Take a moment to envision a typical escape room. You walk into a building, get passed a scenario with a set of instructions, and get immersed in a fantasy world where you're working against the clock. The only way to win your scenario is through lateral thinking, deductive reasoning, quick reflexes, and cooperation. Many of those same principles are at work in Escape Simulator, the debut title from Coin Crew Games and the first published title from the team at iam8bit. Shacknews was recently locked in a room with only our wits to carry us through and I'm happy to say that, so far, Escape Academy appears to capture the spirit of the average escape room.
First revealed in mid-March, Escape Academy's premise is a simple one. Players are enrolled in the titular institution, Escape Academy, where the object is to learn the finer points of escape artistry. In many ways, it feels like a digital version of the live activity. Naturally, there are a few elements of Escape Academy that are adjusted to fit the "video game" medium. In the case of this first-person title, many of the puzzles will involve deadly "memory-erasing" gas being flooded into the chamber. Those who don't complete their puzzles in time will die, so it's imperative to move fast.
Outside of that, Escape Academy has many of the elements one would expect to find in a typical escape room experience. Each stage features a series of connected puzzles. One solution will feed into another and all will connect until the player finds a way out.
To illustrate what players will get into, one of the stages involves trying to escape the headmaster's office. The exit is tied to a sophisticated, ATM-like terminal. The only way to open the door is to enter the headmaster's full name. Solving this mystery involves finding a series of clues by interacting with just about anything in the vicinity. Sometimes, players will find items to help them move forward, like a key that opens a locked drawer. Inside the drawer is a photograph from the headmaster's childhood, where she's gathered around friends. Part of the solution involves determining who the headmaster is in this photo. The answer to that is found in a different part of the headmaster's quarters.
Some of the answers to individual puzzles are fairly straightforward, but others can involve a Da Vinci Code or National Treasure level of outside-the-box thinking. A later stage required injecting a central computer with a virus, which was simple enough. However, opening a sealed door meant taking an extra step of solving a dangerous floor tile puzzle by touching each panel in a specific order. As noted, a lot of the Escape Academy experience is faithful to real life escape rooms, but you'll occasionally find a few sequences that work better in a video game setting. One other thing that video games are good for is giving hints. Escape Academy has a hint system available for those who feel stuck, though using one will come with a slight score penalty. Still, it's a life saver for when the clock starts to wind down.
While I tried out these puzzles alone, the average Escape Academy user won't necessarily have to do the same. The game will feature local and online co-op play for two players. Why get stuck alone when you can get stuck with a significant other? Class is almost in session for Escape Academy. Look for it to come to PC (via Steam and the Epic Games Store), PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One on June 28. It will also be available through Xbox Game Pass. Those who don't want to wait that long to try it out don't necessarily have to, though. The Steam Cerebral Puzzle Showcase is set to begin this Thursday, May 19 and run through Monday, May 23. Look for a free Escape Academy demo to pop up during that time.
This preview is based on a Steam Remote Play session with the publisher.