The Altas Mystery (VR) | Review

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The Atlas Mystery Review | Explore the haunted halls of the infamous Atlas Theater, a 1940’s era movie palace that played host to a shocking Hollywood tragedy. Solve intricate puzzles, discover startling artifacts, and evade sinister forces to uncover the twisted truth behind the theater’s dark history.

Developer: Top Right Corner
Date Played: April 2022
Console: Oculus Quest 2
Number of Players: 1
Time Taken: 3 hours

The Atlas Mystery… Just, wow!

This is one of those games that I’ve been aware of for a long time. As frequent readers might know, I’m a game developer in my day job so I spend time on (read as: doom-scroll) “game dev twitter” a lot. Given the overlap with “escape room twitter” it wasn’t long before I spotted The Atlas Mystery. Let’s just say it ticks a lot of boxes for me. Virtual reality, 1940s noire, an old abandoned movie theatre, a grisly murder… And ghosts?! Ugh, a thousand times yes please!

 

 

The Atlas Mystery is a classic escape room game in every sense of the word. Whereas other ‘escape room VR games’ do things in virtual reality that simply would not be possible in real life, The Atlas Mystery takes another approach: it pushes the players to do exactly things they would do in real life, but in a virtual setting. Funnily enough, this style of gameplay was oddly refreshing. I found myself pushed to gently twisting dials with a shaky hand, holding up film negatives to the light, unplugging and rewiring complex panels, and even using a handheld shovel to scoop freshly popped popcorn into a cup. Yes, really!

 

Alone in the Atlas Theatre…

I’ve played many real life escape rooms that don’t even come close to the spooky atmosphere that The Atlas Mystery creates. It’s a vast space, and no matter how much you squint there are certain dark corners that remain eerily shrouded in shadow. In particular, near the start of the game I found myself standing behind a counter faded with a completely dark, unknown space beyond the barrier. Having replayed the game a few times now, I’m sure there’s nothing out there in the dark – but there’s no other feeling quite like it standing there, convinced shadows of bad omens are just inches away if only you reach your fingertips out into the dark.

*shudders*

In particular, I loved being about to run around such a huge space uninhibited. Okay, okay, spooky shadows aside, this video game truly felt like you had an enormous space to play around with. A whole lobby area, plenty of side rooms, a lift taking you to other floors with winding corridors, and film rooms a-plenty. The best part? None of this space felt dead in any way whatsoever. Even the long stretches of corridor felt well placed to build up nerves to a state of heightened tension. Then, at the end, each new room was packed with exciting puzzles and objects to interact with.

 

 

Is that a gun?!

One of the absolute best reasons to play The Atlas Mystery however has a clue in it’s name.

Yes, that’s right… The ATLAS!

No, no, I’m kidding. The MYSTERY.

This game has a really well-thought out storyline in it that, whilst I glazed over at the start, I found myself retracing my steps to pick up every little scrap of paper I found to piece together the story in my head. It’s an eerie sort of murder mystery, and I won’t go into spoilers, but I will say it’s well worth the read. There’s been a terrible and grisly Hollywood tragedy, will you be able to figure it out?

 

 

Crack the Codes, Unlock the Doors

In terms of difficulty, I personally found The Atlas Mystery definitely to be on the hard side. I believe a well-seasoned escapist may solve this in around an hour, but I took well over 3 hours over a couple of days. I found the game so difficult in fact there were a few moments I thought I might put the headset down and call it quits. But no sooner than I’d wake up the next morning, I’d already find myself itching to return to those eerie, empty halls of the film theatre in search of a clue I may have missed.

Some of that ‘difficulty’ comes down to the controls however, which is an issue hard to overcome in virtual reality. On more than one occasion I’d have the correct tool but be unable to ‘place’ it carefully enough that the result would trigger. A good example of this are the keys, and there’s a fair few keys in this game. Encountering these hiccups, I’d assume I’d got the puzzle incorrect, and move on trying many more things before returning to try again. With many interactable objects in this game there’s a certain “sweet spot” to touching them that I found very easy to miss. Despite that, I congratulate the development team on their originality in this space. VR is not an easy medium to create a game in (take it from me, I’ve worked on plenty!) and their commitment to making each object feel real within your hand is fantastic.

Besides, once you get the hang of the little movement quirks in the game, it’s easy enough to pick up.

As a final note on control and movement, since you can move around either by teleportation or with the joystick, I’d probably also put this at the “medium” risk of motion sickness. Remember – teleportation is often a lot more comfortable for new VR users, so if you plan on spending a long time in The Atlas Mystery, it’s best use the teleportation function!

 

The Verdict

For a while, I wasn’t sure where The Atlas Mystery’s dice would fall for this review. It was a slow burning game that took a while to get me hooked on it, but once it did I kept coming back for more. The puzzles were challenging, but immensely satisfying once you finally figure them out and by the end of the game… Could it be… I actually wanted more?! A lot more! More floors, more environments, more story, and most of all more puzzles.

I would say it’s not a perfect game. But I think the developers still did an exemplary job creating a fun and lengthy escape room that felt full of- well, life is the wrong word, but full of unease. I enjoyed spending time in The Atlas Mystery and I definitely think it would appeal to the average escape room enthusiast. With a lack of really good VR escape room games out there, The Atlas Mystery will fit well into the existing catalogue and will be sure to be a cult favourite among enthusiasts.

 

 

The Atlas Mystery can be played on Oculus, and Steam VR. To chose your platform, head to their website here.

VRCave: Space Station Tiberia | Review

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Space Station Tiberia Review | Become a member of the Space Station Tiberia crew and to save the planet from a unavoidable catastrophe in this free-roaming VR Escape room! Enjoy the unprecedented level of immersion: walk around the room (up to 4 people) and use your logic and teamwork to succeed. Don’t expect this to be an easy task. The clock is ticking and the challenge you’re about to face is very real.

Date Played: November 2021
Number of Players: 2
Time Taken: 35 minutes
Difficulty: Hard!

Space Station Tiberia is free-roam virtual escape room that is available at a number of locations across the UK (and the world!). We originally played it at DNA VR, a fantastic little VR arcade located in the new build near Battersea Power Station. You can read more about this venue in our guide here. In this review, I want to reflect both the general experience of this game (that’s likely identical wherever you play it), and our specific visit to DNA VR.

Image (c) DNA VR

About DNA VR

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.

As well as all of the Ubisoft escape room games, you can play a number of other free-roam and fixed position VR experiences, including this one.

About Space Station Tiberia

Space Station Tiberia is an exciting, fast-pace virtual reality ‘escape room’ that places you, a team of astronauts on a space station, in the unenviable position of stopping a meteor from crashing into Earth and destroying the planet. You have just 35 minutes, but the only problem is your Meteor Defense Platform is broken – no pressure, hey!

Throughout this experience you have two goals:

  1. Fix the space station!
  2. Stop the asteroid

The game begins inside a very clean and clinical space station. A lot more high tech and comfortable than the ISS – so we must be living in the near future! After an initial ship-fixing first 20 minutes, you spend your last 10 outside the ship in a very cool outro sequence fighting off asteroids.

The best thing about Space Station Tiberia is that it is free roam. normally in VR escape rooms you’re fixed in one spot. Sure, you can sometimes teleport location but largely the puzzles come to you. In this game, you could move freely throughout the room in any direction. We had to crouch down, stretch up, and peer around corners to succeed in this room. oh- and of course we bumped into each other quite a fair few times! Haha!

But let me tell you, it is hard! Though unfortunately, not in a good way where we walked out satisfied that we’d solved a lot of puzzles. It was obtusely difficult. For starters, outside information was required which is a big no-no in escape rooms. I was lucky to be playing with someone who knew the answer, but otherwise we may have needed to skip that puzzle. Secondly, it made use of VR in an unconventional way. Small spoiler incoming – one of the puzzles required you to balance objects on top of each other to reach a high up place, a nearly impossible feat in virtual reality and didn’t really quite us to ‘solve’ anything either.

That said, if we look at the experience less like an escape room and more like a general VR game, then it makes a little more sense and becomes more enjoyable. It’s a fairly solid first-generation (if such a thing exists in the VR world) escape room that challenges small teams to perform quite manual puzzles around a space ship. There are more than a few action-centric scenes of shooting asteroids and lifting and throwing things around, but mostly it’s enjoyable to be in a sci-fi environment unlike anything else you can play ‘in real life’.

After Space Station Tiberia…

We finished the ‘escape room’ with a little extra time on the clock and were invited by our games master Chris to play another, much shorter experience: The 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 we both loved Hospital of Horrors a lot more than Space Station Tiberia. It’s a truly creepy experience that really pushes what is possible in VR and one we’d definitely recommend everyone try. So not quite an escape room but if you’re looking for something unique in VR then this is where it’s at!

Player beware, you’re in for a scare!

The Verdict

We had a great time at DNA VR, it’s a great venue and our host was fantastic. Did we love Space Station Tiberia? Honestly, not particularly, but I do like the genre of escape room in VR and I really, really liked that this one was free roam. It gives the player a chance to do some very cool actions and solve puzzles that simply wouldn’t be possible in real life. But hey, there are better experiences to try out in VR (some of those also available at DNA VR!) if you want to do something very special.

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

A Fisherman’s Tale | Review

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A Fisherman’s Tale Review | Playing as a tiny fisherman puppet, you live alone in your tiny cabin, oblivious to the world outside. When your radio broadcasts a storm alert, you have to climb the lighthouse to turn on the light! As you leave your cabin with the help of some uncanny sidekicks, you realize what’s waiting outside is not at all what you expected…

Developer: Innerspace VR
Date Played: December 2021
Console: Oculus
Number of Players: 1
Time Taken: 2 hours

In my day job, talking about VR comes up a lot. Big words like “the metaverse” are thrown around, but really what people want to know is what is VR and what kind of thing can you do with it. When these conversations come up, there’s one game I return to over and over again.

“If you want to see what VR can do, play the puzzle game A Fisherman’s Tale”

It’s a phrase I say a lot when talking about video games versus real life brick and mortar escape rooms, but Fisherman’s Tale is a fantastic example of something that simply would not be possible in any other medium. You shrink down and look up at a giant version of yourself in an infinite tessellation of wooden fishermen solving puzzles in synchronised movements. And let me tell you: It… Is… Wild!

Tiny Fisherman Lighthouse Inception

A Fisherman’s Tale is a classic escape room game. You’re quite literally, in a room. Your goal is quite simply to escape. Beyond this, the rest is purely details. But oh what delicious details they are!

The game begins with a lighthouse keeper who wakes up every day and does the same thing. He brushes his teeth, washes his face, and then he sits down at his desk and carves a tiny wooden version of himself and puts it in a tiny wooden version of the lighthouse. That tiny wooden lighthouse keeper wakes up, brushes his teeth, washes his face, and then he sits down at his desk and carves a tiny wooden version of himself.

It’s like Inception, but better.

The whole game’s mechanics from that moment onward centre around the central premise that whatever action you’re doing in your lighthouse, there is a tiny model in the middle of the lighthouse with a model fisherman doing the exact same thing. And, if you look outside your window, there is a giant model version of yourself performing the same actions.

The puzzles are therefore solved with some clever thinking outside of the box. If an object is too small, hand it to your tiny doppelganger, and your giant self will hand it to you. Need water? Flood your model and your own room will become flooded, and so on.

Reality is bended, and to be honest, so is my mind as I play.

Small Actions, Big Consequences

But what’s the hurry little fisherman? Well, there’s a ship stuck in the storm outside and if you don’t get your lighthouse lit in time it could crash into the waves. But what can you do as a tiny wooden lighthouse keeper? Well, you’ll find out just how powerful your small actions can be!

The puzzles in A Fisherman’s Tale were just delightful and the whole experience was made all the better for existing in virtual reality. You have the ability to walk around your space, open cupboards, unlock boxes, and hand things back and forth to the infinite versions of yourself. For the 4 hours you play, you forget it’s a game (until your hip bumps into the edge of a table in real life – OW!).

Like a lot of video games and unlike a lot of escape rooms, although the goal is to escape the puzzles are quite search-and-find. In VR this is a lot of fun and works well, but ultimately you’re rushing around and looking for the correct equipment to achieve your goal. Whether that be opening a can of tuna, building a boat, or reaching a high up shelf.

It Feels Like A Modern Fairy Tale

My favourite thing about A Fisherman’s Tale are the vibes. Or, in common English, the atmosphere and general feeling. There’s something about the game that is so indescribably magical and engrossing, like you’re the main character of your own whimsical fairy tale.

The whole game is a beautifully coloured cell-shaded experience. This is both to be comfortable in VR and to look ‘wooden’ – you are after all made of wood. Each level in the game is structured like a chapter – Chapter 1, the beginning and so on through to beginning, middle and end. Along the way you meet other characters and you even made friends with the gentle, French voice over narrator of the story.

The Verdict

Despite my gushing about the game, A Fisherman’s Tale has one major problem. A huge huge problem…

It’s not long enough.

At around 3, maybe 4 hours if you take your time, it’s over all too quickly. I could happily play this game for months and emerge with a scraggly beard down to my ankles having not encountered a real human being in a lifetime and still be beaming with happiness.

The company is rightfully named “Vertigo” and that’s a little of the feeling you get playing the game. Looking down upon a tiny version of yourself who is also looking down on an even tinier version of himself is a wild feeling. It’s like falling, but falling over and over into a world you very much want to be in.

Once the novelty of sticking your giant head through the roof of your own cabin wears off, what’s left is a beautiful and whimsical tale of a little fisherman in his lighthouse trying to save a bot stuck at sea. I cried, I laughed, and I regret it ending too soon.

A Fisherman’s Tale can be purchased on the Oculus shop here.

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!

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

Rainbow Reactor: Fusion | Review

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Rainbow Reactor: Fusion Review | Clock in to the Rainbow Reactor, a fast-moving VR adventure that fuses story-driven exploration with frantic color-matching gameplay. Explore a sprawling, forgotten factory that produced the cleanest energy around (probably…) Once operated by the eccentric Alfred Luzian von Hoffenhasselbrock, the Reactor is filled with clues, secrets and grumpy robots! Can you clean up this mess, solve the mystery of Alfred’s disappearance and bring the color back to the Rainbow Reactor?

Developer: Tunermaxx
Console Played On: Oculus Quest
Time Taken: 6 Hours +
Difficulty: Easy
Number Of Players: 1

Wait… Rainbow Reactor? I’ve heard of that game! If this looks familiar, there’s a good reason! Rainbow Reactor: Fusion is the sequel to a popular VR game of the same name (Rainbow Reactor) from a few years back.

This time, the developers have added a whole story mode. With more story comes more mystery and more exploration to be had. It fleshes out the Rainbow Reactor world, and frankly I am here for it!

Adventure Meets Colour-Matching Meets Escape Game

Rainbow Reactor: Fusion is what you get if you combine the traditional “match three” mini-game popularised on mobile, with a creepy old abandoned factory with a dark past, hidden objects and things to discover and unlock, with a sassy robot. It’s a mix of so many genres I don’t even know where to begin on this… But this is after all an escape room reviews site, so we’ll stick to what we know best: good old fashioned puzzle and mystery!

Despite throwing a lot of genres into the mix and hoping for the best, I was actually pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed playing Rainbow Reactor: Fusion. Each of the different genres complemented each other well, and were paced out so nicely throughout the game to provide some variety. for sure, it didn’t need to be VR, but it was made all the better for it with some very fun exploration sequences!

So what is the escape room aspect of this game…

Escape the Factory

You play the distant relative of the eccentric Alfred Luzian von Hoffenhasselbrock who has come to the Rainbow Reactor after the factory has fallen into disrepair. Since the factory powers the whole district, it’s up to you to get it up and running again. You wouldn’t want a huge energy crisis on your hands, would you?

So not technically escape from the factory… It’s more like:

  • Break into the factory
  • Build up trust with the resident AI Dottie by completing tasks for her
  • Clean up the factory
  • Restore it’s power
  • Save the World
  • Then… escape from the factory

If this sounds pretty wacky then that’s because it is! The whole atmosphere of the game felt like a cross between Jazzpunk and Portal 2. There’s something so fun about returning to an abandoned site with nothing but a floating robot to help you figure out exactly what the heck is going on. This is Rainbow Reactor: Fusion. Now with added mini-games!

Light on Puzzles, Big on Fun

To solve the mystery, you have to jump through hoops. Scattered around the factory you’ll find a number of fuses, collect three of each and you can power on a number of Kiosks hidden around the site. These show you snippets of videos which slowly unravel the who, what, when, where and why. Other puzzles you’ll encounter involve elaborate systems of pipes and valves. After all, one of your primary goals is to get the factory working again – but don’t expect any instruction manuals, you’ll have to figure it out yourself!

I particularly enjoyed these moments spent exploring the factory and tweaking dials, following pipes, and trying to figure out what particular objects did. True, Rainbow Reactor: Fusion is light on puzzles – but it is big on fun.

If you’re not actually into all that puzzle stuff anyway, you can jump straight into arcade most and just play the match three mini-game, which consists of scooping up balls of paint and carefully throwing them into large, hexagonal grids in front of you to match colours and make them disappear.

As mentioned, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this. After watching the trailers I was a little bit dubious about having a popular mobile idle game loop one of the core gameplay mechanics – but Rainbow Reactor: Fusion really owns it and makes it it’s own. Inbetween solving hardcore puzzles in other VR games, I found myself drawn back into that old abandoned factory to play a couple of matches in arcade mode and see if I could beat my high score!

The Verdict

Overall, surprisingly fun! It may not appeal to your average escape room player – unless you’re also the type of player to enjoy an idle game or two on your phone inbetween escaping from rooms. But if you’re looking for more of an all-rounder game for your Oculus, one that gives you puzzles and had a party mode for your next game night, you could do a lot worse!

Be sure to give yourself plenty of space via the room scale boundary, and definitely keep the volume up loud when you play – you’ll not want to miss the catchy music!

Check out the developer, Tunermaxx’s page here.

Ratings

A Rogue Escape (VR) | Review

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A Rogue Escape Review | Your plan was simple: steal a giant, crawling mech, also known as a Nauticrawl, evade capture, and make a break for freedom. Find clues to unravel your whereabouts, but know – this is only the first of your many problems…

Developer: Spare Parts Oasis
Console Played On: Oculus Quest
Time Taken: 6 Hours +
Difficulty: Hard
Number Of Players: 1

Escape the Planet… Or Die (and Die, and Die) Trying

When trying to describe A Rogue Escape to friends and family, I settled on the following anecdote:

“You know when you start a new job and they load up some shiny new software on your computer and you’re like “Sure I know how to use this, how hard can it be?” and it turns out very hard indeed. You spend your first few weeks at the new job sweating at your desk pushing buttons on the software and hoping for the best.”

…Yeah, that’s kinda how A Rogue Escape went, and that’s exactly what the developer’s intended! You find yourself lost on a completely alien planet, and so in order to escape you take control of the Nauticrawl, a machine designed for traversing the foreign landscape. Except, you have no idea how it works. It’s built for an alien creature that looks nothing like you, and there’s an overwhelming amount of buttons and levels to push, dials to balance, and screens to keep an eye on. The game is trial and error. You will die, and you will die a lot. But heck, what do you expect? This is alien technology we’re dealing with and nobody is an expert at anything the first time they pick it up.

In some ways, it’s less of an escape room and more of an alien submarine simulator. On the other hand it’s the truest and most raw form of an escape room I’ve ever encountered. The developers have created a punishing and brilliant experience that would not be possible in real life. Like nothing else you’ll ever play.

The Evolution of A Rogue Escape

A Rogue Escape didn’t always start as a VR game however, the idea has gone through a lot of iterations in the past few years.

In September 2019, Spare Parts Oasis launched a PC game called Nauticrawl: 20,000 Atmospheres on Steam which was met with wide praise. Essentially, the concept was the same – pilot an alien Nauticrawl machine and escape from the inhospitable planet.

Last month in September 2021, Nauticrawl made it’s debut on iOS with another iteration of the puzzle game.

However, neither the PC nor iOS versions of the game are a direct port of one another. For sure, the idea and some of the puzzles are the same, but the games are different enough to give a whole new experience each time. The VR version in particular has been rebuilt from the ground up with a series of virtual, 3D environments to explore.

Mercilessly Difficult, Immensely Rewarding

So what exactly is A Rogue Escape? It’s an hour long escape room experience designed to challenge even the most veteran escapists! I say ‘an hour long’, then in truth I took around six hours to ‘complete the experience’, but this is mis-leading as each time you die you return to the beginning and must start again. From start, to finish, with skill and practise you’ll take no more than an hour… It’s the weeks (and months) of frustration learning the ropes and getting to that point that is at the core of A Rogue Escape.

Escape room players who are looking for pure puzzles may be slightly disappointed with A Rogue Escape. Put simply: the puzzle is figuring out what to do. If you enjoy this, you’ll be in your element, but if you prefer a little more signposting then the game may feel very frustrating.

One of the core gameplay loops is actually one of my favourite game mechanics ever, and I call it “plate spinning”. Some other games loosely in this genre include Don’t Feed the Monkeys, Papers, Please and Will Die Alone. Here, this takes the form of the sheer number of dials and meters you’ll need to keep an eye on. The visual clue of a dial slipping into red is followed by blaring alarms and, quite often, death. So as well as figuring out how to pilot the machine, players are also expected to keep a close eye on everything. One wrong move and it’s game over!

For sure, there are pros and cons with a game like this. On the one hand it’s realistic and tough like escape rooms typically aren’t. Your average escape room often contains irrelevant puzzles like “solve this cipher to give you a digit code to unlock a cupboard”. When was the last time you locked a cupboard shut with a 4 digit code, eh? A Rogue Escape’s puzzle experience is closer to what I’d actually expect a real alien submarine to be like. You never once need to break immersion, you’re just pushing and poking things and ‘solving’ the game without ever coming across anything like a traditional puzzle.

The downside is, it’s hard and I did struggle! I imagine a lot of people would not complete the game- and I only just managed it by spacing out my gameplay over weeks and months. This means it pitches at a more patient, forgiving, and enthusiast player – but that may not be a bad thing!

The Nauticrawl: A Virtual, Alien Space

A Rogue Escape uses Oculus’s roomscale settings to create a rather large, 3D space to play in. Quite literally, your living room is converted into an escape room, so you’ll need to be standing up and able to move freely around! Those levers and buttons aren’t going to push themselves.

Despite the large play area you’ll need, the experience is very claustrophobic. From the moment you don your headset you’ll be utterly immersed in the alien world, without a single porthole to look through. It’s anxiety-fuelling, sweaty, and oppressive. Everything beyond your Nauticrawl was left up to the imagination and I love that!

All you know is that you’re running for your life from aliens… But what do they look like? What did they do to you and your people? What even is this world?

The Verdict

I’m scoring it low on puzzles, but very high on immersion. In fact, so high we’ve decided to award A Rogue Escape our “I Believe” award for being outstandingly immersive. Every time I donned the headset on I was transported to this creepy, eerie and very tense world. I’d emerge 30 minutes later sweating, and occasionally shaking, doubting what was real and not. It’s so true to what a ‘real’ escape room should be, it almost goes beyond the genre entirely and for that we’re impressed!

Personally, I think the game might have been a little easier. Yes, yes, it turns out I am one of those people who prefers more signposting in my escape room experiences. But if you take a step back and take the game for what it actually is and not by the standards of what we’re used to, it’s clear it’s something special!

The Room VR: A Dark Matter | Review

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The British Institute of Archaeology, London, 1908: The disappearance of an esteemed Egyptologist prompts a Police investigation into the unknown. Explore cryptic locations, examine fantastic gadgets and uncover an otherworldly discovery which blurs the line between reality and illusion.

Time Played: 4 hours
Console: PSVR / Oculus Quest
Recommended For: An exceptional VR escape room game, and fans of The Room series

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 video game, transporting you into a series of steampunk-come-Victoriana spaces to solve a series of escape room puzzles transposed into the video game world. The premise is deceptively simple, yet Fireproof Games does it so well.

When I finally got my hands on a VR headset (the PSVR if anyone is interested), The Room was my very first download. In fact, I’d even go so far as to say that I only bought the PSVR in order to play The Room VR. It did not disappoint.

Victorian London & A Curious Case

The Room VR: A Dark Matter begins with you, a Victorian detective working a rather curious case. An Egyptologist has gone missing and your team of bobbies have rounded up and collected the evidence at your station in Bloomsbury. But late one night something starts whispering to you.

You discover this Egyptologist had on their possession an artefact that allows one to travel in time and space. This artefact you stumble upon is a piece in a far greater mystery than the one assigned to you. Following in the footsteps of three treasure seekers, you’ll explore an old museum, a peculiar church, and a witch’s cottage.

Your goal ultimately is to solve the case of the missing Egyptologist but in doing so you may just uncover more than your wildest imagination ever suspected.

An Eyepiece for Every Puzzle

The gameplay is based on a nodal system, meaning you can point and teleport to various locations around the room. On the one hand, it’s great for keeping you focused on the task and hand and not missing important details. On the other, the world’s Fireproof Games have created are beautiful, and I’d have loved to explore some more. At each location you can move the camera angle left and right, to avoid craning your neck around to see something behind you, or flailing your arms in the wrong direction.

A moment’s silence for all the cups I’ve knocked off my table whilst playing other VR games.

At each location, you’ve the option to interact with your surroundings as-is, or don a mysterious eyepiece. Fans of the Room will recognise this from earlier games. The idea is simple – the eyepiece reveals the unseen. Another dimension the ability to become very small, or mysterious floating orbs that must be dragged into place to proceed. You know, just typical other-worldly interdimensional stuff.

The eyepiece also adds a supernatural element which I really enjoyed. At times, activating the eyepiece reveals a memory of an action that occurred. The action often sets the scene, but in other cases merely hints at where players should look first.

The Verdict

The only problem? It wasn’t long enough! Excluding the intro and the outro, there are really only three spaces to explore. In a haze of excitement at finishing, I’m not entirely sure how this compares with it’s non-VR counterparts, but the whole experience did fall rather short. I found myself artificially waiting before picking up the headset again just to be able to say “oh, it took me a week”. But the truth is most players will complete this in under 4 hours. So one, to two sittings at most.

That said, if you’re a fan of the series you won’t be disappointed. The Room VR: A Dark Matter is every bit exciting, and twenty times more immersive than any in the series before it.

The Room VR: Dark Matter can be played on PSVR or Oculus. Find out more on Fireproof Games’ website here.

clueQuest: Beyond Medusa’s Gate | Review

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In an age of eloquent philosophers, merciless gods, and death-promising oracles. Somewhere on the Peloponnese peninsula, in a vast Aegean coastal cave, an old artefact has been hidden. It could be the legendary ship of the Argonauts… Using the Animus simulation program and our database of recorded genetic memories, we will send you back to Greece. Find the ship, if it exists…

Rating: Immersive!
Completion Time: 50:02
Date Played: 3rd June 2021
Party Size: 4
Recommended For: Fans of Assassin’s Creed, Ancient Greece, and VR

So if you remember back to my 30 Before 30 post:

16. Introduce ALL my closest friends to the joys of escape rooms!

It took me exactly 2 days from writing that to booking Beyond Medusa’s Gate at clueQuest for 2 of my best friends (who have never done an escape room) to experience. I think Ubisoft’s escape room games are ‘gateway escape rooms’, ideal for a team of experienced video game players to get into the vibe. And how was it? SO MUCH FUN!

*excited screaming in Ancient Greek*

About the Game

Beyond Medusa’s Gate is part of the Ubisoft Escape Games series. They’re all short (around 1 hour) VR escape room experiences set in the worlds of Assassin’s Creed. Unlike Assassin’s Creed, you can’t play these at home so you’ll have to find an escape room near you to play them at. In my opinion, the best place in London is clueQuest, but if that’s a little far to travel you should check and see if there’s anywhere closer.

The other games in the series are:

  • The Dagger of Time (based on Prince of Persia)
  • Escape the Lost Pyramid (based on AC: Origins)

I’m quietly hoping they make an escape room on my favourite in the series, Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla so that I can live out my Viking fantasy life and scale some cool mountains whilst solving puzzles. But a girl can dream!

The Story

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.

Even though this location is lost to time, stepping into the shoes of puzzle solvers from thousands of years ago enabled us to seek out this treasure. So who were our Animus counterparts? We emerged in the bodies of…

3 bald old men and one strapping young lad.

This is entirely by choice, of course. How could we possibly resist going for the ‘old man’ in the character selection!? To me, it just makes the story even more immersive. Perhaps we are three gay dads taking our son on an outing? Or perhaps it’s a day trip from the old folks home? The story is whatever you make of it!

The Gameplay

Any VR game is really hard to get into it if you’re not used to it, and one of our team had never played any VR before. Thankfully the introductory part of your quest is all about communication and finding your feet. The team were also super patient with us past any technical hitches.

Once we’d found our feet, we were off to a flying start through the game and it is a LOT of fun. Having now played all three VR experiences at clueQuest I would rank this one as probably the best for beginners as it’s got a great story, not too difficult puzzles, and some great game mechanics (what can I say, I love a bow and arrow).

Beyond Medusa’s Gate can be played in a team of 2 or a team of 4 as you’ll have split into two groups at various points throughout the game and complete tasks on opposite sides of the cave in tandem. The game begins, after a brief customisation area, alone inside a dark room. This is a kind of ‘demo’ area which helps you get to grips with the controls – teleporting, grabbing, sliding, pushing, setting fire to yourself. You know, typical VR game stuff. Once you’ve cracked the first area, you’re reunited with your teammates and the journey toward Medusa’s Gate begins.

The Puzzles

Less the puzzles, the real stand out is the mechanics of this game. VR allows you to do things not possible in a physical space. For starters, the area is HUGE. You can clime to incredibly high locations and fire bows and arrows at moving targets and even interact with magic. Most of the puzzles you’ll encounter are literally impossible in real life, unless you have a billion pound budget and a set the size of my entire block of apartments.

In terms of difficulty, Beyond Medusa’s Gate isn’t terribly hard. Again, this makes it great for a beginner team, or a team more accustomed to playing video games than escape rooms (though now I’m quietly hoping a ‘real life’ escape room won’t be a letdown for my friends when they ask “Where’s the waterfall and 100 ft drop?”).

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.

For a casual Wednesday evening before a pub trip, the difficulty was just right!

clueQuest

Since Beyond Medusa’s Gate is available at lots of escape rooms and VR cafes, I’ll take a moment to also mention our experience specifically at cluequest! We were hosted by Games Master Josiah *cough* I mean our Agent Handler was Josiah. Despite some technical issues with the VR halfway through, he was super professional and helpful in both keeping us on track and reassuring members of our team less familiar with VR.

I always have a fantastic time at clueQuest, from the moment you spot the sign as you walk down the road, to waiting in the bright lobby, to interacting with the team – I love it! Today was no different and a huge thank you to them for making us feel so welcome.

Beyond Medusa’s Gate can be booked at clueQuest for £25 – £30 pp on their website here.