Overboard! | Review

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Overboard! Review | Overboard! is a whodunnit where you’re the one whodunnit. You have just eight hours to cover the evidence, mislead the witnesses, frame another suspect and escape … if you can!

Developer: inkle
Console Played On: Switch
Number Of Players: 1
Touchscreen Compatible: Yes

Do you like murder mysteries? Check ✅

Do you find pre-war dramatic irony; amusing? Check ✅

Do you the tactics of dirt-flinging journalists excite you? Check ✅

Well if so, this whodunnit game might be for you.

(Overboard! is not to be confused with the 1997 PS1 Adventure game of the same name :D)

The Clock Is Ticking

July, 1935. Wealthy Malcolm Villensey’s fortune has been wiped out overnight. He and his starlet wife, Veronica, have escaped aboard the SS Hook for a new life in America—but Mrs. Villensey has other plans. And one little push is all it takes.

As Veronica, the game begins swiftly, by throwing you straight into the action. You push your husband off the SS Hook at night. You return to your cabin and wake up at 8am the next morning realising it wasn’t a dream. You have 8 hours before you arrive at New York to cover your tracks and convince the rest of the personnel on the ship that you are innocent.

No Crime Is Perfect

Finally! A game has come along where you play not as the detective of the whodunnit, but instead as the perpetrator. The core game loop involves either making decisions on either actions to take or choosing what is the best thing to say to whichever person you encounter depending on the time and where you are on the ship. There is a plethora of variables because of this, which creates a game that can be enjoyed in short-sharp bursts. You can complete the core game loop for the first time, in as quickly as 5 minutes; however the beauty lies in trying and trying again, looking for patterns to obtain a better or different ending that provides even more information for even further gameplay.

No One Is Innocent

Speaking of which, there are multiple scenarios that fall into 5 different ending types; 2 unsuccessful and 3 successful. But even if you find the most successful ending (which on its own, involves a large amount of research and playing finesse), that doesn’t necessarily mean your Overboard! journey ends there. The other characters on boat might have sordid secrets of their own that they are trying to hide(!), providing even more incentive to continue playing.

It all adds up in creating a robust package that has much, much more life to it; than initially meets the eye. The stellar script writing and character design creates a strong element of immersion and further invests the player into playing the core game loop multiple times. Many a time I was open-mouthed when I found a secret of an NPC that was juicy and scandalous.

The controls are at the base, a single action button and directional to choose where you go or what you say. It’s all it needs and it’s superb. There is touchscreen compatibility too for the Switch version, for further accessibility.

Jumping Overboard Isn’t Enough

Overboard! is priced at £11.39 on both Switch and Steam. For this I’d estimate somewhere around 20-50 plays, each clocking in between 5 and 30 minutes. Therefore, this could keep you occupied for anywhere between 2 and 10+ hours. It’s a large variance I appreciate, especially when you also consider the completionism factor, should you wish to see every scenario…or not. The game is easy to play, easy to put down, then pick back up. It also sucks you in super quickly, therefore I could very easily see many people ending up on the further end of my estimate spectrum. With all of this in mind, I’d argue that this price point is very good value for money.

For The Seasoned Starlet Or The Up-And-Coming Artist?

I can easily recommend this game to almost anyone of all playing experiences. It’s simple enough to get started with for beginner and even non-puzzler/escape room enthusiast types (the green text signposting after a first playthrough attempt, is a welcome feature), and enough underneath the surface to keep the seasoned escaper coming back for more.

Two warnings; firstly, this does have adult themes therefore, I wouldn’t recommend this to anyone under 18. Secondly, whilst the learning curve is balanced and accessible from the off, to be wholly successful in Overboard!; requires a lot of attention, multiple trials and most importantly time management. Thankfully, the ability to rewind a scene or start again from the beginning if a mistake is made during a run, proves all the more how accessible Overboard! is.

Rating

In the present day, where there’s an abundance of choice, when it comes to what to play; alongside a finite amount of time and money to take a risk on a purchase. Overboard! provides a low risk option that pulls you straight in and pays dividends, the more and more it’s played. I highly recommend it for its fantastic script writing, accessibility, striking, era-appropriate visuals and innovative mechanics on a old, tired theme that are in timely need of a change. Because of all of its merits, I am hereby awarding this whodunnit the Best In Genre badge.

Buy it and enjoy the ride.

The Best VR Escape Rooms on Oculus Quest 2

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When in-person escape rooms are closed, or you simply prefer the option of playing escape rooms in your pyjamas – the Oculus Quest is here! With a fast growing library of fantastic escape room style puzzle games that feel as realistic as if you were standing in the centre of a real room, Oculus is the must-have console in an escape room enthusiast’s collection. Here’s a round up of some of our favorite escape room games available on the Oculus Quest 2.

Have a PSVR? Check out this list instead.

Last updated January 2022.

The Room VR: A Dark Matter

If you ask anyone in the escape room industry to recommend you a video game, chances are you’ll hear the name “The Room” thrown around a lot. It’s the quintessential escape room game now available on Oculus. Players are transported into a series of steampunk-come-Victoriana spaces to solve escape room puzzles. The premise is deceptively simple, yet Fireproof Games does it so well. Read more in our review of The Room VR: A Dark Matter here.

A Fisherman’s Tale

Play as a wooden fisherman doll living in a lighthouse, who goes about his daily routine and builds another wooden lighthouse doll in an even smaller lighthouse. It’s basically Simulation Theory: The Game. Now with extra maritime references. But jokes aside, A Fisherman’s Tale is a fantastically charming escape room puzzle game that blurs the boundaries of fiction and reality. Read more in our review here.

A Rogue Escape

Escape the planet or die… and die… and die trying. A Rogue Escape is a fantastically challenging VR escape room experience developed by Spare Parts Oasis. Trapped on an alien planet you’ve taken control of a mechanical submarine. Too bad you don’t know how to pilot it. Read more in our review of A Rogue Escape VR here.

I Expect You To Die (1 & 2)

Speaking of dying… No list of VR escape rooms would be complete without mentioning the iconic I Expect You To Die and it’s sequel from Schell Games. Play as an international super spy and solve puzzles to collect information from the enemy. But one small mistake and you’ll definitely die. Good luck!

Floor Plan 2

If you prefer your escape rooms a little more absurdist, then it’s definitely worth checking out Turbo Button’s Floor Plan 2. More puzzle game than escape room, you play a new employee at Puzzl Corporation and must travel between floors exploring and most importantly, solving bizarre puzzles.

Red Matter

Setting a new standard when it comes to immersion and graphics, Red Matter is a tense space-horror escape room adventure and one of the most highly rated puzzle games on the Oculus. Take on the role of Agent Epsilon, an astronaut of the Atlantic Union dispatched to an abandoned Volgravian base on Rhea, one of Saturn’s moons. Your mission: to investigate a shady top secret research project.

Have we missed your favourite VR escape room on this list?

Let us know in the comments below!

Retrospective Holiday Special: Portal | Review

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Portal Review | Set in the mysterious Aperture Science Laboratories, the game is designed to change the way players approach, manipulate, and surmise the possibilities in a given environment. Players must solve physical puzzles and challenges by opening portals to manoeuvring objects, and themselves, through space.

Developer: Valve
Console Played On: Steam
Number Of Players: 1

Disclaimer! This is a retrospective review. This means it is reviewed based on the gaming expectations of the present day and the relevancy for escape room enthusiasts.

Do you enjoy silent protagonists? Check ✅

Are you enticed by mind-bending physics? Check ✅

Do you prefer your comedy to skirt the line between hilariousness and existential dread? Check ✅

Well if so, this puzzle game might be for you.

Well, You Found Me. Congratulations. Was It Worth It?

If you saw my introductory interview with Mairi, I mentioned Portal 2 as being one of my favourite puzzle games. After playing it, I spoke to friends about how much I enjoyed it. My “PC gaming” friends often responded something along the lines of…

“It’s good…but not as good as the original”.

After many, many of these encounters; I vowed to find a copy of The Orange Box (a Valve compilation of games including Portal), on the PS3 (I didn’t own a decent PC at the time); however it was sold out everywhere. When I eventually found a copy, it was at an extortionate price. That was in 2011.

10 years later I still find myself, never having played the original title. Well dear TER friends, that ends today – it can be bought on steam; on it’s own.

So welcome, to my retrospective holiday special.

A Complimentary Escape Hatch Will Open In 3… 2… 1…

You play as Chell, a silent protagonist who is a test subject for Aperture Laboratories. You wake up from your isolation pod and are instructed by GLaDOS, a dry, shade-throwing AI system, to undergo various physics based puzzles using the portal gun, an experimental tool used to create two portals through which objects can pass. As a concept, the theming is simple but still to this day, highly effective. Furthermore, it can’t be ignored that it has inspired the theming and narrative of many other games; puzzle and non-puzzle alike. We owe a lot to this.

The visuals are simple but polished, and successfully project the image of a cleansed, futuristic dystopian world. There are no other human characters to interact with, just a series of mechanisms and a sassy AI with a frenemy attitude. There were many times where I found myself chuckling away at GLaDOS’s insults via deadpan delivery as I progressed further and further.

Let’s Be Honest. Neither One Of Us Knows What That Thing Does.

Is Portal an immersive experience? I’d be inclined to say yes. Its not hugely story-rich, there isn’t any narrative to initially invest you and the character dialogue is one-sided. But the theming and puzzle-depth allow the player on many occasions to forget themselves and subconciously dive into the minimalistic elements presented.

Do Not Submerge The Device In Liquid, Even Partially

You’ve really got to hand it to Portal for their puzzles and overall innovative contributions via Valve’s physics mechanics; through the use of the famous portal gun. It blew player’s minds back then, and even now it’s still very strong in both areas. The learning curve is brilliant and wholly organic, each puzzle set piece has thematic, visual signposting (see below) to help you progress and the puzzles themselves are still impressively innovative and satisfying to complete. During the back half of the game, there are puzzles that involve the player to be dexterous with their control input. This can be frustrating for some, but because there is no penalty for trying and trying again, once you do accomplish a tricky set piece, you are rewarded not only by the accomplishment, but the visual stimuli of gracefully flying through the air in the first-person.

Quit Now And Cake Will Be Served Immediately

I’ve noticed that if a game from the 2000s is remastered/re-released for present day, it’s highly likely that the controls require some from of standardisation. This can be the ultimate difference between a playable, nostalgic dream vs an unplayable mess and waste of money. Thankfully, Portal utilises a keyboard and mouse set up that is futureproof and still allows great playability in 2021. I am disappointed however, that considering how popular and iconic this game is; gamepad compatibility has not been patched in. Especially, when I can believe that many players including myself, was introduced to the series via the sequel on a console that would use a gamepad, subsequently love the experience, and then be forced to use a different control method when playing the original.

When The Testing Is Over, You Will Be Missed

Originally, Portal was only available as part of Valve’s The Orange Box; available on PC and 7th generation consoles such as Xbox 360. Now it can be bought on steam by itself for £7.19. For that, you will get around 2 to 5 hours of game time plus bonus maps outside of the main campaign. Valve are one of the biggest game development companies out there, therefore I’d argue that this is at just about the right price.

Rating

Initially, Valve considered Portal to be merely filler for The Orange Box; unexpectedly gaining wide spread popularity and acclaim when released in 2007. Fast forward to 2021 and its still a highly playable, engrossing puzzle challenge that is poignant and comedic. It’s a shame there isn’t gamepad compatibility, but there is more than enough here for escape room enthusiasts to get stuck into, during this holiday (or any) period.

Portal can be purchased on steam here.

The Best VR Escape Rooms on PSVR

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When in-person escape rooms are closed, or you simply prefer the option of playing escape rooms in your pyjamas – the PSVR is here! As a long standing Playstation fanatic (wait, it isn’t normal to collect and display every console back to PS1 in your living room?), I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a PSVR. Several years later, I’ve played through and rounded up a collection of some of the most fantastic escape room style games you can find on the PSVR.

Prefer Oculus? Check out this list.

Last updated January 2022.

The Room VR: A Dark Matter

If you ask anyone in the escape room industry to recommend you a video game, chances are you’ll hear the name “The Room” thrown around a lot. It’s the quintessential escape room game now available on PSVR. Players are transported into a series of steampunk-come-Victoriana spaces to solve escape room puzzles. The premise is deceptively simple, yet Fireproof Games does it so well. Read more in our review of The Room VR: A Dark Matter here.

Statik

Challening but not too frustrating, Statik is a perfect example of a well balanced escape room game. Statik is a VR game about solving puzzles in a place you don’t know, with a person you don’t recognise, and hands that aren’t completely yours. Good luck!

A Fisherman’s Tale

Play as a wooden fisherman doll living in a lighthouse, who goes about his daily routine and builds another wooden lighthouse doll in an even smaller lighthouse. It’s basically Simulation Theory: The Game. Now with extra maritime references. But jokes aside, A Fisherman’s Tale is a fantastically charming escape room puzzle game that blurs the boundaries of fiction and reality. Read more in our review here.

I Expect You To Die (1 & 2)

Speaking of dying… No list of VR escape rooms would be complete without mentioning the iconic I Expect You To Die and it’s sequel from Schell Games. Play as an international super spy and solve puzzles to collect information from the enemy. But one small mistake and you’ll definitely die. Good luck!

Floor Plan

If you prefer your escape rooms a little more absurdist, then it’s definitely worth checking out Turbo Button’s Floor Plan. More puzzle game than escape room, you play a new employee at Puzzl Corporation and must travel between floors exploring and most importantly, solving bizarre puzzles.

Red Matter

Setting a new standard when it comes to immersion and graphics, Red Matter is a tense space-horror escape room adventure and one of the most highly rated puzzle games on the PSVR. Take on the role of Agent Epsilon, an astronaut of the Atlantic Union dispatched to an abandoned Volgravian base on Rhea, one of Saturn’s moons. Your mission: to investigate a shady top secret research project.

Have we missed your favourite VR escape room on this list?

Let us know in the comments below!

Down the Rabbit Hole | Review

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Down the Rabbit hole Review | Down the Rabbit Hole is a VR adventure set in Wonderland prior to Alice’s arrival. You will guide a girl who is looking for her lost pet by solving puzzles, uncovering secrets and making choices about the story along the way.

Developer: Cortopia Studios
Date Played: October 2021
Console: Oculus Quest
Number of Players: 1
Time Taken: 3 hours

My first encounter with Down the Rabbit Hole was, amusingly, in VRChat. VRChat is a land of absolute madness and debauchery where pretty much anyone can don their headset and be transported to an amazing land with folks from anywhere in the world. Actually, I’ve played some good escape games and made some friends there.

But one of the coolest ‘worlds’ I’ve been to in VRChat was a promotional space modelled off the intro sequence to Down the Rabbit Hole. It was so intriguing that I wasted almost no time purchasing my own copy of Down the Rabbit Hole the next time I spotted an Oculus sale.

I actually had almost no intention of reviewing the game for The Escape Roomer- you see, I didn’t even realise it was a puzzle game. But somehow the incredible, rich worlds filled with mystery just felt so right for the escape room audience. I was captivated from the very first moment to the very last, and binged the whole thing in just one day!

Oh yes, there are puzzles a-plenty!

Welcome to Wonderland…

Down the Rabbit Hole is a prequel to the story of Alice in Wonderland we all know and love. The theme is a staple of escape rooms all over the world (like this one, or this one, yep and this one, or even this one), but somehow Down the Rabbit Hole manages to make it different with the introduction of a new girl – not Alice! She descends into the rabbit hole and meets a host of wonderful (and familiar) characters before going up against the Queen of Hearts herself.

As a story, it’s fairly predictable. It’s probably quite hard to do anything other than loosely follow the source material, and that’s okay. But one big change the studio did make was casting an American voice actress for the classic British character. For some reason, this did bother me… A lot. If the game is a prequel, then this should be set in the very early 1800s and in Britain. Needlessly Disney-ified? Perhaps. But let’s move on…

Our main character falls down the rabbit hole whilst chasing her pet, but is soon joined by a ‘4 and a Half’ card who is shunned by his society. You see, the Queen of Hearts is a supremacist who believes only the whole cards are real cards. Whilst your main focus is to find your pet, by the time you descend to the very bottom of the rabbit hole you’re too embroiled in the world just to leave it as is it. Who else will help the half-cards?! Or find the missing letters?! Or help prepare for the Queen’s tea party?!

In a final note on the story, the game ends quite abruptly. There is some element of multiple choice, but largely the endings are bittersweet. You might save the day but you can’t save everyone, and even if you can are you willing to turn your back on the ‘real world’?

I’m wondering if the open-endedness of the story may lend itself to a possible sequel on the table? Well, a girl can hope!

Things are Getting Curiouser and Curiouser

So I’ve established that the story telling is okay. But let’s talk about what really makes this game shine: Environment and Puzzles!

This game is breath-taking.

No, seriously. A little louder for those in the back. This game isn’t just a pretty game it’s an absolute work of art and simply existing in this world for a few hours with your VR headset on is a privilege.

Players have two viewpoints. On the one hand, you are the camera in the middle of the rabbit hole looking at the story play out in these tiny, brightly coloured rooms lit up all around you. Using roots to pull yourself further down or pull yourself up, you can follow the story as it goes round and round in a feeling like you are the person tumbling down the hole. Look up and you’ll see the moon and the stars far above you, and look down and you’ll see the darkness stretching out forever.

On the other hand if you need to take a closer look you can switch to the perspective of the main character as she runs around each room. Especially useful for getting up close to treasure chests and opening small locks.

Frankly, I’ve never played anything quite like it, and it’s a perfect example of what wouldn’t be possible in real life but is flawless in VR. Game developers – take note! This is how a good VR game is presented!

“Six Impossible Things”

In terms of puzzles, they’re fairly straightforward making this a widely accessible game for puzzle enthusiasts of all skill level. For one, there’s a meta puzzle running throughout the whole game where a number of invitations to the royal party have gone missing. You need to collect them all. But then within each level is a number of mini-puzzles to tackle and solve before you can move on.

One of my favourite puzzle sequences was a world in which you could be flipped upside down from your partner and swap between the right-way-up and the wrong-way-up characters as you worked together to find a way through. It was a little like the classic Ibb and Obb, but made all the more brilliant for the giant teacups floating around.

Other puzzles involved painting hedges different colours, concocting a potion to make yourself shrink after accidentally trapping yourself inside a house, and may more involved finding 4 digit (or symbol) codes around the world.

The Verdict

I really enjoyed Down the Rabbit Hole – it’s not often I get to binge a VR game without the pressure of reviewing it (some irony that I did review it in the end!), and it was a lot of fun to relax into this world. The world and the immersivity in this is incomparable. Sure, I didn’t gel with the characters much – but the world itself is it’s own character and I love that.

After a discount, this game came in at about £10 which is the same as a couple of cups of coffee. Instead I got to experience one of the most impressive VR world’s ‘ve ever seen. Definitely worth it.

I’ve chosen to award this game a Diamond badge for being visually impressive, though it’s also easy to argue that this game deserves a Best in Genre badge for being a brilliant Alice in Wonderland game.

To try out Down the Rabbit hole for yourself, head to downtherabbitholegame.com

Ratings

Doors: Paradox | Review

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Doors: Paradox | Review | For as long as we can remember we’ve been walking on the thin edge between chaos and order. Until one day a mysterious portal was opened and chaos prevailed. Now it’s up to you to bring back order…but it is not that simple!

Developer: Snapbreak Games
Console Played On: Mobile
Time Taken: 3 Hours
Difficulty: Easy
Number Of Players: 1

Doors: Paradox had no business being this good of a game! And of course, I mean that in the Gen-Z way of saying “damn, this game was brilliant”.

For a few months now I’ve not really had any mobiles games to get me excited. Usually I’ve got a couple on the go, and besides one game from about a decade ago which I have to use an emulator for, my ‘game’ folder on my phone has been severely lacking!

Then along came Doors: Paradox, with it’s intriguing trailer, bright poppy graphics, and mysterious undercurrent of a story. Oooh… Tell me more!

Chaos and Order

In Doors Paradox, vast space with a floating island in front of you. Each island is built around a door, but piled high with puzzles to solve before that door will open. You can rotate your camera around the island and tap into almost anything for a closer look, all while collecting objects and combining curious things to reach a puzzle’s solution.

It sounds simple, but the reason why introduces an arcing narrative of chaos and order told through the medium of small scrolls hidden in each level, and a mysterious black cat who beckons you into each doorway and transports you to a new world. It’s a tale as old as time: Chaos versus Order, and somehow your presence in this dimension, following the cat and solving puzzles, will save everyone. At the end of the game you’re presented with a choice and a powerful final puzzle to solve. I have no idea if I made the right choices, but I had a lot of fun doing them.

Doors: Paradox

Puzzlescapes and Floating Islands

I suspend my disbelief on the story, because Doors: Paradox’s strength isn’t really in the narrative, it’s in the puzzlescapes each level presents. Escape room enthusiasts will be familiar with some of the themes – there’s a pirate episode, a haunted house episode, a cyberpunk style episode – even some strong steampunk elements running all the way through. But the developers manage to inject a feeling of freshness to each world they create to create visually impressive graphics and a brilliant soundtrack to boot.

Each of these little worlds is a whole escape room in of itself. You can expect about 5 – 10 minutes of gameplay for each, with a few stand out levels which really got my brain cogs whirring to solve. There’s a huge mix of puzzles in this game and the feel of each new world is so unique that each time I picked up my phone (whilst waiting for the bus, or waiting for some pasta to cook) I felt a sense of familiarity and surprise at what the next level presented.

For sure, there were a few puzzles I recognised from other video games and escape room games, but that likely comes with the territory of their only being a finite number of types of puzzles out there. In particular there were a few I recognised from The Room series, and one or two from old platformers I grew up with. but then, there were also many I’d never seen before which were fantastic. Some stand outs include fixing a motorbike in a cyberpunk future world, casino slots, fighting a cat over a box of sushi and angling the sun’s rays to destroy a vampire.

The majority of the puzzles are solved by tapping your finger to find, combine and use objects, but occasionally a more complex puzzle presents itself where a series of rotating dials must be tweaked to the rigth angle, some reflex action as you fire objects through small spaces, or a classic connecting wires puzzle. In any case, the breadth of what types of puzzles you’ll encounter is vast, so expect to be kept on your toes!

As well as solving the puzzles, there are gemstones to collect and scrolls to discover if you wish to follow the narrative. These are offered as collectables, but play an important role as you’ll need the gemstones to unlock the final, Epilogue levels too.

An Immersive Atmosphere… In Your Pocket!

No review of Doors: Paradox would be complete without mentioning the sound. I almost never play mobile games with the volume up – mostly because I’m playing on the go, in public, or listening to something else in the background. But Doors: Paradox is one of those games worth taking the extra effort to listen as you play. From moody sound scapes to relaxing music and satisfying jingles when a correct answer is inputted… The developers have done a brilliant job in bringing their world’s to life with sound!

Combined with the graphics, this makes Doors: Paradox an unexpectedly relaxing game. Like watching an escape room themed “lofi beats” on repeat for hours on Youtube, Doors: Paradox manages to create a perfect zen atmosphere. The puzzles can be tricky, but there’s nothing taxing in this game. It’s more about your journey through the worlds.

Of course, if you get stuck you can skip a puzzle with no detriment to the game at all – another nod to the fact the developers want you to really take your time and enjoy yourself here.

The Verdict

The first 8 levels in Doors: Paradox are free, after which you can pay a small amount to upgrade to the full game. For me, it’s well worth upgrading. If you enjoy the first 8 levels, then the whole game offers more of the same (and then some).

I personally really enjoyed playing it, and if I had just one criticism it would be that there isn’t more of it. I could have played 100 more levels and wouldn’t have been bored for a single moment. If you’re looking for a visually gorgeous, ‘pick up and play’ any time style mobile game that scratches that escape room itch, look no further.

If you want to play Doors: Paradox for yourself, download it for free on the Google Play Store or Apple Store here.

DNA VR London: The Complete Guide

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DNA VR is one of London’s first VR arcades and is home to a whole host of arcade games, including one of the most impressive escape room suites we’ve seen in the UK! including a range of original, free-roam titles.

On a quiet Monday evening in November, we visited their brand new site in the beautiful riverside arches at Battersea Power Station to find out what all the hype is about. We were greeted by Games Master Chris our enigmatic host for the hour. As the previous group was just finishing off their session, it gave us a chance to explore the venue and find out all about the exciting games they have on offer.

DNA VR Battersea Front (c) Mairi Nolan

Ubisoft’s VR Escape Rooms

How to play Ubisoft’s VR Escape Rooms

Ubisoft’s VR escape rooms are played standing in one spot and pointing your handheld controlled to teleport to different locations. You can spin around 360 degrees to view things around you, but it’s important not to get excited and run off towards an item as you are plugged in!

Prince of Persia: The Dagger of Time

The story goes that you and your intrepid band of adventurers must journey in this virtual reality simulation to ancient Iran, to the brink of a beautiful kingdom quite literally falling apart at the seams. Your guide, the Empress of Time Kaileena gives you a mysterious dagger to help you. This dagger can turn back time, literally! You can freeze time, speed it up, reverse it all in one go. Falling rocks? No biggie for me and my dagger. I’ll just pause that right there.

In particular, this game is fantastic in terms of puzzles! It felt as close to a real life escape room as any other VR game I’d ever played, but with the added bonus that you can do things in VR you could never do in real life. Such as scaling enormous heights, crawling monkey bars over ravines, rummaging through cupboards to find clues… Oh wait, that last one you can actually do in a real escape room. But hey! It was twice as fun rummaging in VR.

Beyond Medusa’s Gate

Beyond Medusa’s Gate takes you, in a team of 2 or 4 players, back to Ancient Greece via the Animus (a device from the video game franchise which allows you to simulate the lives of adventurers past through their DNA). This time you’re in search of a mysterious and long lost artefact – a ship! Rumour has it the ship is buried somewhere inside a vast cave… Beyond (you guessed it) Medusa’s Gate.

It’s a very linear room with one puzzle needing to be completed before your team can move to the next area, with many mechanics relying on a little trial and error before figuring out how to do them. Between each puzzle area is at least one or two action scenes where you’ll find yourself doing other things – jumping from platforms, firing arrows, doing battle with monsters, or crowding round at the front of the boat pretending to be in Titanic.

Escape the Lost Pyramid

Finally, the third Ubisoft VR game available at DNA VR is Escape the Lost Pyramid. If Ancient Egypt nor controlling time are your thing, then stepping into an old pyramid might just tick the box. It’s a classic escape room scenario but few do it as well as Ubisoft.

VR Escape Rooms

If Ubisoft isn’t your thing, DNA VR Battersea also has 9 standard VR escape rooms available to play for teams of 2 – 6 players.

  • Huxley – 3007 AD: The world, as you know it, is gone. Mankind was replaced by machines. What was once green, is now destroyed. You are the last, remaining survivors, with one mission: to help HUXLEY. With your first step into the virtual reality, you have 44 minutes to reverse the apocalypse.

  • Mission Sigma – Dismantle a nuclear warhead with your squad! Secret services have located and neutralized a known terrorist who has been hiding out in a deprived area of the city for the last ten years. This is where the good news ends. It turns out that on the roof of an abandoned high – rise the maniac has installed a nuclear warhead with a timer on it. The rest is down to you. Can you get past all the traps and preempt a nuclear attack?

  • Cyberpunk – Cyberpunk is set in the beginning of the 22nd century. Society has collapsed amid rapid technological progress. Corporations fight with one another over data, which has become ever more valuable. You are a group of cyborgs equipped with special skills who need to steal data from the archives of an influential corporation. Infiltrating the complex unnoticed, you must get to the archives and download everything you need. But there won’t be anything easy about that task.

  • Prison Break – Get out of the Prison and prove you are innocent You are a group of police officers. Or at least you used to be. Now after your recent investigation you ended up behind bars yourselves. While the case is obviously fabricated you have no-one to rely on. Will you get out of the jail and clear your name?

  • Alice in Wonderland Stories – Jump into the Rabbit Hole! Team-based VR adventure for 2-6 players. Fallen through a rabbit hole, you will find yourselves in a fantasy world full of family-friendly puzzles and challenges.

  • Alice in Wonderland 2 – Plunge into the world of real magic! Uncover secrets of the Queen of Hearts, drink a shrinking potion and follow the White Rabbit through the twisted maze where everything is turned upside down. Help the Hatter sort out the mess at the mad tea party. The Cheshire Cat will guide you through the enchanted Dark Forest.

  • Sanctum – Something truly sinister is happening in this abandoned temple and it is up to you and your team to find the missing people and discover the evil secrets these ancient walls are hiding.

  • Chernobyl – If only we could change the past, or witness the events that changed the world… Is it possible to change fate? Travel back in time to see if you can change the situation from which, it seemed – there was no way out.

  • Jungle Quest – During a walk in the park, you found a portal that leads to a mysterious world. An amazing sanctuary populated by animals appears in front of you. But how do you get back? To find the way home, you have to solve a series of puzzles and explore the mysterious world of flying islands.

  • A Christmas Story – Help Santa get home and deliver the presents on time! Christmas is in jeopardy! Santa got caught in a blizzard, lost all the presents and can’t find his way home… Only you can save Christmas now! And with Santa’s best reindeer hurry to revive the first Christmas tree!

Free Roam VR Escape Rooms

Our absolute favourite experience at DNA VR however was the free roam escape games. At DNA VR Battersea they’ve set aside a huge room at the top of the building which is dedicated to ‘free roam VR’. What this means is you are not plugged in to anything and are free – no, you are required to move around the entire space to achieve your goal.

Since the Free Roam VR escape rooms are scaled to a specific size, there are very few places in the UK offering these particular games. That’s right – you won’t be able to experience anything quite like this anywhere else!

Photo (c) DNA VR

How Does Free Roam VR Work?

On arrival, your Games Master will help you get set up on the Vire headsets, and you’ll be required to tuck a receiver in your pocket for the duration of the game so that the sensors can find you in the room. From here, the whole room materialises in front of you and you can move freely throughout the space in teams of 2 – 4 players.

It’s incredibly difficult to remember that what yo’re seeing isn’t actually real. Don’t be tempted to sit down on one of the boxes or lean on a desk!

We had limited time at DNA VR and so only experienced the two following games:

Space Station Tiberia

Space Station Tiberia is right in the middle of DNA VR’s difficulty scale at 2 padlocks. It puts you and a team of up to 4 players on a distant space station floating high above planet Earth. An asteroid is set to destroy the planet, and you’re humanity’s only hope!

But you’ve been hit, and hit badly. First, players must repair their ship and get the systems back online. Then you must head outside the ship on a space walk and try to turn your weapons online. The clock is ticking but with any luck you’ll be able to target the asteroid and save the planet once and for all. Saving the world is tricky business though. With all our rushing around and lifting (virtual) objects we made it with mere seconds to spare on the clock for a real show-stopper finish.

Space Station Tiberia manages to combine arcade style gameplay, for example stretching and crouching, dodging asteroids and finally using that angles maths you learned in high school to solve a puzzle. This makes it a fun, well balanced game that would be good for players comfortable in VR, or simply wanting to try something exciting and new.

Space Station Tiberia

Hospital of Horrors (Short)

With a few minutes on the clock to spare, our Games Master Chris invited us to try out a short, 5-10 minute version of their full game Hospital of Horrors.

“Not sure I like this”, my player two uttered from the other side of the room as we descended a rickety old lift into a pitch black basement. As the lights came on we realised we were surrounded by spiders…

Overall a truly creepy experience but it really pushes what is possible in VR and one we’d definitely recommend everyone try.

Player beware, you’re in for a scare!

Besides Space Station Tiberia and Hospital of Horrors (the latter of which isn’t technically an escape room but gets an honourable mention for being so fun!), you can also play the following 40 minute long escape games:

  • Dragon Tower – Uncover the mysteries behind the old alchemist’s lab and fight off a real (well virtual) Dragon in this free-roaming VR Escape room!
  • Manor of Escape – The mad count Malin has been running evil experiments with dangerous creatures in his creepy manor. It’s up to you to get inside, investigate — and make it out alive.
  • Depths of Osiris – You are a team of deep sea archaeologists. Years of dangerous missions, months of planning and finally you are here. You almost found the lost temple of Osiris. Your journey starts on the Deep-sea platform Oceanus 5. From here the task is quite straightforward. Or is it?
  • Time Travel Paradox – Ever wondered what it would be like to walk around with dinosaurs? Travel to the distant future and come back safe? You finally can do precisely that in our new Free-Roaming Experience: Time Travel Paradox!

DNA VR Battersea: The Verdict

Overall, DNA VR is the kind of place you can live out your wildest escape room fantasy – whether it be controlling time, moving freely throughout an enormous space station, or descending into the bowels of a creepy hospital. On our visit, we had a lot of fun – and we’ve only just scratched the surface of what is available. You could spend a whole week here and still not get round to playing all their escape games available!

We thank DNA VR for inviting us to come and play fantastic evening out at DNA VR and are already counting down the days to when we’ll come back and play the rest of their games with friends and family!

If you want to book an experience at DNA VR, head to their website here.

Inspector Waffles | Review

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Inspector Waffles Review | A detective story reminiscent of the old school classics, Inspector Waffles provides plenty of peculiar mystery, a story full of intrigue, and a slew of characters to interrogate, all wrapped into beautifully simple pixel-art. Will you be able to sniff out every clue and nab the murderer?

Developer: Goloso Games
Console Played On: Steam
Number of Players: 1

Do you like cats and dogs? Check ✅

Do you like associated puns and dad jokes of said cats and dogs? Check ✅

Do you yearn for the return of teletext and ceefax? Check ✅

Well if so, this point-and-click game might be for you.

Before Any Gameplay Has Begun…

I’d like to commend Goloso Games for providing a significant element of differentiation. Right after you click on new game, you have the choice to play with or without yellow, highlighted dialogue text to signify clues. If you’re feeling smart, maybe go without the highlights? Can’t decide? Don’t worry; you can toggle your decision in the options menu as and when you please. It’s little features like this, that can really encourage players to continue their journey, should the learning curve be too steep at any given point.

On The Scene And Looking Like A Stray Cat As Usual…

In Inspector Waffles you play said title character, who has just arrived on the scene of a murder. Specifically, Fluffy the cat; CEO of Box Furniture (their main seller being cardboard boxes; which every cat in the game professes to loving them). Task one is to find out what happened at the crime scene and the story unfolds from there…

Goloso games is made up of one developer, Yann Margan (alongside a few friends in the credits for testing, amongst other roles). How this game has been made by such a small team is incredibly impressive. The visuals for example, are a feast for my 30-something eyes (age, not amount!); an attractive, colourful, pixel-fest harking back to my days of playing Bamboozle!

The music is a treat too. It flows seamlessly when moving from one scene to another. Each scene or place has it’s own theme that augments the gameplay. There were times when pondering upon a conundrum, I was thankful for the background audio keeping me immersed.

Most notably, Inspector Waffles is a genuinely funny game. The script is full of great jokes and observations of cats and dogs in real life. There’s even a cat that looks suspiciously like Donald Trump called Maple; an obvious commentary on the former president’s skin tone!

All of these elements combined, really drive the theming towards premium territory.

Chilling On A Beach, Sipping On A Pina Colada…

As you’re reading this from a site called The Escape Roomer, all reviews have to be considered from the point of view of escape room enthusiasts. First off let me be clear. The puzzles are good, in some cases very good and very satisfying to solve; particularly the interrogation\clue presentation set pieces. The core game loop however is quite repetitive. This might put escape room fans out, who are looking for their usual fix of puzzle variance.

Another factor to consider is the amount of searching done by the player throughout the game. There is a lot of it and search fatigue may kick in. In a few cases, particularly during the final third of the game, some items blend into the background a little too well, feeling a little unfair for the player. That being said, the puzzles on the whole whilst sticking to the core game loop, are still exciting and fun to do.

I’m Not Asking My Mother For Help, Patches

Let’s talk about the hints system; it’s not often I’m this excited about one! The system manages to successfully put further positive aspects on the immersion and the overall fun of the gameplay. If you get stuck you can call Waffles’s Mum. Mum is a former inspector who was this ace solver. Waffles is initially not keen to call her. This is probably because she likes to playfully embarrass him (in the most Mum way) before she actually helps him. The help is presented with a direct clue towards what you need to do next. A useful and highly charming hint mechanic overall.

WE ARE THE LIONS!

Have I mentioned that Inspector Waffles is a genuinely funny game? Warning, it is rife with dad jokes. As a dad myself, I found these to be hilarious and excellent comic relief from some of the more difficult puzzle set pieces. The references to cat (and dog) lifestyles throughout the game (eg: the main victim’s job role and a dog named Pavlov) are also rewarding to experience.

Gimmie… That… Coin…

Inspector Waffles is priced at around the £12 mark for all consoles. For that, you get a main campaign that will last around 4-8 hours. There is also an optional side mission that changes the ending of the game, depending on whether you complete it in it’s entirety. If you’re like me however and did not finish it, you’ll be disappointed to know that there is no way to complete the optional side mission without starting the game right from the beginning. I know completionists won’t care and do it anyways, but it didn’t motivate me enough to play through the entire game again; knowing what is going to happen for the sake of an optional side mission.

Aside from that, and considering Inspector Waffles was made (mostly) by a lone developer, what you receive for your money is well worth it.

For The Focussed Feline Or The Crazed Canine?

Because of the differentiation mentioned at the beginning of this review, alongside a well-crafted learning curve; I’d recommend this game to inexperienced and experienced puzzlers. There is enough for the inexperienced, to be motivated all the way with the form of motherly hints and yellow highlighted text. Whereas for the experienced/hardened, they can refuse to utilise them for street cred points and local bragging rights…
(wow, I’m such a dad….).

One thing to mention control-wise, is that there is no gamepad compatibility on steam. This is a minor criticism however, as the mouse controls work perfectly fine. But it is something the developer may consider adding, in any future updates; increasing their already robust, differentiation factor.

Ratings

This is certainly one of the strongest games I have reviewed this year. Outstanding theming, visuals and a heavy emphasis on fun and player inclusiveness, have created an engrossing and entertaining game in Inspector Waffles. Black Friday isn’t far away either, and if it does appear in the sale (or even if it doesn’t), there are all kinds of reasons to play this gem.

Inspector Waffles can be played on Steam, support the developer here.

Hermitage: Strange Case Files | Review

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Hermitage: Strange Case Files Review | This gripping paranormal horror adventure revolves around Hermitage, the sinister bookstore that attracts most unusual customers – all of whom seem to be involved in mysterious cases bordering on the paranormal.

Developer: Arrowitz
Console Played On: PC
Time Taken: 20+ Hours
Difficulty: Medium
Number Of Players: 1

Hermitage: Strange Case Files is a really unusual game to review here on The Escape Roomer, and for this review we have to put on our “detective” hat rather than “escape room hat”. Of course, there’s a big argument to say that they’re both very transferrable skills. But Hermitage: Strange Case Files, although an interesting game, is definitely more suitable for an audience who enjoy length murder mystery novels.

In the words of my co-writer Russ, who normally reviews video games:

Do you like lengthy detective novels?

Do you prefer to deduce than solve puzzles?

Are you interested in the paranormal?

If so, then this game might be for you.

Welcome to the Hermitage Book Shop

The story centres around the Hermitage Book Shop, it’s owner who never leaves, and the curious customers who visit. Broken up into several chapters, each chapter offers a new case to investigate. Along the way you acquire more books that hint at the occult, Lovecraftian world beyond the book shop’s front door…. Absolutely magical!

The elephant in the room is that this game is well over 30 hours if you want to complete the whole thing. It’s not a puzzle game sprint, it’s a narrative marathon.Thankfully the game helps you out by highlighting the most important parts – the clues – in red which you can add to your notebook. But even with this, buckle in because you’re in for a long game!

Inbetween the dialogue, we get to the juicier part of the game: the investigation! Whether looking online for clues, communicating with characters via your phone or, you guessed it, checking in the books – this game is all about solving a series of mysterious cases. As the game unfolds we also learn more about the manager, and the owner of the shop.

There is also an element of choose-your-own-adventure to this story. Occasionally different dialogue options will be presented that change the way the case, or even the whole game pans out, which is an interesting addition too. Choose badly and you’ll get a bad ending, but save regularly and you can always go back and replay segments if you wish to try again.

The Artwork

Story aside, my favourite thing about Hermitage Case Files was without a doubt the moody artwork and atmosphere. For a visual novel, this game is *chef’s kiss* The art style is similar to an anime film, or manga book, yet it still evokes a beautiful feeling of noir dark academia. There’s something really wonderful about working in a dusty old book shop filled with otherworldly books and each new character that joined the story expanded the rich world even further. There was something a little Studio Ghibli about the game that I can’t quite put my finger on, but I loved it.

The Verdict

Overall, it’s a really hard game to judge. In conclusion, I did personally enjoy this game but we (since a few of The Escape Roomer team played parts of Hermitage: Strange Case Files) struggle to recommend this to your average escape room audience. Like a lengthy detective novel, this game will last a long time and take players through thousands of lines of dialogue before the end credits roll. If that’s something you enjoy, then give it a go! But if you’re expecting more puzzle solving, then this game might not be for you.

Hermitage: Strange Case Files can be played on Steam, PlayStation, Xbox, Switch, iOS, Android.

Ratings

LOVE – A Puzzle Box Filled with Stories | Review

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LOVE – A Puzzle Box Filled With Stories Review | Every life has a story. Every story has regret. But what if you could change the past? LOVE is a puzzle game about finding the things we’ve lost in ourselves and the people who help us find them.

Developer: Rocketship Park
Console Played On: Nintendo Switch
Time Taken: 1 hour
Difficulty: Medium
Number Of Players: 1

I can’t read the name of this video game without shouting the words “LOVE” inside my head… Which is pretty much exactly the opposite of the vibe of LOVE – A Puzzle Box Filled with Stories. In fact, it’s one of the most quiet and narrative driven puzzle games I’ve played in a long time. So a far cry from my internal voice shouting LOVE every time I loaded up the Nintendo Switch.

About LOVE – A Puzzle Box Filled With Stories

Referred to herein as just LOVE, is a game about the people living in a single building and their intertwining lives, past, present and future. Your role in the game is of an omnipresent God who can control their lives in small, subtle ways, nudging them towards certain outcomes.

You do this by flipping between the past and the present (or future, as you like), rotating the building like a giant Rubix cube, sliding people’s apartments so their windows line up to be closer to one another, and lightly tapping objects to interact with them at the perfect moments. But you’ve got to get it just right, for example to look up from what they’re doing and glance outside just in time to make a new friend which drastically changes the course of their lives.

Damn, it feels good to be a God.

I was really drawn to this game when I first heard about it… The words “puzzle” and “box” really jump out. I mean, what can I say? I make a real hobby escaping from boxes. But the game also turned out to be a lot more than I bargained for. Quite different, and utterly unique. Something a little closer to the powerful storytelling of small lives like Arianna Ravioli’s Will Die Alone.

The Book Video Game of Love

So I’ve established it’s a gentle and profound game, but what exactly is the goal of LOVE?

You’re given a photo album at the start of the game to fill full of memories. Each time something happens in the game, it’s captured as a little photograph in your book, so you can plot the lives of individual characters.

As I understand the game is multiple choice, so the specific ending of each character is not a given. I say ‘I understand’, but I only played through once so only saw what endings I gave my characters. But it is quite clear that how you play and how you solve the puzzles will have a real impact on what happens. And of course, you’re playing with people’s lives here… So choose wisely!

Spin the Wheel of Life!

There isn’t a lot of instruction as to how to play the game, so it may take some time to get used to everything – but the clue is in the name. It’s a puzzle box and therefore it’s safe to assume you’ll be solving puzzles.

In terms of puzzles, LOVE is a mix between a 3D slider game, a hidden objects game, a game about time travel, and a point-and-click adventure like those from the 90s. You’re spinning and rotating floors in order to hunt for small details and objects. It’s hard to get ‘stuck’ on the game in the traditional sense of “I can’t solve this”, but I did find myself spending a little too long spinning… And spinning… And spinning.

Many moments in the game I spent looking for one specific detail, only to discover something else entirely and be sent off on a tangent about another character’s life story – completely forgetting about the original puzzle. More often than not however, this tangent would somehow lead me back to the original puzzle anyway. Even if I’d almost forgotten the first character’s story, I found the game generally “worked itself out” in the end.

It’s details like this that make it hard for me to review it as a traditional puzzle game. There’s nothing traditional about LOVE at all. It is it’s own thing entirely! It’s a relaxing story about people, told through the medium of puzzles. If you’re an escape room enthusiast it’s probably not for you.

The flip side is, even if I describe the puzzles as ‘relaxing’ I’d be remiss not to mention that two mechanics of the game detracted from the relaxing-ness of it. First of all, it was quite hard to see. On the Nintendo Switch you’re looking for tiny details which playing on the handheld console just aren’t that easy to spot. Secondly, being pulled from story to story did break the immersion quite a bit. Perhaps I just played the game too late at night when my eyes were failing and brain not fully able to concentrate on intricate stories, but for my specific experience it fell a little bit short on those two points.

The Verdict

LOVE is a lovely game- no pun intended. I wholeheartedly congratulate the developers for tackling such an idea and writing such rich and powerful stories. I think the game could do with some improvements, but hey that’s what patches and sequels are for, right?

As mentioned, I don’t think it would be right for the average escape room player (after all, that’s who we’re writing for here). But I had fun and I really appreciated the storytelling. Any piece of media (especially games) that makes you feel something has done it’s job.

You can check out LOVE – A Puzzle Box Filled with Stories and the developer’s others games at their website here.

Ratings