Back in September shortly after developer Prettygreat launched their debut game Land Sliders [Free], people in our forums started to notice something strange in the game, myself included. If you don't know, Land Sliders is an endless high-scoring game where you try to make it from level to level by sliding the land (or your character, which is a better option in my opinion) around little randomly generated levels. In that initial release, occasionally you'd come across a strange little cement table in a level that had a scroll with coordinates printed on it. Naturally people started plugging these coordinates into Google Maps and started to realize they pointed to pretty specific areas across the globe. This led to some of the more adventuring Land Sliders players to actually go physically investigate the locations that were close enough for them to reasonably travel to. Lo and behold, there were hidden USB sticks at each location. Crazy!

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The USB sticks were sometimes hidden with a little message from the person who hid it, and on the memory of each of these USB sticks was a single image. The Land Sliders forum thread is peppered with cool stories of people finding the USB keys, like this one from Brisbane where Prettygreat is located. As more and more USB keys were discovered, people began piecing together the images and realized they went in a certain order and each contained a strange symbol. As it turned out, those strange symbols were on a keypad that could also be randomly found in the game, and the main symbol that led you into the keypad was also the same as the one on the coordinates scrolls. Things were starting to piece together!

IMG_0008Once the proper symbol code was divulged, it was entered into the keypad in the game which led to yet another crazy code which when deciphered pointed to http://www.whathappenedinlandsliders.com. The metadata on the website was even more encrypted clues, which once solved pointed to the Twitter account @TGulrintych which is a mashup of the names Turny and Glitch, two of the characters in Land Sliders. Phew, you still following along?

The Twitter account needed a certain number of followers to "level up" and once that happened it started tweeting out partially obstructed images. As more partially obstructed images were tweeted, they could slowly be combined to create whole images, of which there were six. When the images were placed in the order the Twitter account gave them, they created a picture-based message which pointed Land Sliders players to watch Luke Muscat of Prettygreat's presentations at the GCAP conference that was happening in a few days. Indeed, on one of the slides from Muscat's presentation was another clue, which pointed players to a character in Skiing Yeti Mountain [Free] from Featherweight Games, a fellow Aussie developer. Yes, these crazy clues were now crossing into entirely different iOS games!

It was around this time that Land Sliders version 1.2 update was released, and in that new version were a whole different set of in-game clues. The clues weren't coordinates this time, but references to positions on a Sudoku-like puzzle. Solving the puzzle resulted in a symbol which upon further investigation was found to be the logo for The Enigma Room, an "escape the room" business in Sydney. After this was discovered, the second part of the clue that was hidden in Skiing Yeti Mountain gave another encrypted message which once solved revealed the date and time at which someone was supposed to show up at The Enigma Room, along with a secret passphrase to tell the folks working there so they'd know you were part of the Land Sliders puzzle.

Unfortunately, nobody was able to make it to The Enigma Room on the specified date, which is a total bummer as the Prettygreat team created some one-of-a-kind items for whoever did show up. No matter, Prettygreat adjusted the game and presented a new set of clues, which involved an image that people couldn't solve for weeks, but they eventually did, and the answer led to photos of The Enigma Room and an elaborate setup revealing the final piece of the puzzle, which was written on a wooden tablet and came with a real wooden puzzle box made by the Prettygreat team. The wooden tablet at The Enigma Room had an encrypted message on it, which was deciphered to:

well done! you have reached the end of landsliders real life puzzle. for now, this is where the trail ends. but who knows when the adventure may resume. it could start anywhere. if you participated in finding the solution at any step, go to prettygreat dot com forward slash arg. we have some neat digital rewards for you!

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Phew! This nearly 800 words so far post was meant to be the tl;dr of the Land Sliders ARG, which I guess it technically was since this all played out over the course of about 4 months. Although I didn't participate directly in solving any of the clues, I did really enjoy following along with the forum thread as others worked their way through everything. It sounds like there were a lot of other lurkers as well, and a whole heap of people actually made forum accounts just to get in on the ARG, and I see many of them stuck around and are regular contributing members now. It's awesome! Prettygreat has stated that they aren't done with ARGs yet and they're also in the midst of creating their second game, so we may get another one for Land Sliders or it might be in their upcoming game. Either way, I'm definitely excited for more!

For future reference, forum member Vacthok compiled a quick summary of the whole ARG leading up to the last puzzle (boy I wish I'd seen that before going through every page of the thread to create this summary, heh) and they are also the one who figured out the images in the last clue showing the wonderful Enigma Room setup. Oh and if you're thinking of visiting the end result website and claiming some gifts, you likely won't have much luck as Prettygreat is requiring people to link back to forum posts or tweets or anything that proves they were part of solving the ARG when it was happening. No freebies for the late comers, but we'll give you a heads up if Prettygreat decides to do another ARG in the future!

  • forsakenxe

    Great Story and idea 🙂

  • lazrhog

    Love this

  • Modjular

    After seeing all this and realizing the scope of what Landsliders did, I can get why it was made GOTY. But this was barely made known to those outside of the forums, which is why at first glance, it seemed weird that such a dinky game got such an esteemed title. The most I had experienced of it was the sorta-innovative movement mechanic and the familiar character collecting. It really just gave the impression that it was another uninspired Crossy-Road-like.

  • FledgeFish

    I thought it said arpg and I got excited for a Diablo style land sliders game

  • Tallgeese

    My faves part was probably when they made Nic Cage steal the Declaration of Independence so he could find the hidden clues on the back of it with Benjamin Franklin's original version of 3-D glasses. I was, however, disappointed with Sean Bean always trying to ruin things in order to plug Papa Sangre II. I'm sorry, Sean, I still haven't played that one yet either...

  • Evid3nce

    Amazing puzzle I found the USB Key in Japan, eventhough I've been Geocaching for a couple of years I had a rough time finding it.

    Wish more games combine real life and virtuals riddles.

    Good job guys !!

  • flashbackflip

    This is how it should be done!

  • Zendorphin

    Sweet, I'm part of a TA article (being the guy who met a public pooper, collected the Brisbane stick and ended up visiting PrettyGreat). Day made! 🙂

  • rza422

    Was I the first on TA to find a set of coordinates?