YouEscape: Elements

There are two main types of online escape rooms games. Games like Sector X, which is styled like a computer game, and games like YouEscape. This style is more traditional in a sense, because you are essentially controlling a real life player in an escape . We had 70 minutes to complete this escape room, and completed it in 53, though we failed to achieve the objective.

The Story

“The expedition was a failure.
You are poisoned and lost in a vast dense forest.
The rest of your team is unconscious.
You have to act fast if you wish to avoid their fate.”

Players

The amount of players recommended is 2-4, which is the standard recommendation for an escape room, but they do say there is no actual limit. This is obviously something that cannot be done when playing real life escape rooms, and allows for more people to experience the game. Quite often there are people in teams that would like to experience a game, but not play it, or people who think they would not be very good and so do not want to pay to experience an escape room. By allowing as many people in a team as the group wants for no extra charge, it opens up the escape room experience to more people. 

Don’t get me wrong, if you have 10 people playing an escape room it can be busy. We played as our usual 4 and found that there was always something that could be done by someone. It definitely felt like the game had been created for several players. But as always, if there are too many people trying to solve the same puzzle at the same time it can get hectic. Especially for poor Nick on the other end who has to listen to several instructions at times. I know we were definitely guilty of this at some points (sorry Nick!).  

Objectives/Goals

The goal of this room is to escape by creating a chemical reaction. Now, we though we reached the end of the game, we did not create the correct chemical reaction. We did get to see the correct chemical reaction however, and Nick worked through the puzzle to show us where we went wrong. 
Those who have completed Plague, one of our old escape rooms know that we included a puzzle using chemicals, that was quite simplistic. When we created the room, we were going to have an amazing experiment. That was quickly shut down by health and safety. And there I believe is the biggest benefit of online games. You don’t have to worry about a dangerous experiment, or at least to the same extent. If the ‘avatar’ is aware of how to do the experiment, or how to use some equipment, then you have a lot more freedom with what you can do. You also don’t have to worry about an item being used wrong and breaking. The possibilities are endless! 

Game Play 

Interestingly, there was different difficulty levels for the game. You could choose if you wanted to play on Easy, Hard, or Hardcore level. Though there were no changes to the room, it changed how many clues we had access to. Being the stubborn players we are, we went for Hardcore, meaning we could only get to use one. It is always the aim of a player to escape without using any  clues, but knowing we only had one definitely put the pressure on. We were a lot more reluctant to use a clue, not knowing if the next puzzle would be harder. In the end, we did use a little clue, which our GM very kindly said only counted as half a clue, and to be fair, we were missing something pretty obvious. 

Before you start the game, you gain access to a Google Drive that has difference pieces of information in, which you use with what is infront of the GM. This had both its pros and cons. It allowed you to see more clearly than if you were viewing it on the camera, but it did break the immersion. I do not think that this could have been avoided however, the immersion would have been a lot worse if we couldn’t make out what we were seeing so couldn’t play the game at all!

After you unlock a box in the game, the GM pulls out everything that is inside it (makes sense) and you also get access to a new folder on the Google Drive. It was great seeing the documents on our computer, then going back to the Hangout screen and seeing different items and wondering how on earth these things would interact with each other. My only comment would be to make sure you do check what new has appeared on the game screen. We got so intrigued by a new document that we missed the new items, and would lose some time only having parts of the puzzle. Cue many ‘kicking yourself’ moments. 

 

Controls

There were not really any controls needed for this game. Most of what you interacted with was via the GM. There was two aspects of the game that you had to interact with yourselves online. I absolutely loved these, and it made brilliant use of having access to the internet while playing an escape room. I won’t say any more than that, I don’t want to give away the surprise, but one of these puzzles is the best I have come across on an online escape room so far. The controls for these internet-based aspects are very easy, and just use the mouse.

In-game Information 

There was a lot of information given to us via the Google Drive. When playing an escape game in person, it can be difficult having many of document. As they are all passed around a team you can easily miss some information. While playing YouEscape, we all had access to the documents on our individual devices, which meant we could look at the information in our own time, knowing we hadn’t missed anything. 

There was a timer on the Hangouts screen, showing us how long we had been playing for. Since we could see how many folders we had access to, I had a rough idea of our progress throughout the game. It gave an air of control to the game. We didn’t mind working a bit longer on a puzzle (instead of using our prescious clue) because we had 25 mins left and only one folder to go. This isn’t foolproof, who knows how many puzzles we had to go, but it did give us some idea. 

Elements in Motion 

The game had a linear design, but the puzzles were intricately layered. It felt natural, the way you would bounce from puzzle to puzzle, and we never had the dreaded feeling that we didn’t know where to go next. Even when we did need a clue, I knew it was something obvious being overlooked, I just couldn’t put my finger on what. 

The puzzles had a beautiful simplicity to them. You didn’t have to be a rocket scientist to complete them. You just had to step back, look at all of the pieces of the enigma presented to you, and make them fall into place. In their most basic form, these puzzles were classics, but they were presented in a way that I had not seen before. This gave it the sought after balance of knowing what to do, but having to think about how to do it. 

In regards to who can play this room, there are definitely aspects to it that children would struggle with. On the other hand, sometimes a child’s mind was needed to see what was right infront of you, and stop you from overthinking. 

The theme to this game wasn’t the strongest I’ve seen, to be honest it was a bit non-existant, but I didn’t mind. Sticking strictly to a theme restricts the puzzles and mechanics you can use, and it is the outlandish puzzles of this game that made it what it was. There was a real feel of passion in this game, of an enthusiast making a game they would love to play, puzzles they would enjoy solving. This is the creme de la creme of passion projects done well. 

So I need to come clean. This game ticked all the boxed for me. My favourite kinds of puzzles. My favourite mechanics. And I am all about the puzzles in an escape room. To me, I can get so lost in a puzzle that I don’t notice the themeing of a room, though I can definitely appreciate a beautiful set! That being said, if you are one who wants to be sucked into a new environment with a detailed set, that sticks to a theme, this may not be the room for you. Although the puzzles were well designed and worked well, the set was low budget. But building an escape room is expensive, and I would rather see puzzles like this built on a low budget than not at all. 

The Verdict 

YouEscape is a well-thought out, well executed online escape room. Unique and full of intrigue, you are sure to enjoy this escape room. Though the game is lacking in theme, the puzzles more than make up for it. These puzzles would not be out of place in a real-life escape room, and I can’t wait to see the rest of their games. 

Learn from our mistakes, and don’t rush the last puzzle! 

Ellie

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