As a hypochondriac with a borderline-superstitious fear that any choice I make will set off a series of Rube Goldberg-like events that may lead to long-term hospitalization, I was skeptical when I heard that the game designers over at downtown’s Two Bit Circus had concocted a medical-theme party game.
Goofy absurdity may be the underlying theme of many Two Bit Circus experiences, but an operating table is still an imposing sight, even at a place that has a robot mix drinks. Would I really want to conjure hospital room vibes on a night out? Relive your fears! Remember your tragic moments! And don’t forget to use some hand sanitizer on the way out.
Then I learned the doctor in the game is a puppet. This changed everything. There’s an inherent magic to puppetry, an underutilized medium in the age of digital effects. Puppets indicate a handmade but otherworldly quality — something of this world but foreign. Their presence grants permission to break down our imaginary walls and venture somewhere else, be it the fantastical elegance of Netflix’s “The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance” or the wide-eyed insanity of the Muppets.
“Dr. Botcher’s Minute Medical School” certainly conjures Muppet vibes. It’s sort of like stepping into a life-size game of “Operation,” only we’re not extracting items from our patient; we’re trying to give this puppet-like man of plastic life and do so by connecting him with IV bags full of, say, sparkly unicorn blood.
But that’s just one of many games inside “Dr. Botcher’s Minute Medical School,” which also includes a microscope that through the eyepiece reveals itself to be an arcade game in which we must blast away viruses. Tablets on the side of the patient act as scanners, and require teamwork, as participants on each side of the operating table must hunt for commonalities.
Two Bit calls these experiences “story rooms.” The goal isn’t to find random clues to escape but to play along with a fast and silly narrative. There’s a lot of connecting tubes to sensors or finding the right tool for the job, but it’s hide-and-seek that’s designed for comedic collaboration. The game lasts about 25 minutes and requires three to six people.
“With every story room, the interactions should be as simple as possible,” says Two Bit co-founder and game designer Eric Gradman. “This is not about solving puzzles. When people fail to solve puzzles they will get frustrated. This room will carry you along.”
And if it won’t cure you of your medical phobias, it likely won’t trigger them.
“Throughout the design process, we asked people, ‘Does this gross you out?’ And if people got grossed out, we replaced those with the opposite funny things.”
And yet no unicorns were harmed.
Where: Two Bit Circus, 634 Mateo Street, Los Angeles
When: Runs continuously throughout operating hours (vary by day).
Info: (213) 599-3188, twobitcircus.com
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