Escape Quest Queenstown: Empire Escape | Review

Empire Escape Review | Before Henry Garrett became Queenstown’s most notorious gold rush bandit, he was an Australian convict and fugitive on the run from the British Empire….

Based on a true story! A Gold Bank in Victoria, Australia has been robbed! The fugitive, Henry Garrett, has been identified as the robbery’s ringleader. He has disappeared with the plunder. A convict and a thief. Charming and intelligent. A fugitive on the run to escape an empire. Using only your wit, hunt for the clues and embark on a global chase. Can you find him before the trail runs cold!?

Completion Time: 1 hour
Date Played: 17th October 2021
Party Size: 2
Difficulty: Hard

After playing Escape Quest Queenstown’s The Missing Gold Escort back in March this year, we were very excited to hear they had a new at-home escape room out. What’s more, it’s not just any new game… It’s a fully augmented reality escape room!

The World’s First At-Home Augmented Reality Escape Room

So how does an ‘augmented reality’ escape game work? The idea is fairly straightforward:

  • You purchase your copy of Empire Escape
  • You print off the puzzles on A4 paper
  • You download the supporting app on your iOS or Android devices
  • Then, when ready to play, you hit ‘start’ on a browser-based interface to input your answers

As the wider The Escape Roomer family, we did have a little difficulty accessing the app and it took us a while to figure out whose phone worked with the new technology. But, once we figured that part out we were off to a flying start! Note the device recommendations from their FAQ below:

If your device is under 3 years old, it should support the app. Try downloading the app first before purchasing the game. Supported Platforms are iOS and Android. Compatible versions are iOS versions 10, 11, 12 and 13+. Android versions 27, 28 and 29+.

Once you’ve finished your setup, the game has a slow start setting up the premise through a series of videos and introductory puzzles then *boom* “Take your your app and scan the paper”.

I wasn’t sure exactly how this could work. I mean, there’s no QR code or barcode, so I had a lot of disbelief as I loaded up the app and held it carefully over my sheet of paper but wow… It just…. Works! Wow!

Image (c) Escape Quest

Almost every page in the entire game has some kind of augmented reality mini-game on it. This ranged from character popping up from the pages, to 3D recreations of maps, and entire 360 degree rooms. Each puzzle-scape also came with it’s own music track or sound. Often just for ambience, I found that when moving my mobile device closer into each puzzle the sound would get louder and shift in perspective. The attention to detail here is amazing.

One of my favourite puzzle in the whole game was right at the end where scanning a page popped up a doll-house sized building. As well as rotating the paper to get a closer look at each room, players can also tap their phone to interact with different elements of the space as well. Really, really impressive stuff!

A Puzzle Adventure Rooted in History

Once you get over how exciting it is to play an augmented reality escape game, you can begin to appreciate the story and the setting. Just like in The Missing Gold Escort, Escape Quest Queenstown have rooted their experience in history which adds a special something to the experience. It’s educational too!

I can imagine a game like this being added to the New Zealand national curriculum. A lesson for all in how to teach rich stories through games.

The specific story of Escape Empire follows Henry Garrett, a gold rush bandit on the run from the British Empire. Oh hey, that’s us here in the UK! As you track down Garrett, players explore different locations around the globe. I mean, how do you escape an empire that spans almost the entire globe? You run… Fast and far! Which is exactly what Henry Garrett did and it’s exactly why your help is needed to track him down.

Along the way the puzzles felt true to the era and the genre. We poured over maps with shipping schedules, complex geography and hydrography, detailed documents about the various ranks of the British Army. There’s a lot to learn in this game. Thank goodness I had an eagle eyed history graduate as my Player 2 on this particular game!

Crack the Codes, Catch the Bandit

In terms of difficulty, I’d put this on the harder end of the scale. That’s not to say it’s too difficult, but it’s certainly challenging!

As with Escape Quest Queenstown’s earlier game, there’s a good amount and of cutting and assembling 3D models which I really enjoy in a printable escape room game. Tactile puzzles always get a thumbs up from us – but this time these puzzles were supported with the addition of more video game style puzzles that felt closer to the VR escape room games I enjoy a lot!

Players can expect to encounter plenty of historical puzzles (though nothing that would require outside knowledge), a few maths puzzles, some spatial reasoning puzzles, and lots of search-and-find puzzles, which are made all the more fun by being able to twist and turn your mobile device around a real life augmented reality 3D shape.

Each time you solve a puzzle you check your answer on the online interface provided. This verifies your answer and progresses the game, so you always more or less know what to do next. The online interface also has a handy hint system which *cough* we used rather a lot.

Ideally you want to play this with a small group. Many brains to crack the puzzles are better than fewer and if you have a history buff in your friendship group then be sure to invite them along too!

The Verdict

We absolutely loved it! It was delightful and challenging, rooted in history and yet immeasurably fun. Why couldn’t I have learned all my history from fun games like this, eh?

As the first of it’s kind, I cannot wait to see if the genre of augmented reality escape games will take off. Game designers take, note! I want all my print and play games to literally pop off the paper from now on!

If you’re looking for a fun escape game to play around the table with family, look no further. Once again Escape Quest Queenstown have nailed it with a unique experience that’s unlike anything else I’ve played. A round of applause.

Escape Empire can be played by heading to Escape Quest’s website here.

Ratings

Author

  • Mairi is the editor-in-chief of The Escape Roomer and covers escape room news and reviews across the UK's South.

Escape Quest Queenstown: Empire Escape | Review
  • Theming
  • Puzzles
  • Immersion
  • Quality
  • Innovation
  • Fun Factor
  • Value
4.1

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