Developed for the Microsoft 2019 Halloween Play event, the case of Angelica Greenstone is a short Alternate Reality Game (ARG) that incorporates ciphers, riddles, social media, websites, texting, and augmented reality to facilitate gameplay and deliver a compelling narrative. It is a scaled-down, demo version of an unreleased Unseen Media project, The Coffee Shop Mystery.
Players of the game assume the role of trainee agents for the Department of Strategic Forensics (DSF) and participate in a training exercise set up by the department to test their abilities. Starting from a simple letter containing an encoded message, players must find the whereabouts of Angelica Greenstone, a travel writer, and social media personality who's vanished without a trace.
Try it Out
The game has been live since October 2019 and is currently playable. I encourage you to try it out before reading the next sections to see how it works as there are spoilers!
To play the game you will need a mobile device that has internet access, a camera, and the ability to send and receive SMS messages (iPhone 5+/ Galaxy S6+ preferred). You will also need a printer that will be used to print the DSF letter that starts the experience and the authorized communications template that ends the experience. Technically, the letter is optional to print but it helps to have it printed. You will be placing a message within the authorized communications template so you'll also need two pens/markers: a black one and a red one.
To start the game, decode the message hidden in the introductory DSF Letter and you're good to go! If you don't want to try the game, are stuck and you need a hint, or you just want to know how the game works, read on to the next section.
How it Works. Spoilers Ahead ⚠️
Players are initially provided with a letter and an "Authorized Communications template". The letter contains a hidden message that the players need to decode by taking note of the intentional typos in sequential order. The message is "Instagram greenstonetravel".
Once players go to the @greenstonetravel account on Instagram, they go through the picures to discover scrambled messages. Players should use the clues scattered around the instagram profile to decode the messages. In total, there are three hidden messages on Instagram that can be decoded using the Caesar Shift cypher whose key is found in the profile's bio. The messages are "“On the website, find me on the object with hands but no arms and a face but no eyes”, "I need to know about Australia" and "You are here because of Brazil".
Players can then navigate to https://www.whatsinthis.city , the website mentioned in Angelica's bio. Using the first decoded riddle, players should find that a picture of Big Ben has a clickable element on the clock face. After clicking on Big Ben, players can input the solution of the second riddle, "Brazil", and they're given a phone number to text.
After texting the phone number, players need to text the third and final riddle answer, "Australia", to unlock the webAR part of the experience and complete the training excercise. To complete the last part of the experience, players must solve a drawing puzzle, the solution of which needs to be placed within the "Authorized Communication" template and scanned with the webAR utility. Once that's done, they'll receive the final keyword: "Greece" which, when texted to Angelica will end the experience.