Perplex City is a long-term alternate reality game (ARG) presented by Mind Candy, a London-based development team. The first "season" of the game had players looking for "The Receda Cube" (referred to simply as "The Cube"), a priceless scientific and spiritual artifact to the people of a fictional metropolis known as "Perplex City", that had been stolen and buried somewhere on Earth. The game offered a real-life £100,000 reward (approx. $200,000 or €150,000) to whoever found it. Like most alternate reality games, the story of Perplex City is told through blogs, puzzles, and other various media.
According to Mind Candy, the first wave of cards for the new game season, called Perplex City Stories would be released on March 1 2007. However, in June 2007, they released an announcement which declared that the second season was on indefinite hold.
Perplex City is a massive fictitious metropolis that has an unknown number of connections to Earth. It has a near-future feel to it, with advanced mobile technology, neuro-enhancing pharmaceuticals and kilometer-high skyscrapers. There is also a slightly more Utopian element to city life than we commonly find on Earth. The most important characteristic of the city's culture is the importance they place on puzzles and other mental pursuits. Their leading competitive event, the Academy Games, is primarily a competition of intellectual skill rather than physical strength. In fact, nearly every part of their culture touches upon the cryptic and mind .
Their religions fall loosely around a mythology of building, construction and technology, none of which are explicitly theistic. The Cube is, in all cases, a sacred and holy object, and rightfully so. It possesses a range of unusual properties which many believe to be of a supernatural origin.
Kurt then discovers that Aiko Entrescore, one of the members of the CRT, is a member of the Reconstructionists, a cube-worshiping cult that has previously planned to steal the cube. Aiko is arrested under suspicions of stealing The Cube. She is later released because insufficient evidence was obtained to hold her.
Monica and Pietro go to the Perplex City police and tell them all that they have learned about the Third Power and the Reconstructionists. The next day, Pietro is attacked with a neuroinhibitor and falls into a coma. He briefly regains consciousness two days later and constructs a maze. Four days later, he dies. Players were able to solve the maze and gained access to various information about Pietro during his final days as well as the 3P insignia.
A few months later, Monica Grand is murdered. Her final words are, "We never held it", implying that the Third Power was foiled in their attempt to steal the cube. It is discovered that the Third Power has agents on Earth who are also looking for the Cube.
The film shown at the designated theatres, which also displayed several images (including a diagram of the Cube which revealed its size to be 10 cm x 10 cm) was supposedly a trailer for an upcoming movie, The Receda Sign, and its website contained a contact phone number for The Receda Institute for Somnatherapy's automated telephone line. If players who dialed the number at night made it through a maze of extensions, they were given a set of GPS coordinates. However, when players arrived at the designated location, they found nothing (in a chat with the puppetmasters on February 20, 2007, it was revealed that there was a box at the beach containing the next URL). Knowing that there must be a Receda website next on the trail, players did a search and discovered The Receda School of Music, leading to the next part of the trail, and what many people consider to be the highlight of the entire game.
Receda's Revenge promised an adventure game like no other would soon begin. When cube hunters went to the site at the right time, they were moved to an IRC server where a unique adventure game began unfolding. Upon finally beating the game, players received two clues: "SKY CENTRE MANCHESTER TOWN UK" and "Sunday 9th October - 2-3 PM". Although there is no location in Manchester called "Sky Centre", players who went to Manchester at the given time realized that this actually literally referred to the center of the sky. A plane was flying around with a banner which read: http://recedaresorts.com The website contained a pseudo-keyboard.
When the passphrase "thirdpower" was entered in, it allowed participants to access WeNeedToFindThem.com, which told the cube hunters on Earth to meet up in Clapham Common in London on October 22 to try to track down the Third Power on Earth. When players arrived (all dressed in purple), they discovered that there were five difficult puzzles that they needed to break into teams to solve. Four would provide codewords and the fifth would be a codebook. As the day dragged on, however, and a few puzzles weren't solved, only one password was needed. With assistance of players on the internet, players soon realized that the person who had organized the event was a member of the Third Power, and, what's more, there was a mole among the groups the whole time. As he was lifted onto a black helicopter and the participating players went off to have drinks, it soon became clear that everyone had been tricked.
Kurt begins to suspect that Helena Frye, chief of police, may be a 3P spy. As he is investigating, Isaac Cymbalisty, head of the Perplex City Academy Library, is found dead in his home after an over-the-counter drug overdose. Kurt skips town and gets arrested after messing up a Police raid on the Third Power, but he now trusts Helena.
Meanwhile, Miranda Katsoulis, Kurt's girlfriend, begins sporadically leaving town for unknown reasons. Kurt finds out that Miranda was the one who murdered Isaac. Although eventually he and Violet track down Miranda, she quickly runs out of town. Kurt ensues on a long chase, but every time he finds Miranda, she gets away. Finally, he tracks her to the Silburn-Griggs mine. He enters, and a live event occurs to help Kurt get through the mine. Finally, after a long day of puzzle solving by Earth players, Kurt corners Miranda. She tries to kill him, but he kills her first, and abandons her body in the mine.
Anna goes missing for several days. Finally, her body is discovered in the Catacombs. She was tortured to near-death, then killed. Although terrible, there is little time to grieve.
A week after Anna's memorial service, the Third Power manage to destroy Perplex City's connection with Earth. Cube Hunters on Earth spend a day of events in San Francisco performing a variety of tasks and solving several puzzles to restore the link. The link is connected, and the Third Power warns the Cube Hunters to stay away or they will get hurt.
Back in Perplex City, Scarlett begins investigating puzzles left by Granier to his children. These eventually lead her to the Lancewood Archipelago. Scarlett, Violet, and Kurt head to the islands and discover the Lancewood Laboratory. During live chats set over several days, they investigate the lab where, they soon learn, The Cube was created. They learn that it appeared to be designed as a weapon, has the ability of teleportation, and that Sente was involved in its creation. They quietly return to Perplex City.
In late January, an in-game event occurred when Violet's sister Scarlett was kidnapped by the Third Power, who believed she stole The Cube and knew its location. Players on Earth helped the Perplex City Police infiltrate the security system of Ascendancy Point, a building believed to contain the headquarters of the Third Power.
After a bloody assault, Scarlett was discovered severely tortured. A weird voice registed on the "keys" (communication devices) of the people in the room. It said only a cryptic message: "Form the layer. Find the era. Follow the Way. Find the Cube." Finally, it was discovered that a character named Caine, a member of the Cube Retrieval Team and a close friend of Violet, was actually a secret agent of the Third Power, and had killed another member a few months prior.
Players quickly realized that the message referred to some amorphous blobs that had been put onto the fourth wave of cards. When properly assembled, these cards formed the Jurrasic Strata in England. Players coupled this with a clue from CT, "You will know which path to take when you find it if you know who I am", and assumed that Combed Thunderclap was Scarlett. Scarlett's blog is called "The Scarlett Kite", and Finshade Wood, a wood along the Strata, was populated by the Red Kite bird.
To locate the Cube in the woods, players use the text from a card "The End of the Line":
"Precious are the stones my children, precious that which is dug from the earth. Precious are the rubies, the diamonds, the emeralds and the topaz. I held fast to the amethysts. They mingled them with sapphires, so I threw them both from me. Only one choice remained and from then nothing was right. My children I did not despair, as you must not despair. A quadruped appeared before me, its middle leg held proudly forward. I turned my back to it and strode forward. But after only 20 ammot the light was upon me. Precious, my children, is the light."Players believed that this directed them to take the purple path (amethysts) until it connects with the blue path (sapphires). From there take the only path remaining, but do not take any right turns. Stop when you reached a quadruped, then turn your back to it and walk 20 ammots to find the cube.
The Cube was finally discovered in Wakerley Great Wood, Northamptonshire, England on February 4, 2007 by Andy Darley (known to his fellow players as Rand0m). Andy followed the End of the Line directions, and ended up taking a purple path, meaning that Combed Thunderclap was Violet. This discovery was contrary to the popular belief that The Cube was hidden in Finshade Woods. Andy returned The Cube to Mind Candy headquarters on February 8, 2007.
After The Cube was found, it became clear that Violet Kiteway, Sente's daughter, had stolen the cube. She had learned that agents of a terrorist organization called the Third Power were planning to steal The Cube the night of the Perplex City Academy Ball. Because there had been speculation in the city that The Cube might be a weapon, Violet ran into The Cube's display room to get it before the Third Power did.
The instant she touched it, she was transported to New York City on Earth. Using its powers, The Cube had arranged hotel accommodations for her as well as plane tickets to England. Once in England, The Cube instructed Violet to take it to Wakerley Woods, Northamptonshire, UK, and bury it there according to a prophecy made by a prophet named Gyvann. The Cube then transported Violet back to Perplex City.
Once back in The City, Kurt and Violet began to realize that the best way to securely contact the citizens on earth would be to include difficult clues regarding the location of The Cube on the puzzle cards that Sente was sending out.
Mind Candy sells a series of collectible puzzle cards. These share familiar characteristics with other collectible card games (CCGs). They are sold in booster packs, with each pack containing six random cards from the total possible 256 cards. Cards are divided into sets and subsets of varying rarity and difficulty. The most common cards are red, then orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, black, and the rarest are silver.
Unlike CCGs such as Magic: The Gathering or Pokémon, though, the cards are not designed for competitive player-versus-player "combat". Instead, each card depicts a different puzzle, with the rarer cards also featuring more complex riddles. Cards are marked with unique identifiers which can then be entered onto the Perplex City website, earning points and a place on a leaderboard. Many cards contain hidden features, such as ultraviolet or heat-sensitive inks, and they cover a broad range of themes from pop-culture trivia to cryptography and logic brainteasers. They are also larger and less homogeneous than cards from other CCGs, and the back of some cards contains a different piece to a huge map of the city.
Once players solve a card, they should go to the Perplex City website and enter the answer in. If they are correct, they receive points for the card, as well as a position on the chronological solves board for that card. In addition, each card is a member of a four-card set. If all four cards are solved by a player, they receive double points for each card in the set.
Cards may be purchased online at retailers such as Firebox in the UK, ThinkGeek in the US, often on ebay, or at one of thousands of other on-line and in-store locations. A few web-stores have become available which only sell puzzle cards, including MyPerplex.com, and PerplexMe.co.uk.
Perplex City has been running since late 2004, much longer than the traditional ARG. Its longevity has allowed for a number of events that simply would not be possible within a two-month traditional lifespan of an ARG. Some examples of this include:
This initially attracted a degree of controversy from players accustomed to playing ARGs for free. However, Mind Candy has assured the player base that purchase of the cards is not required to play the game, nor collect the reward. The cards and the ARG are related loosely enough to enable anyone to follow the game free-of-charge if they so wish, and the concept has since been embraced by many.
In other words, from a commercial standpoint, buying the cards is encouraged; However the game is built using enough online story elements and engaging character interaction as to make buying the cards optional to playing the game. Where some players might choose to only buy the cards, some other players might opt to only follow the story online and buy no cards. By majority, most players seem to buy roughly 20 or 30 cards and engage in occasionally reading the web elements.
The cards were first released in select outlets arounds the world, but are increasingly readily available from retailers both on- and offline. On September 7, 2006, Mind Candy announced that GameStop was to begin carrying Perplex City cards in 700 stores in the United States. As of September 26, 2006, some 682,425 cards have been marked as solved on the Perplex City leaderboard, with 45,215 players registered.
In June 2007 Mind Candy announced that it would be putting season 2 of its ARG on hold indefinitely.