Escape Academy Review

Editors Note: Escape Academy is our Project Game Pass game for the month of August 2022. You can find our other PGP games here.

Coming immediately off of playing the excellent We Were Here Forever, myself and Tavern member Graham were glad to see our co-op puzzling ways could continue thanks to Coin Crew’s recent Game Pass addition, Escape Academy. It shares some similar ideas and execution, but differs in just enough ways to make it a unique experience that we rather enjoyed.

Indeed, in Escape Academy we follow a light but charming story of an exceptional escape artist. Having conquered unseen tests prior to the start of the game, we’re enrolled with the titular academy in order to fully test our abilities and earn the coveted Escape Academy seal. What follows are just shy of a dozen escape rooms that often expand far beyond single rooms, more likely to be a series of areas and tests that interlink.

Each of these rooms are excellently designed. Before we begin we’re given a difficulty rating and time limit (ranging from 15 to 45 minutes, although a couple of filler areas have no limits) that lets us know just what kind of challenge we’re in for. Knowing we only have a certain amount of time to complete the rooms means the opening minutes are a mad dash of finding out what and where the puzzles are, and hopefully stumbling cross a handful of items and clues at the same time.

Unlike the aforementioned We Were Here, the puzzles in Escape Academy tend to fall on the easier side. A large portion of them are a case of finding a combination for a padlock, or a specific word trigger, though the methods to find these do vary quite nicely. Other times, we’re hastily trying to piece together pieces of a literal puzzle, or trying to solve more abstract clue-based scenarios. Across our playthrough we only encountered two puzzles that truly stumped us, although the solutions were actually far simpler than we were trying – perhaps our WWHF minds were still in play, with the puzzles there proving to be far meatier in terms of challenge.

There is a handy hint system in place for when stuckage occurs, and the clues given are balanced just right in terms of giving us a lead without spelling the solution out. We can opt for more detailed hints should the first few not do much, but we found that usually the first one was enough to set us on the way.

In co-op, items can be traded between players easily, and even in online co-op the game is played in a vertical splitscreen format. This has the benefit of allowing both players to see two perspectives at once, as well as any clues we’ve pinned to our view that may help out. Often times this boiled down to me staring at a clue while Graham input the answer on the opposite side of the room, but it also allowed us to tackle separate puzzles in each area at once, with advice and help easily sought without the other playing needing to stop what they were doing.

The time limits in each room are pretty generous – our two stuck points being the only time we even approached the limit – and we’re graded at the end based on time taken as well as amount of hints used. Going back in to get a better grade should be easy enough though, as once a puzzle is cleared we can replay it at any time from our dorm room. Sadly, there’s no evidence of any randomisation here though, which could have made repeat plays that bit more taxing and alluring. While this is no doubt inherent in the puzzle genre, having codes or keys able to be randomised could have had us coming back time and again to play As it is, the only incentive to replay would be to speed run the rooms in search of a better grade.

Conclusion

We cleared all of the rooms in roughly 5 hours over a couple of nights, and we had a blast doing so. The lack of replayability aside, there’s a lot to enjoy within Escape Academy. Each room feels different enough, even when all we’re doing is finding another four digit number or word, and the fluffy tale underpinning the affair is easy enough to just sit back and enjoy without too much thought. Launching into Game Pass was a great choice, hopefully exposing it to more players, and whether you play it alone or in co-op, this is a great way to spend an evening or two.

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This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox Series X/S (via a Game Pass Ultimate subscription). All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.
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Good
  • Clever escape room puzzles
  • Co-op implementation is great
  • Charmingly light story
Bad
  • No randomisation in previously solved rooms
  • Puzzles can be a tad easy throughout
8
Great
Written by
I've been gaming since Spy vs Spy on the Master System, growing up as a Sega kid before realising the joy of multi-platform gaming. These days I can mostly be found on smaller indie titles, the occasional big RPG and doing poorly at Rainbow Six: Siege. Gamertag: Enaksan

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