Title: The Council Episode Two: Hide and Seek
Platform: PS4 (reviewed), Xbox One, PC
Developer: Big Bad Wolf
Publisher: Focus Interactive
Release Date: May 15, 2018
Single Episode: £7/$7 (across all platforms)
Season Pass: £25/$25 (across all platforms)
TL;DR: Better puzzles, better confrontations, same guilty pleasure melodrama.
Family Friendly? Click here for more information

There is a study that oozes opulence; a study that comes with a gaping hole surrounded by pyres of fire. In this study, there lies a locked door, a door that that can only be opened by the knowledge of the Crusades, Stonemasons, and a dollop of logic. The Council’s second episode, entitled “Hide and Seek,” throws out a far more developed and testing episode, with the actions you take feeling far more consequential than an enjoyable if linear feeling first episode.

As you’d guess, Hide and Seek follows on directly from the events of The Mad Ones, with two different openings playing out based on the actions you took at the very end of episode one. The core story will have Louis, the Frenchman with an American accent, continuing his search for mother dearest, and negotiating your way through the the egos and power struggles of your fellow house guests in a manor that feels like Big Brother decided to give it one last go, this time setting up shop in the Enlightenment era.

I want to pick up on my only issue with this episode first; the duration. Similar to episode one, Hide and Seek only lasts around a couple of hours – and even less if you don’t spend much time exploring. On a scale of problems, duration is a fairly low one, and the game should be congratulated on making an episode that left me wanting much, much more; that being said, I had hoped that episode two would’ve been extended by another hour or so. Instead, we’re treated to three chapters of the game, with the first two lasting around 45 minutes and the final section being around half an hour long.

Hide and Seek, far more than the first episode, casts a deeper look into what The Council offers in its gameplay, with puzzles that are just simply better designed, more challenging, and enjoyable to solve. With three main puzzles to solve, and a handful of optional puzzles, you’ll be dipping into theology, mythology, and your mathematical skills in tests that, whilst susceptible to being solved through trial and error if you get bored, followed a distinct logic and rewards you with a smug satisfaction when you solve them, But, if you happen to have any mates who have a good understanding of Greek mythology or the Gospels, it might be worth giving them a call.

Along with a more focused and challenging group of puzzles, The Council’s “Confrontation,” system also makes a return, and like the puzzles, the conversations you manoeuvre through are far more well realised than their counterparts in episode one. Confrontations, I found, were far more fragile this time; before you could fail conversations but still get your filthy mitts on some gossip, but Hide and Seek is unforgiving. Take the wrong option in a conversation and characters will berate you before taking their leave, rewarding you with only a diminishing self-worth. It’s a welcomed tweak of the mechanic and one that feels like the system the developers wanted to use from the off.

What stood out for me during my first venture into The Council were the lavish surroundings of the manor you explore, with obnoxiously large statues of Zeus breaking free from the wall, libraries filled from floor to ceiling with books and an army of pictures lording it over you. You’ll get a chance to explore some more of the manor this time around, with grand study rooms and a garden maze being some standout areas during my playthrough. You’ll also revisit some of the areas from the first chapter, meaning you get to scoop up any texts or items you missed the first time around.

There’s only one new character to meet during Hide and Seek, with the rest of episode one’s cast of course returning as well. Whilst much of episode one was a collection of passing conversations with a handful of the characters, you’ll get a better understanding of who some of the lesser known characters are, with Peru and Wollner having a bit more screentime – don’t worry though, there’s still plenty of time for you to watch George Washington being a gossip as well.

Like so much of the game, what makes the characters such an enjoyable farce is the same heightened drama that followed them through the first episode, with this iteration giving way to a handful of group-wide scream-fests that really bring into question just how influential this group of people really are.

It became quite apparent that, after playing Hide and Seek, the first episode of The Council was very much an extended tutorial of what the game has to offer. Hide and Seek offers up a far more thought out and developed set of puzzles, designed to have you reading and re-reading texts, using your items in more controlled way, and confrontations that’ll have your heart sinking as you accept the verbal misstep you’ve just taken. And whilst the game is a lot tighter this time around, it’s managed to do so without making it feel any more serious than the over the top melodrama of the first episode gave you.

What Rocks?

  • Puzzles and confrontation have been tightened up and now feel far more interactive and consequential
  • The farcical nature of the game persists and – if possible – it feels even better this time round
  • Great to see the decisions you make in the previous episode having a distinct impact on how this episode plays out – in big and small ways.

What Sucks?

  • The framerate issues do persist at times, most notably when you’re running down a hallway
  • Coming in at about two hours of play time, the episode could’ve probably done with an extra hour
  • Whilst there’s more screentime for other characters, the cast you interact with in episode one goes largely missing this time

Family Friendly?

Episode 2 is again rated 16 in the UK and “M,” for Mature in the US. Whilst much of the game is harmless, there are some scenes of violence, strong language, and so many cultural references you’ll think you’re in a pretentious student bar.

Disclaimer: This review is based on a retail code provided by the publisher for the pupose of this review.