Whenever someone mentions escape rooms, my mind automatically goes to the OG escape room in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, where Harry, Ron, and Hermione have to combine their wits to accomplish a series of difficult tasks and riddles to save the Sorcerer’s Stone. I’m usually about 90 percent sure I would have died on the restricted third floor, getting smashed by a knight on the chess board. After taking a stab at Escape Room The Game Virtual Reality (VR), by Identity Games, that 90 percent has reached a solid 💯.
The 60-minute game is meant to be played with three to five players ages 16 and up, so perhaps, if I had my own Harry and Hermione (I’m totally Ron in this scenario,) I would have faired a bit better. There are two challenges to choose from—Submarine and Behind Enemy Lines. Players can download a free companion app on a smartphone to choose their gameplay experience. I chose Submarine because it was the easier of the two (I shudder to think how hard Behind Enemy Lines is since Submarine has four difficulty stars). Once you’ve set the scene, grab a second smartphone and download the app again. One phone will use the Chrono Decoder portion of the app and one will go inside the VR glasses.
The game consists of physical and digital clues. Each game has an envelope which includes all of the needed materials to sift through and connect to the VR gameplay. It can be disorienting to switch from looking at the real-world materials to the VR glasses, so it’s a good idea to assign each player a role based on their strengths before beginning the game and switch off as necessary as clues are found.
The VR is so realistic that the environment paired with the background music and the creaky noises, made me feel like I was actually emerging from a submarine every time I put the glasses down to look at the clues. I really wanted to swivel around in the operator chairs but the best I could do was getting them to move. My favorite part of the VR experience was the realistic shark that swam by every so often behind the glass in the control room of the submarine.
Like real escape rooms, this game is a one and done type of experience. Once players have solved the puzzles in each game, that’s it, so I don’t want to give anything away with specifics for each level. Each game is set up the same way with an envelope of materials, clues that can be put into a decoder at certain times during the hour of play, and a series of coded keys that must be found to advance to the next level.
When viewing the layout through the VR glasses, the small circle in the middle will get larger when objects are clickable–it took me a good 15 minutes of precious time to figure out that you can click by sliding your finger through the VR glasses and onto the phone screen. What needs to be done through the VR app matches up to the clues and materials laid out in each envelope, so be sure to study the contents thoroughly!
This game is an expansion of the full game, which contains four different escape challenges and provides a real version of the Chrono Decoder with physical keys and doesn’t require two smartphones. However, the full version doesn’t have the VR goggles.
For people who love escape rooms, riddles, puzzles, and detective shows, Escape Room is definitely a hit and the perfect party game. For people like me, the game is still fun, albeit a little bit frustrating, but when paired up with people a little more sleuthy, it can be a blast to figure things out together. The VR component adds a really cool edge and makes it that much more exciting to complete levels. If I’m being honest, though, I did not prevent my submarine from sinking and failed my mission. That being said, for people who are terrible at puzzles, the game will still continue after the hour mark is up so it can provide hours of fun for people as bad as me.
This is the perfect game for family night in a teenage household. It can be really difficult to find a family activity that teenagers actually want to take part in, but with the hype of escape rooms and the VR, this game might hold the key to family game night success. In addition to being fun, the game challenges intellect, problem-solving, expands communication skills, and develops critical thinking skills—all skills that are great to have, especially around SAT season.
Parents will love the game because it brings the family together and offers an environment where each person can feel like they have something to contribute, whether it’s completing a piece of the puzzle or offering a solution on how to compromise on ideas. Even if there are no kids in sight, I think I proved that this game is still challenging and entertaining for adults. The best part is that the fun doesn’t have to stop with two or four games. Expansion packs are routinely added and it can be added to game night indefinitely.
For people like me who love the concept of escape rooms but don’t want the embarrassment of epically failing in public, Escape Room the Game Virtual Reality is the way to go; no one but your friends or family will be there to judge you for eternity.