Escape Simulator (Review)

Yep, another Escape Room review. Judging by my page views for Cape’s Escape Games and my first attempt at a non-video game review, Finders Seekers, y’all are about as interested in escape rooms as you are in a battery acid colonic. But, they’re my obsession, and it’s my pseudo-popular indie game review blog. And hey, I finally found a 3D Escape Room that didn’t leave me wanting to drink the Duracell colon cleanser runoff. Actually, I think a lot of my issues with the genre have been based around the Nintendo Switch, which is just not a suitable system for this genre. Well, that and just some really horrible, haphazard design and unstable game engines. Seriously, I can’t stress enough: I don’t recommend a single 3D escape room on consoles. Not one. The same games might be perfectly fine on a PC, but on consoles? Just picture me making gagging noises for the next few minutes.

On PC, the one that everyone has been asking about since I went on this escape room kick is Escape Simulator, claiming that it was the closest to the real thing. It certainly lived up to the hype. Escape Simulator contains a collection of small, self-contained escape rooms with real-life type of puzzles, along with the occasional brain bender that can only be done digitally (especially the space station-themed rooms). It works the way it should work: enter a room and immediately be overwhelmed by puzzles that make no sense. Search around, find the first clue that lets you solve one puzzle, which provides you with the information you need to solve the other, and the process repeats until you open the ultimate door. If you’re the type of person who doesn’t get bored with this formula, this is the game for you. If that’s not the case, what the fuck are you reading this review for? Fucking weirdo.

There’s a few different themes, including the Egyptian theme that all real escape rooms seem to be required by law to have at least one of.

So, let’s get to the meat of the review: the interface. You move with the arrow keys on a keyboard, then grab and examine things with a mouse. The hypothetical advantage of digital rooms is, unlike real ones, you can make a mess of the room if you wish. At least without having to calculate how much you have to tip the attendees. Of course, when you smash pots, they break into several pieces that don’t do the video game thing and fade into the ether. You have to pick them up and manually dispose of them. In fact, tons of things that have nothing to do with the solution (known as red herrings to the Escape Room community) are in every room. Helpfully, the stuff you actually need is marked as such when you examine them. If you think that’s too easy, you can disable it in the options. Escape Simulator is surprisingly flexible. I just wish I could dump items faster. When you collect garbage, you have to literally place it in a garbage can to dump it from the inventory. Or, you can drop it on the floor, if you’re a total slob. (clears throat)

Fifteen minutes? Yeah, right. Thank god you don’t game over when you run out of time.

As of this writing, there’s twenty-one official rooms (plus a tutorial), with the promise of more to come. The puzzles are stereotypical of the genre. If you’re a veteran of escape rooms, real or digital, you’ll recognize many of the tropes. For example, if there’s a map laid out like a telephone keypad, you’ll instinctively grasp the significance of it. If you don’t, there’s a no-shame hint system: a button you press that prints out tips. It’s handled better than any hint system I’ve ever seen. At first, it simply points you in the direction you need to go. If you’re further stuck, it’ll charge up (it doesn’t take that long) and you can press it again to give you a pointer of how to begin that part of the puzzle. If you’re further stuck, it’ll progressively keep going until it spells out the solution. I genuinely don’t think there’s any puzzle even novices will need to take it that far on. There’s no “moon logic” in Escape Simulator. But, it’s there if you need it.

One Escape Room trope that is leaned somewhat too heavily on is having the final piece of the puzzle given to players, just laying around, at the start. My advice is to glance at objects, note their “gimmick” and then tuck them away until a puzzle pops up with matching symbols/numbers.

There’s two big gimmicks to go along with the game. One is online co-op, which I admit, I have no interest in. I prefer to play with my family, in the room, screaming at each other and running down a list of cuss words you know that can be used in frustration (Mom is the clear leader with 163, though I think at least a dozen are ones she made up). The other hook is user-created rooms. For all the hype of this, I felt the top-rated user rooms were overly-convoluted. The elegant, logical official rooms pretty much understand what people looking for digital escape rooms seek. The user rooms felt like typical video game point and click adventures, and were SO boring. Some of them also over-clock PC resources. When I started reviewing PC games, I would always have a higher-end PC and a lower-end one. Because of the type of games I played, it rarely factored into my reviews. But, while the lower end PC could easily handle all 21 official rooms, the top-rated user-made rooms often froze the entire computer. It’d be like if gamers could create Mario Maker levels that only run PS5. Why would you ever allow that? But, even playing these on a PC so charged-up that it practically has to be submerged in liquid nitrogen to not melt through to the core of the Earth, those rooms were just overindulgent, slow, and lacked genuine escape room logic.

Another “extra-value” addition is every room has eight of these little tokens hidden in them. I don’t think they do anything, but I can’t say for sure. I never found all eight in any room. Some are just right in plain sight. Others are obviously not, since the most I got was six.

Stick with the official twenty-one rooms. It works out to $0.71 per room. Damn, that’s a hell of a value. Sure, the fifteen minute timer on the stages is overly optimistic, but you don’t need to actually finish the rooms within the time limit. Really, that timer is there for people who want to replay rooms over and over. None of the rooms should take you longer than a half-hour to finish. I love that. My family spent the last week knocking a few out at a time, slapping high-fives with every puzzle solved, without having to commit to a massive storyline. Compare this to the previous best of the 3D escape rooms: anything by mc2games. They don’t make BAD games, mind you. But, you’re committing to a long, drawn-out, slower storyline. We’ve now started two of their games (Between Time and Tested on Humans), gotten probably around halfway through them, and quit. Not because they were bad (but the puzzles do tend to become too smart), but because we just want to move on to something else. That’s the magic of Escape Simulator. It’s an escape from reality, not a commitment to another.

Escape Simulator is Chick Approved
IGC Leaderboard Ranking: #16 of 298
Top 97.5 Percentile of All 628 IGC Indie Reviews
Top 95 Percentile of All IGC-Approved Games
*Rankings based on time of publication. Check the Leaderboard for updated standings.

Escape Simulator was developed by Pine Studio
Point of Sale: Steam

$14.99 needed more goats in the making of this review.

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