Escape Academy is engaging, enjoyable, and everything an escape room game should be. It’s not perfect, and it is somewhat short at the moment, but it still manages to deliver a very satisfying experience. As of right now, the game has 13 escape rooms that are all tied together with an overarching story. Each room feels unique, with a different goal and different kinds of puzzles. The game also succeeds at capturing many real life escape room elements and incorporating them into one cohesive whole.
Most of Escape Academy’s gameplay is found in the escape rooms themselves. The controls are fairly intuitive and simple, allowing you to move around the different environments and solve puzzles within them. You can pick up items and combine them together or hold them in your inventory. You can also pin one item to have it out while you are walking around. This is a great help with puzzles that require you to compare something in the environment with something else in your inventory.
The setting is a school, the titular Escape Academy, and you are getting graded by various teachers on how well you do in the escape rooms. A lot of the spaces are quite big. Each room has multiple areas, and they all feel unique. This is partially because each room is based around a different goal; for example, in one you’re trying to brew tea, and in another you need to disarm a bomb. There are also some rooms based on normal school locations; one takes place in the cafeteria, another in the library, and so on.
These varied settings also impact the types of puzzles within them. I never really felt like I was doing or solving the same things in the different rooms. In one, you have to help guide someone over security cameras, and in another you compete against a fellow student in front of the whole school, for example. The puzzles feel connected inside each room, but they don’t feel repetitive within the game as a whole. It’s quite a creative system that makes each area fresh and different.
The difficulty of the puzzles varies as well, and so while most of the time, I felt like I was progressing at a steady pace, there were a few puzzles that did manage to stump me. No matter how difficult, however, I was always engaged while in the rooms themselves. At the end of each room, you get a grade for how well you did in that level, but that’s more for personal satisfaction than any real in-game reward beyond achievements.
Outside of the escape room portions, Escape Academy is styled more like a visual novel, and there is optional dialogue you can get with some of the characters if you go to various places on the map. To be honest, that specific aspect of the game feels somewhat pointless or silly at times. The characters are generally interesting, but the optional dialogue doesn’t really add anything to them or the overall plot.
In a visual novel game, the story is the point of playing it, so there is almost always an incentive to talk to and learn more about the characters. Escape Academy isn’t really that kind of game. While the story is fine, the escape rooms are definitely the focus of the gameplay, so these little extra interactions felt kind of empty.
The game begins with you completing an escape room that turns out to be a test to get an invite to Escape Academy! Once there, you take an entrance exam and then meet your teachers, all of whom feel distinct and different. As the school year continues, an old Escapist is found and things start to go downhill. I won’t say too much more because there is a pretty good twist, but overall, the story all feels connected and it flows together well..
The characters themselves have some really excellent designs. I like the art style in this game overall, and I love how all the different people look so distinct and vibrant. However, some of the characters definitely feel underdeveloped in terms of personality, specifically your school rival. There’s an attempt at subplot with this rival student where, by the end of the game, you end up working together. However this switch doesn’t really feel right. The rivalry feels one-sided because you can never respond to her taunts, and her sudden decision to help you feels undeserved.
Ultimately, it’s not a very long game. It only took me about three and a half hours to complete, so parts of the story, such as the rival, feel too ambitious for the time frame they are trying to fit it into. In fact, adding this one classmate only makes the school feel more empty because no other students are ever seen or mentioned at all. Trying to have any B-plot, let alone a reconciliation arc, just doesn’t really work. The main story is done well. The extra parts felt like an unnecessary distraction.
Escape room elements
This game does a very good job of emulating real life escape rooms, while also allowing you to do things you never could in real life. There is extensive exploration; success in any of the rooms requires finding specific items and clues, just like in a real escape room. However, even in large spaces with lots of items, it never feels overwhelming because there are only specific things you can pick up. Almost everything has a description if you click on it, but your inventory never gets cluttered with items you’re not going to use.
The puzzles are often more extreme than something you would need or get to do in a real escape room, such as hacking a turret that is actively firing at someone, but I see this as a positive. Since this is a video game, it should take advantage of it’s medium to allow the players to do things that they can’t in real life.
Sometimes, the puzzles are more dangerous or technically advanced than anything that would happen in reality. There is so much danger, in fact, that I don’t think many people would actually want to attend this academy in real life! It’s not unlike the Escape Room movie, though nobody actually dies in this game. Despite the danger, they still feel like escape room puzzles at their heart.
Each room does also have time limit just like real world escape games. In Escape Academy these are often based on some in-story reason such as needing to find an antidote to poison, but there is no consequence for time running out beyond getting a worse grade at the end of the level.
The time limits also feel very reasonable; I never actually ran out of time while playing, and there was only really one level where the limit actually felt like a concern. In addition, you get unlimited hints which are easy to access just by pressing a button. Using hints decreases your score at the end of the level, but you are otherwise not punished for using them. Thus, the rooms can be more or less challenging based on how you personally choose to play.
Escape Academy is a good game and it’s definitely worth playing if you like escape rooms, but there are aspects of it that feel a little empty or underdeveloped. The art style and music are also very well done, though by the end of the game, the music does feel somewhat repetitive. From what I understand, the developers are planning to add more content in a “season pass” style of release, so maybe some of that will be fixed in the future. However, it still stands out as a quality escape room game in its current form.
What Escape Academy does well, it does really well, and that is on display most obviously in the escape rooms themselves. As someone who really loves escape rooms, I do believe that whoever made this game clearly cares about them as well. I had a lot of fun playing it just as a stand-alone game and so I’m excited to see what happens with this title in the future.