare. The best part is that more missions are forthcoming, unlocking new menu items and bonus content as you level up, so there’s a reward for investing in the story and maintaining your online agent profile. It’s also a solid choice for families looking for a game night that comes with dinner.

For this review, we’ll break down a single mission into its key parts.

Signing Up

Players must request a code that will let them access the missions. Once you have yours, there are currently three to choose from: Training Day (all ages), The Maleficar’s Lexicon (13+), and Eternal Circus (all ages). All are suitable for 1–6 players. We did Maleficar’s Lexicon… sort of (more on that in a moment). Once you’re in the system, you can sign into an agent portal and maintain a profile, though the website says that doesn’t open until July 2.

Options include burgers, vegan burgers, and chicken sandwiches. Photo: Codename Burg3r

The Food

I’ve had varying quality when it’s come to these dinner-and-a-puzzle experiences, including a pizza I considered terrible (really baffling for pizza), a short rib meal with some delicious mac & cheese, and some truly decadent poutine that was still good despite not being the ideal food to transport from NoHo to Ktown.

With Codename, it’s standard fast-casual grub — not super high-end, but definitely not fast-food or theme park fare. The initial menu consists of single and double burgers, vegan burgers, and fried chicken sandwiches, which come paired with fries and a chewy chocolate chip cookie. The portions are more than generous, especially the chicken sandwich, which features a huge piece of juicy, fried chicken. And for $24/person, it’s less than your average escape room, plus there’s food.

All of the food seems to be made in a ghost kitchen near Western and Melrose. This is important because you have to consider how well the food will carry to your place. Due to alien sabotage (I appreciate in-game technical support), our food arrived ~40 minutes later than it was supposed to. I’m not sure when the food itself was made, but it arrived still warm. However, the bottom buns on the burgers were soggy all the way through, meaning I just peeled mine off and used a lot of napkins.

Not a total loss, but something to consider if you’re picking up from far away or trying to coordinate a group. You’ll want to eat your food while it’s hot and fresh, then move onto the puzzles.

The Delivery

I was expecting a delivery driver from GrubHub or DoorDash and answered the door with a cash tip in my hand. I was in for a pleasant surprise. I won’t ruin it for you, but expect the immersion to run all the way through your experience.

The Game

Onto the real entree: your mission.

Everything comes in a branded box, so once you’re finished with your food, you can dive right in. The mission is contained in a large envelope. Scan its QR code and you’ll be directed to an onboarding video from your helpful cyborg friend, K7. (I assume, though your mission may be different!) She’ll be your guide through your entire mission, telling you what to solve and when, and verifying your answers are correct. As you solve your puzzles, the story will progress.

The videos are really well-done and there’s a lot of interactivity between the stuff you get on your phone and the physical puzzles in your envelope. It reminded me of a modern version of those VHS/board game combos from the ’90s, without all the starting and stopping. Our mission was also funny and, for a bunch of escape rooms fans like my group, not too hard. The hint system is a pre-recorded call-in helpline, which is also in-game and humorous.

The big issue we faced was that the QR code assigned to my username did not match the mission we received. So while we had all the materials for Maleficor’s Lexicon, a demon-slaying cult adventure, the link took us to K7 talking about a time travel snafu (Training Day).

We initially thought maybe it was a tutorial, but grew increasingly confused when we had none of the materials K7 mentioned. The helpline didn’t turn up any additional clues, so we ended up solving our game without any video interaction and no real ending. So, kinda fun, but also kinda confusing.

The following day, I connected with the folks at Codename Burger, who sent me the correct link. As I logged the answers we’d solved, the videos all popped up on my phone in the correct order and filled in all the missing pieces. So even though I didn’t have a perfect experience, I can confidently say it is a seamless one that plays well assuming you have the correct QR code. Which you will, because while I was manually onboarded, you’ll pick yours yourself. So, like I said: it’s a beta-testing thing. And as a reviewer, hey, I’m used to it!

Though I think Maleficor’s Lexicon was probably the right mission for me (being an adult and into horror), I might still give those other missions a shot, especially as solving missions grants access to more menu items. My best guess is that the mission itself, not counting the time you spend eating, takes about an hour to complete.

Codename Burger is ideal for families or groups of friends looking for something low-stress to do at home, perhaps as the centerpiece of a game night. And if you enjoy it, there’s more to come!

Codename Burg3r is currently available by invite only, but you can request an access code at their website. Service is available in Los Angeles, near Hollywood.

Discover the latest immersive events, festivals, workshops, and more at our new site EVERYTHING IMMERSIVE, new home of NoPro’s show listings.

NoPro is a labor of love made possible by our generous Patreon backers. Join them today!

In addition to the No Proscenium website, our podcast, and our newsletters, you can find NoPro on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, in the Facebook community Everything Immersive, and on our Discord.

© Authory 2022. All rights reserved.