“Honestly, I don’t even know where to start.”
That’s the opening line in an ad for the mobile game Merge Mansion, said by none other than current Hollywood daddy of the moment Pedro Pascal. And you know what? Same, Pedro. Same.
The ad continues, Pascal as its emotional core, introducing us to a young girl and her grandmother. “Everybody,” Pascal tells us, “is hiding something.”
It’s a hell of a lot of drama and intrigue for what appears to be a simple puzzle game. But it’s not the first time Merge Mansion has raised eyebrows. Sure, there are some wacky mobile game ads out there, but Merge Mansion seems to be on another level. There’s an entire Merge Mansion cinematic universe at this point, which ties in another mobile game, Lily’s Garden, all of which seems to center on the aforementioned granny getting arrested and revealing a message on her hand as she’s driven away. Sometimes the message is “He is alive.” Other times, it says, “You’re next.” Calm down, granny.
The latest ad, which, again, features Pedro “The Mandalorian” Pascal, is now a live-action drama, complete with a Serial-like podcaster recounting the mystery. In the last seconds of the ad, we see a callback to the original animated commercial as the actors morph into Disney-fied versions of themselves and the image of grandma getting arrested plays out once again.
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Meanwhile, Merge Mansion continues the hype on its App Store page, encouraging players to “reveal family secrets.” The video of granny displaying her handwritten message as she sits in the back of a cop car is the first thing that appears on the store listing. The description is even written in the perspective of this highly sus grandmother: “Maddie says I’m keeping secrets. I say, what does Maddie know?! Our mysterious story is set around my family’s mansion, which has been empty for more than 40 years. You’ll help Maddie find out what’s happened and learn all about her, and the Boulton family’s past, as you renovate and restore the grounds together.”
And yet the gameplay itself seems rather tame: Most of it is centered around cleaning, gardening, and otherwise tidying up the mansion. You can merge your cleaning tools to get better tools to complete whatever job is up next, and as you progress, you’re meant to reveal more about whatever secrets the weirdly cryptic granny is hiding. I’ll admit, however, that I have not yet uncovered all the family secrets. So maybe there are still more twists that await me.
This isn’t the first mobile game ad to feature a celebrity, either. Kate Upton starred in her own over-the-top ad for Game of War: Fire Age several years back. But we just saw Pascal at the Oscars. He’s the star of HBO’s The Last of Us television series and Star Wars’ The Mandalorian. What on earth is he doing in a Merge Mansion ad I came across while swiping on TikTok? And how much did he get paid for what might be his strangest role yet?