The Dark Room Review (UKGE 2019)
“You awake to find yourself in a Dark Room…”
Those words have become something of a cult phenomenon over the past few years around the UK Games Expo. They come from a unique show that first launched in 2012 and soon became both an internet and live action sensation. The show is run by Australian comedian John Robinson, and now tours the UK (and world), stopping off at the UK Games Expo each year. That show, dear readers, is The Dark Room.
What is The Dark Room?
The Dark Room (and yes, I am setting this The Dark Room review out like a board game review) is a live action, text-based video game in which members of the audience are the players. John Robertson acts as guide, game master, and controller through the weird and wonderful options that appear on the screen.
I don’t want to give too many of the internal gags, jokes, or actual responses away; however, all routes in The Dark Room audience members will chant along with responses, heckle and cheer, and generally worship flamboyant potatoes.
The Dark Room is usually an hour long show; however, each year at the UK Games Expo, on the Saturday evening, there is a show called The Dark Room: Til Ya Die. The latter will start at 11pm and go on until John calls a stop to it. This year it was 3 hours 30 minutes.
If you want to get a taste for what The Dark Room is like, then the trailer is below –
How Do You Play The Dark Room?
I told you…I am literally setting this up like a board game review.
To be honest, the above video explains it all, so there isn’t a huge amount I can write here without repeating myself.
The Dark Room is a live action experience that requires audience participation. That sentence fills a lot of people with dread; however, this is where the pure genius of The Dark Room comes in. Not only does John refer to everyone with the same name, but the options are posted on the screen. Soon, bonded by the sheer futility of playing the game, the whole audience is shouting and screaming along with answers on the screen.
The Dark Room is played, in most cases, one person at a time; however, it does deviate from that on occasion. As mentioned in the video, there is a £1000 prize for anyone who manages to escape The Dark Room. All those who fail, however, get a “YA DIE, YA DIE, YA DIE” screen with the audience chanting along. Needless to say, I don’t believe anyone has ever won.
Occasionally, the format will be jazzed up however. At the UK Games Expo this year (in the Saturday Evening show) we had the Democracy Round but we also had the Passive Aggressive Coop Round. As well as that, fellow comedians Paul Flannery and Tom Crosbie both came on stage and participated; as well as audience members.
The Til Ya Die format allows for the show to get even sillier and more amazing. It included audience members running the show at one point, stories from John’s life, and a pineapple flashlight. It was truly a sight to behold.
What is it like playing The Dark Room?
So there are two ways to answer this. The first is really prosaic – there is a video game version on Steam, and I would recommend you check it out. It doesn’t cater for all the randomness and comedy as what happens at the live event, however, it is still a really good experience.
The second answer however – well…I had the pleasure of meeting John Robertson a couple of times this year and this is what I genuinely said to him:
We see a lot of shows each year, but last year Secret Cinema and The Dark Room were the best things we saw.
And you know what? I stand by that. You see, The Dark Room video game is amazing – in fact, it is the only Steam game I currently have installed on my computer. It is one hour of content that you can play over and over and over again. Truly brilliant. That being said, to truly know what it is like to play or see The Dark Room you really have to be there.
The Dark Room is a completely unique show. There is nothing else out there with an even remotely similar premise. What makes it something incredibly special though is how John engages with the audience in order to draw them in closer. He is both really hilariously funny, and inclusive at the same time.
Realistically, comedy is subjective. What we enjoy may not be something you enjoy; however, The Dark Room has been proven to entertain all kinds of people. It is a show that takes comedy to such an extreme, with a concept that is so flamboyantly fantastical, that it takes everyone by surprise. The whole show is a recipe for a humour medley of astronomical proportions.
Comedy is subjective, but what I can tell you is that I could feel my cheeks genuinely slick with tears from laughing so hard. I was not the only one, as a group of us went to The Dark Room: Til Ya Die at the UKGE this year, and we were all creased up 99% of the time. My folks, who are understandably older than me, went to one of the earlier performances at the expo, not knowing what to expect. I dropped them a text afterwards and got the response “we think we’ve wet ourselves”.
This year we loved The Dark Room just as much. Robertson is a genius, and The Dark Room is something everyone should do. I don’t typically do ratings on this blog, but the Dark Room is a 5/5 or 10/10 experience. We genuinely can’t recommend it enough.
The Good, The Bad, and The Flamboyant Potatoes
Okay, so this is where writing an experience (like The Dark Room) review like a game review kind of breaks down. Here are the Good, the Bad, and the Neutral points about The Dark Room and, in particular, The Dark Room: Til Ya Die.
- The Dark Room is an insanely funny experience. We have literally cried with laughter whilst we were there. The speed of John Robertson’s wit is second to none.
- Although there is audience participation, something us Brits tend to shy away from, the audience participation is all inclusive. This means almost everyone is prepared to join in.
- The Dark Room is completely unique and there is nothing else out there quite like it.
- The Dark Room tends to be great value for money. With The Dark Room: Til Ya Die we got 3 hours and 30 minutes for £10. At the UK Games Expo, prices for the one hour show were £6 this year.
- T-shirts are available.
- Nope…nothing neutral. It’s excellent.
- Seriously, there’s nothing negative. It really is excellent.
The Dark Room Review: Conclusion
We don’t often review live events on this blog, but The Dark Room‘s success at the UK Games Expo prove how popular it is with board game players.
The Dark Room is highly rated by almost every publication it has come across. It is, without a doubt, the best comedy show I have been to and it is up there in our best events ever. Needless to say, we highly recommend it.
So, what do you think? Do you think you would enjoy The Dark Room? Have you been before? What’s your take? Let me know in the comments below.