There is an Art to Capturing Criminal Masterminds – Game: The Escape Game Unlocked: The Heist (Volume 1) – May 27, 2019

ESCAPE GAME REVIEW – THE QUICK AND DIRTY

Play if… you prefer to stay indoors, want to be a detective, and are technologically inclined.

Avoid if… you don’t like art and don’t really care about justice.


THE BASICS

The Escape Game:

Developer Information: The Escape Game: Unlocked

The Game: The Heist – Volume 1: Chasing Hahn

Description (from the company website): IN THIS EDITION, YOU’LL CONTINUE YOUR MISSION FROM “THE HEIST” AS A SECRET AGENT IN AN EFFORT TO THWART THE INFAMOUS ART CURATOR, VINCENT HAHN.

With the help of your Intelligence Agent, you’ll uncover The Curator’s true identity, connect him to a crime, and work with the International Police to finally exact justice.

ERG Note: You do not have to have played the previous room of the same name to follow the story.

Difficulty (1-10)Unrated

Time Limit: No time limit

Cost: $20

Identifier: R1

Party Size: 1 to 4 players


OUR EXPERIENCE

Note: The ERG were given the opportunity to try out this game for free, with the understanding that we would continue to provide an honest review and follow the same process we’ve used on all of our other ratings.

Logistics:

Description of the game: There are postcards, evidence photos, a brochure, and some props used in the game.

Understanding of the Mission: We were tasked by law enforcement to track down Vincent Hahn, a notorious art thief, by figuring out what he was going to steal next and from where.

How Much Space is Needed: We played on a table that was 3′ x 6′ and there was still room left for our snacks and drinks.

Age Appropriate: The theme is appropriate for all ages, but the puzzles are listed as 12 and up.

Did We “Escape”: Yes!

Time Remaining: There’s no limit, but we finished in about 84 minutes.

Our Suggested Party Size: The game is recommended for 1-4 players and our 6…got a little bored at times. 4 is definitely right.

Did the game challenge the entire team? At times.

Members of our team (other than the ERG): Steph, Corey, Eric, and Brittany

Worth the time and money? $20 is a steal for this.


OUR SCORING:

 

JASON SAYS: MIKE SAYS:
Overall Expectation (Summary)
This was The Escape Game’s first foray into table top escape rooms. I’ve now played my fair share of them and they all offer something different, but it’s interesting to see how exactly they get their games across. I knew nothing about the theme going in, only that it was an art heist game. I really knew nothing about this game until Jason mentioned that he was in contact with the game creator, who wanted to get our opinion on how it played.

As we have a semi-regular game night with friends, this seemed like a good opportunity to check it out.

Setup (Rating)
Setup was quick. Unpack the items from the envelope, log into the website.

There wasn’t much to read, instruction-wise. Everything was in game; mostly video at that. The videos are well done (very reminiscent of 5Wits).

Rating: 3/4

The setup was pretty simple. Unbox everything and lay the items out. Set up an account with the website and get your devices ready to play. We were ready to play in less than 5 minutes.

Rating: 3/4

Story (Rating)
The story was interesting. You’re on the case of an art thief who has escaped justice for some time now and, as judged by the evidence photos, he’s gotten away with his “fair” share. There are finally a few clues that have been pieced together that give you a starting point and it’s off to the races.

You’re given details about the thief’s background and need to use everything that’s given to you to answer the questions/solve the puzzles to progress. This is a linear game, too, so keep that in mind.

Rating: 5.5/6

There is an art thief called “The Curator” who has been operating for many years, hitting dozens of locations, and has never even been close to getting caught. The International Police have finally brought you in to find out the Curator’s next target, so you can stop him before he hits it, and link him to the evidence from past heists in order to put him away.

With the help of your Intelligence Agent (who communicates with you through the website), you obtain a bit more information about the Curator’s background and are given a dossier to piece together the clues they’ve obtained. You use these puzzles and information found on the website to go through the mission.

You get a lot of detailed background to the story, and that helps set the tone of the game to get you immersed as best as possible while playing in your own setting.

Rating: 5/6

Mission (Rating)
The mission has multiple parts, each part corresponding to a distinct puzzle and set of items. So it’s a linear game, but it’s a board game so can’t hold it too much against them. There were 3 clear objectives, but I won’t go into them because you find them out as the game progresses.

Instructions are minimal. Unpack, log into website, watch briefing video. I liked how simple it was to get started. Even getting started on the website was a breeze.

How to win was simple as well. Just complete the objectives to capture the criminal, then watch the video that tells the ending.

Rating: 4/5

The mission is pretty simple: find the identity of the Curator and use the evidence that has already been compiled to link him to the crimes.

You start by creating the account on their website and watch a video to get started. Then you unpack the black envelope provided to you (a nice touch). Your mission progresses as you play and you are given more and more objectives to complete until you accomplish your goal. You know when you’ve won because the videos within the website (that guide you through the game) tell you at that point.

I really enjoyed how the game unfolded. Each objective tied to the mission and then gave you the next step of the process. The game is linear (it’s really hard to design a game like this that isn’t), but it’s done really well and – if you keep to the recommended number of players – then all of you will be able to participate.

Rating: 4/5

Puzzle/Solution Diversity (Rating)
There are many different types of puzzles that it’s not surprising nothing was repeated. Liberal use of the internet is welcome, as not everything is extremely straight forward. (And that’s me telling you that, not the game.)

We were forced to use logic (not in the logic puzzle way, but more like common sense, so good luck people…lol), deduction, and communication. Everything you would have to rely on in a normal escape room.

The production value is actually pretty high considering the cost of this package.

That all said, we definitely weren’t just sitting there plugging numbers into a form on the website. We had to figure out things based on certain information that is provided up front then deduced throughout. I mentioned earlier I didn’t want to spoil what the objectives were, but I will say I had to hack an IP camera.

The website makes this all possible and it was seriously cool.

Rating: 5/5

There was a great variety to the types of puzzles you needed to solve, which is a difficult thing to do with a game that you unpack and play. You have to use the props to unlock further sections of the website, which gives you additional instructions to then use the additional props to continue moving forward.

The physical props are obviously limited in what you can do with them (there is really only one solution), but they’re fun to figure out. Your dexterity and observation will be tested, as well as being able to take a few leaps of logic to find your way to the next puzzle. And, it’s not as if everything is a simple solution that you just plug into a part of the website to continue… you actually have to think about the solutions first.

The website puzzles add some additional puzzles that you can’t get with physical props, and these require a lot more communication and observation than you may think. In fact, don’t overthink them! Sometimes what you see is exactly what you get.

Rating: 5/5

Puzzle/Solution Complexity (Rating)
As alluded to earlier, some of the props in the package are puzzles. I also said there was a little bit of fake hacking, so I would say the mixture of difficulty was great. We, as usual, just over-thought a thing or two. Typical.

Rating: 4.5/5

There was a really good mix of the difficulties in the puzzles. Some of the physical props were the easiest puzzles you’ll encounter, but the puzzles do get harder and harder as you progress through the game (almost as if you’re being trained throughout the game to prepare you for the final encounter).

Some, we solved in seconds… others, we needed some of the hints built into the website to help us progress. Overall, I thought they did a great job and I wasn’t bored with what we had to decipher and decode.

Rating: 4.5/5

Gameplay (Rating)
I don’t recall there being a difficulty for this game listed, but I would put it to the easy/moderate range. This game can be played on your own or with a team (it’s rated for 1-4, while we played with 6, which did result in some boredom). The production value is great considering it’s a $20 game and it was considerably more fun than other escape board games I’ve played (but that may be because I enjoyed the technology aspect of it, particularly the camera thing).

There is no time limit on this game, so we didn’t have to rush or feel rushed, but at the same time, that sense of urgency was gone.

I would also recommend you have a laptop or tablet handy as some of the functions needed are a bit too cumbersome on a smaller screen (the website on my phone screen was a bit painful to use).

There is definitely something to be said about teamwork and I think doubly so at the fact that there seemed to be a task for everyone. There were very distinctly different types of puzzles, which is great for a home game.

Rating: 18/25


As we’ve played a number of “escape room games,” I really enjoyed how well integrated this was with the physical pieces and the website. The design is very well done and it actually feels as if you are trying to solve a mystery. I would say that this falls within the easy to moderate range (as we’ve played games that are MUCH more difficult, but were also more frustrating as well).
The puzzles, as I’ve mentioned, work well together… solving one gets you something to use on the website, which provides you with just a bit more information on how to use another physical prop. At some point, however, you’re all in on the website, so you should make sure that everyone who is playing has the account name and password to access the web portal (we encountered some of our own tech issues since so many of us were logging in with the same info).I think it’s also pretty cool that you can play this game on your own or with a team, and that you can start and stop the adventure if you have time constraints. I’d recommend that you play all the way through, however, since trying to find out where you left off and what you already used might be problematic.So, all of the puzzles can be solved by one person, but they can be easier if more than one person is working on them together. The production value is extremely well done. The props are high quality, as is the design of the website. TEG Unlocked definitely invested some $$ in this to make it a worthwhile experience, and it shows. I had more fun playing this than I thought I would, even when we overthought certain puzzles and when we got stuck. I even liked that you could look some things up, just like you would if you were really doing research. (Unless you really are an art expert, you’ll need Google.)

Rating: 18.5/25

Mobile App Integration (Summary)
So, there’s no actual app, but you are required to go to a website where all of the data entry takes place. There was an activation code in the package that requires you to create an account or login and enter the code. Everyone can share a login, etc.

The game progresses via the website. Everything you must do is right there. So, solving the puzzles, reviewing data, etc., all though the interwebs.

Additionally, and a nice little feature, all material in the package is available in the site, so people not physically getting their hands on an item can look it up in the app.

The design of the site is excellent. Setting up the account using the activation code in the box only took a few minutes. Jason took care of that and shared it with us so we could also see what was going on.

This possibly COULD work better as an app, but it works quite well as a website. The only thing I would say is to allow the user to “create a team” that would push the information to each person so they can easily access the site (versus sharing the same credentials). We had a few tech issues with getting booted out of the site (probably because we were sharing the same user id/password).

You need to make sure you have a strong internet connection because everything hinges on the portal. So, if you’re in the middle of nowhere and want to play, you may be out of luck.

Clue Structure
Clues are well done. In the website, for each puzzle, there are 3 clues. The first one is basically a pointer where to look. The second is a little more like a standard clue. The third is more detailed and will make you facepalm. 😬
Hints were built into the site itself. You could ask for 3 hints per puzzle, ranging from “did you use this piece of info or prop” to “here’s how you might want to use that piece of info or prop” to “here’s EXACTLY how to use that piece of info or prop.” Sad to say, we did have to use the third clue for two of the puzzles.
How Helpful Were Any Clues Given, if any (Summary)
I think I may have taken too much control of this game from the team (sorry about that…), but I enjoyed the way it flowed and the way you actually play the game.

Clues, as mentioned, are baked into the website as pointers (#1), hints (#2), and answers (#3). Without having a true GM, this is the way to do it, which is one of the things I liked about it over other at home games (specifically the subscription games).

Normally we decide as a group to ask for a clue, but Jason was manning the website and could easily click into the hints/clues and guide us forward if we were stuck. In that aspect, he also served as our de facto game master, whether we liked it or not. LOL
Replayability (Summary)
There was no actual destruction of items, however, one of the puzzles was origami, so there is some paper folding. Nothing too terrible that I wouldn’t give this to a friend to try. I think that you could replay the entire game since we really didn’t have to cut anything or destroy any of the paper props. We had to fold one piece of paper, but that is pretty easily solved by folding it however you can so you’re not just looking at the solution.
Success Rating(Summary)
There was no actual number of stars or rating or anything, just a completion video.

(As you progressed through this very linear game, and after each puzzle was solved, there was a brief interlude video.)

The hints/clues were helpful and were obviously designed to get you through the game depending on how many times you went with the third hint (the knock-you-over-the-head and do-this-dummy level).
RAGE Meter ERG (pronounced URG, as in “we should have known better”) Score
I can say that I thoroughly enjoyed this game. It’s very well put together; some of the puzzles can get more involved than others, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

Fists – 0/5

We did overthink a few of the puzzles but nothing that made me think that I was really stupid, so I’m going to give this a rating of:

Rating:  FacePalms – 2/5

ESCAPE ROOM GUYS’ OVERALL SCORING: 8/10

Final Thought: This game showed us that escape room games really can blend physical props with technology and provide a pretty seamless experience at home. There was actually a story and a mission (similar to rooms) where parts of the game unveiled themselves as you played. It was really well done and we’re looking forward to their next release.

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