Escape Academy has done an impressive job of recreating the escape room experience
The best thing about Escape Room is that it actually exists in a completely unique space: a makeover of the classic mystery mansion full of secret passages. escape academy (opens in new tab), which I played at last week’s Summer Game Fest, couldn’t recreate this physical presence in the form of a video game. But it did put me in a room with rising water, and if I didn’t solve its puzzles fast enough, it would drown me, That It’s something you can’t do in a real escape room, and that’s exactly what I wish an escape room video game could bring me.
Escape Academy is a bit of a weird mix of narrative and puzzles – you’re a student of Hogwarts Puzzle Solver, can chat with teachers and explore the campus, but I skip all of that in my classes. The demo jumps right into the escape room. As the water flooded the room, a partner and I walked through the several-story industrial building.
Along with another player, Escape Academy truly gets the satisfaction of piecing together small pieces of information until the solution comes into focus. I held up a chart so my partner could spot the odd combination of symbols on the safe. I put the lined tiles on the wall until they merged into letters, let’s go through the door to the next level. We figured out how to use underwater cameras to spot clues that don’t exist in real-life escape rooms. 25 minutes or so got us to the finish, which reminded me how much I miss real escape rooms.
Escape Academy fills that void better than I expected, and I’d say it has the qualities of a great party game. You can technically have just two players co-op, but I’d like to squeeze six bystanders into the living room to shout advice to anyone who gets stuck with a controller. This is how you get your parents into speedrunning.
Escape Academy’s aquatic gimmick made me want to see what some of the later escape rooms on campus looked like. I hope it goes deeper into solving puzzles and situations that are impossible or too dangerous to construct in real life. Clever puzzles can’t save escape rooms from boring themes. I like to crack some Morse code or press buttons in sequence based on the phases of the moon, as long as the escape room gives me a good reason to do so, but if the theme is “you’re locked in a room until the serial killer returns,” I have A hunch, I won’t be impressed by the creativity or immersion of the escape room.
The escape academy room I made was promising, but just as visually interesting as the locker. I’d say it’s a strong theme with only so-so execution. Here, there is no reason not to go crazy with every level.
Let me escape from a supervillain’s volcanic lair. Hit me up with some time travel shenanigans. Let a real killer clown follow suit. It would be a damn shame if the final level wasn’t set in space. Moon escape room or bust!
I don’t know if Escape Room will be as quirky as I thought, but it already has more escape room themes than I expected. The co-op cemented this for me: I’ll be competing in an escape school competition in July, hoping to not drown until I get my diploma.