Hourglass Escapes: The Navigators and the Call From Beyond | Review

You and your friends have won a tour of the JPL facility in California! As you begin the tour you very quickly realize that something is wrong, and you and your friends must answer the CALL FROM BEYOND!

Rating: Good!
Completion Time: 22:42
Date Played: 11th April 2021
Party Size: 4
Recommended For: A team of exactly 4, playing via Zoom! Sci-fi fans!

Every review on this website marked with “Escape Game Olympics” you already know I was in a competitive “we’ve gotta race through this” mode, which means I’m aiming for the fastest score (at the expense of pausing to enjoy the game and take it slow). But HECK, worth it for a fantastically speedy score of 22:42 and 7th on the Escape Game Olympics’ leaderboard this week!

But this review isn’t about the EGO, it’s about The Navigators and the Call From the Beyond – a game as mysterious and sci-fi as the name suggests, and with the voice of actor Yuri Lowenthal in it, it’s definitely in the ‘extra special’ list. So here’s everything you need to know 👇

The Story

The story of The Navigators and the Call from Beyond takes you and 3 other friends on an adventure into the great unknown (space). On a tour of a space facility, you’re suddenly pulled into something that is much greater than the four of you… A call from the (literal) beyond. Aliens! Maybe? Well… By working together and solving various puzzles, you’re able to bring the game to a conclusion.

Reading back my own description, I probably have to say that this game isn’t too heavy on plot – it’s not central to what’s going on at all. Instead, it’s a super fast paced game and the reason why you’re there, or why it’s your responsibility to save the day isn’t immediately obvious. There’s an intro video which does give some explanation *cough* Secret NASA, but overall the main mechanic is to get you into the action as quickly as possible, and I know a lot of people will appreciate that!

The Experience

The Navigators and the Call From Beyond is played inside your web browser, so you’ll want to use Zoom or another video messaging service to connect to the other 3 players. Although built in Telescape, the creators have done something very unique that I’ve not seen before! It’s not your typical point-and-click.

Instead, each player can see a different screen. I opted to play as “Player 1”, so every time a new area loaded I had to immediately click on the Player 1 screen and ignore the other screens. This worked well to an extent, but 2 of our team were playing via the same screen, so had to hop between Player 3 and 4. For this reason, you can play with less than a team of 4. Essentially, if they want to, everyone can see everyone else’s screen! So on the occasion I’d finished a puzzle early, I could hop onto Screen 2 and help out my fellow team mate (and vice versa).

At the end of each level a password needs to be inputted to proceed, and then we were presented with a video which set the scene. The video parts of the game were easily my favourite! There’s a strong retro ‘sci-fi’ vibe to this whole game which looks GORGEOUS in the animations and cut scenes. If you know me, you know I love that retro stuff. Hourglass Escapes really smashed it! It’s simply the icing on the cake to also have such a cool actor narrating the game too.

A unique interface combined with some beautiful aesthetics make this an all round great experience in my books. I love a bit of sci-fi on a Sunday afternoon, and I feel like the creators have done something special with the tools available to them.

The Puzzles

Each of the puzzles in The Navigators and the Call from Beyond are centred around the idea that all four team members have 1/4 of the puzzle. Personally, I adore puzzles like this! You have to work together to make sense of the bigger picture – it’s true collaboration!

In some cases, the puzzles were completely self contained and each solution at the end would give us the password to the next phase. In other cases, we could each see a portion of something and had to work together. It reminded me a little bit of Escape from the Two Base Stations (a game like this for 2), or The Pyramid (a game like this for 3) – but the best part about this one? The more players! More the merrier, eh?

Generally speaking, you can expect to encounter a good mix of puzzles! As I played as “Player 1” I did miss out on some of the puzzles my team mates tackled, so I’ll speak for myself only! But players can expect to encounter cipher puzzles, puzzles that involve you searching in a 360 Google Maps style interface, puzzles where you have to navigate through a maze, and puzzles with plenty of anagrams!

The only piece of constructive criticism I’d like to mention is that there’s not enough. Both from a “ooh this game was fun I want more” perspective, and also from a “we finished it in 20 minutes perspective”. Yes, yes, I was playing this competitively so I’m bound to have raced through it, but we all concluded that there could have been 2, maybe 3 more levels to the game to make it feel more full.

I do know that the creators plan to make a Part 2 of this game though, so I’ll be eagerly awaiting this!

Overall

Good fun! I’d seen this game advertised a lot, and Escape Game Olympics or not I was going to play it anyway. Being able to tackle it with an ace team of 4 (shout out to Escaping the Closet) made it all the more fun, and I’d definitely recommend this to anybody looking for that retro space vibe, folks who enjoy collaborating, and of course fans of Yuri Lowenthal(‘s voice).

The Navigators and the Call from Beyond can be purchased for $24.99 USD (currently reduced to $19.99) on Hourglass Escape’s website here.

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