Escape Academy Summer Game Fest hands-on preview

I’ll raise my hand and say that before Summer Game Fest and my preview, I didn’t know much about Escape Academy. After playing it, it is now one of my most anticipated games.

The title was featured during iam8bit and Double Fine’s Day of the Dev’s stream and sees players take on the role of a college student, with the goal of becoming “the ultimate escapee”.

The game is developed by Coin Crew Games, who apart from having experience in making arcade games, also designed real-world escape rooms. The perfect pedigree for a game like this.

We were able to check out one of the Escape Academy challenges and you can read our full rundown below.

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Our preview kicks off in a maintenance room that slowly fills with water, and with limited clues, we’re tasked with escaping the room before drowning. While this situation probably won’t be found in a real-world escape room, it was the only liberties the preview took.

The title claims to be “one of the first video games to authentically capture the time pressure and mind-bending action of escape rooms and turn it into an immersive digital experience.” And other than the water, that’s exactly right.

As I was let go, I began my journey to find my way out of the room. In this case, there were a range of different floors, each with varying puzzles that led to a code word that should be put into a keypad. This would then unlock a door, allowing me to move up to the next level.

On the first floor, I was to find items, including a screwdriver and a hammer, that would help uncover clues to the all-important code word. I escaped the ground with literally two seconds on the clock. It was a real rush to solve the puzzle and ultimately beat the buzzer.

After my ascent, I solved puzzles involving a safe, switches, a camera, and more.

Each of the puzzles has been designed perfectly. They were tough enough for a couple to break my brains out, but never so obtuse that I wanted to give them up. The ones I struggled the most on were definitely mine, rather than game design and finally solving them felt good to me.

Each of the puzzles has been designed perfectly.

I have to admit, there was one puzzle that I got stuck on for a significant period of time. I tried entering a variety of words into the keyboard but nothing worked. Turns out I was incredibly stupid and the answer was staring me in the face the whole time.

It caused me to run out of time not once but twice. Luckily, there was no annoying screen play or big failure message and I was prompted to continue with more time. It was good. In the end, there was no major punishment for failure other than a lower grade at the end. I got a C which, all things considered, satisfied me.

My preview of Escape Academy was single-player, but the game can be played with a partner, and that’s where I think it will really shine for several reasons.

The game is chaotic, especially as the seconds tick by, and this level of chaos is sure to be a blast when playing with a partner. Along with that, the cooperative puzzle-solving elements will make things easier and more realistic, as no one escapes alone.

The game is chaotic…

As the answer was staring me in the face on the second or third floor, I could have done with a partner. I spent about 10 minutes trying to decipher the word “SLOW” on a wall. My brain didn’t click that the L was lowercase and wasn’t really an I (yes it really was) so I tried SIOW, WOIS and a range of other combinations. Having a partner would have inevitably spared me the rash.

What was interesting was that GamesBeat’s Mike Minotti also struggled to the same extent (sorry Mike), so maybe having a partner wouldn’t have helped.

What really struck me about Escape Academy was how authentic the game felt in a real-world escape room. The puzzles, the environments, the race against time. Everything worked.

There was never anything unfair and I never felt frustrated with the level design. It’s this, the multiplayer components and story potential that propelled Escape Academy to the top end of my most anticipated list. I can’t wait to see what other puzzles the developers have in store.

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