The coronavirus pandemic has seriously changed nearly everything about how I live my daily life. Just getting together with friends has become an increasingly difficult thing to arrange and accomplish. I haven’t played many games in person in the past few months, and almost no socializing outside of my family unit. Things like going to soccer matches or going out to dinner are not an option. Right now, meeting friends to do an escape room is also an impossibility. As it turns out, that experience has been modified to be able to be done at home!
The Escape Game has been one of the favorites of this blog. We have reviewed a number of their products including:
- In person escape rooms (here in Cincinnati and also in Minnesota!)
- Their escape room board game – Escape from Iron Gate
- The take home escape room version (As well as the online version – Episode 2)
Now, there is the next evolution in the series – playing the physical escape rooms over Zoom.
Wha? Exactly – I said that myself. Well, how is that going to work?
From the website: “Your team will communicate with each other and a Host at The Escape Game using Zoom. You’ll explore the room by directing a Game Guide that’s streaming a live camera feed from the physical environment and by searching 360 images. Use what you find in the room and the items in your digital dashboard to progress through the adventure. You have 60 minutes, can you escape?”
So, as it turns out, we here at the OG are already familiar with the story of the Heist – the TEG:Unlocked episodes (buy here thru our affiliate link) that we have reviewed are an extension of this physical room. Interestingly, no one from our group had played the physical room, so it was the perfect choice to try out here.
The backstory: ‘Your world-class espionage outfit has landed you inside a prestigious art museum. A recently stolen masterpiece is presumed hidden within the office of the museum’s egotistical curator, Vincent Hahn. With the help of your intelligence agent on the outside, you have one hour to find your way into Hahn’s office, recover the painting, and slip away before Hahn returns”
I was super intrigued with the whole process. I’ve done a number of escape rooms in the past, and man, when I’m in the room, I’m always wandering around, looking for clues in all sorts of different places, trying light switches, checking under sofa cushions and under lampshades. How would it work when I’m not in the room, but instead relying upon a GoPro camera strapped to the head of the host? Would there only be one camera? Would we end up getting too many inadvertent clues because the host kept automatically looking at the things that we needed to be looking at next?
I watched this video, and I got excited about the possibilities
So how did it work?
First, it’s pretty easy to book a time slot, just get on the website, and choose an escape room that you want to do, and a time that works for your group. Our group was spread around the country, so it was nice that they had a bunch of time slots to choose from. Make sure to remember that TEG headquarters is physically located in Nashville, TN, so all their times are Central Time Zone! We almost booked the wrong time as I couldn’t read the instructions… Here is an example of a day next week – look at all the possible time slots!
Once you find a slot and pay for it, you’ll get a confirmation email and then you’ll get a zoom code in an email just prior to the time. I just sent this out to all of the players in our group, and we logged in a few minutes before the scheduled start time. Given the timed nature of the event, I’d definitely recommend the early arrival. This will give everyone time to make sure that their AV works, etc.
You show up online, and the host meets you in a Zoom conference. For our game, our host was in Dallas, and we had players from Ohio, Kentucky and California. It takes maybe 5 minutes to get everyone acquainted with the format, and then you’re off to solve the room – still with the same one hour time limit. You will be talking to the Host as needed in the Zoom conference. You will also have a Field Agent – a second employee – who is actually in the room, and he/she will look, touch, manipulate, taste, or do whatever you ask to the things in the room.
What you end up doing is splitting your screen in two, with the zoom conference on one side and the “Dashboard” on the other. The Dashboard is a real time digital repository of information. As you look at things that are important, they show up on your dashboard. You can get a closer look at these things on your computer, so you don’t have to ask the person in the room to look at them again. Each portion of the room also comes with a 360-degree photo so you can virtually explore the room on your own as well. If you think you see something interesting in the photo, you can then direct the Field Agent to get a closer look at.
Here is what I see in the dashboard:
As the field agent looks around, they describe the things that they see. Sure, there might be some extra clues given in the verbal description of things, but I think this is balanced out by the loss of time that comes from having to look at everything through the eyes of someone else – well, someone else’s smartphone. But, if I see something in the 3D picture that I want to get a close up of, I can direct the Field Agent to go look at anything. We had a good time trying to give him ridiculous commands, and surprisingly, the Field Agent really did try to do most of the things we asked of him.
For instance, when I asked to look at the plaque on the statue in the foreground of the above 3d picture, here is what popped up in my Inventory:
I thought that we had a fairly smooth solve of the room, not needing to request any specific hints – though I do think we got a few inadvertent hints from the Field Agent – though we did have four fairly veteran escape roomers in our group. It was a fairly engrossing 51 minute experience, and one that we all seemed to enjoy. The one major improvement from my standpoint was that all the players got to participate in all of the puzzle solutions when doing the room remotely. Normally, in a physical room, players often disperse themselves around the room, each trying to find some clues. What usually happens is that someone finds a puzzle, solves it on their own, and then a door clicks open. Given the timed nature of the room, usually that puzzle isn’t explained to the other players, you just move on to see the next thing. Here, we only have one set of eyes (the Field Agent), and as a result, everyone gets to see the bulk of the puzzle solving. This was a big advantage of the remote version. It was also a lot easier to communicate (IMHO) over zoom than trying to yell at each other.
The downside of the Field Agent is that any advantage gained from having a larger group is somewhat neutralized as there is only one camera in the room to look at things. Of course, the Dashboard does help give everyone a chance to look at things on their own, so maybe it actually evens out in the end. Also, it was impossible for James Nathan to try on any of the clothes in the room in this virtual format. Though… I wonder in the post-coronavirus era, if he’ll still be so willing to try on the assorted blazers, turbans and whatever else we come across in the physical escape rooms….
It was not a perfect implementation – there were a few mild glitches, but honestly, I was impressed at how smoothly the whole thing went. I did have occasional frustrations when the Field Agent’s phone camera wouldn’t focus well – but the Dashboard usually made up for it. If there was anything that I really needed to look at, I had a better resolution image on my dashboard. Also, for the first few minutes, we had some audio issues as there was some background music playing in the room and it wanted to override us in our zoom conference (as the software tries to allow the loudest voice to take precedence over the others). But, beside those quibbles, it really worked well, and I was impressed with the thought put into the translation of the physical escape room into the remote format.
After our game, we did have a few minutes to chat with the host, and we found out that a few things were changed from the physical room setup to make the remote experience somewhat more streamlined. The gist of the puzzles were all the same, but maybe some of the more tedious explorations were curtailed a bit. I won’t go into much more detail to prevent spoilers, other than to comment that I wish all escape rooms came with someone else to do my dexterity puzzles – it would save me a lot of time in solving the rooms!
On the whole, the Remote Adventure experience was very enjoyable. The cost is reasonable at $25/person. It is a little bit less than you’d pay for the in-person experience, but then again, you also don’t get the in-person experience. The price is reasonable considering that you’re paying for the time of the 2 employees for the escape room as well as the clean up and resetting that goes on behind the scenes. Also, since the games are run out of physical The Escape Game locations, there are all the fixed costs that go with keeping a location open – which is made harder because most of them still can’t have actual in-person rooms going right now…
The in-person The Escape Game rooms have been amongst the best that I’ve done, and I was worried that the remote verision would pale in comparison. But… as our game today proved; you can still get an impressively immersive hour of entertainment from the comfort of your own house. We were still hooting and hollering as we would in the real room, and we had a lively conversation amongst ourselves and the Field Agent during our solve. It was definitely a fun time, and one that we plan to do again, as long as we can find time and find a room that we have all not yet done. At the current moment, it appears that three of their rooms are available to play remotely. The Escape Game is offering a remote play of their Ruins room, one that only is available at their home Nashville location – and frankly, playing it over Zoom is probably the only way that I’ll get a chance to try it out. We’re working on finding a time to play it – our experience with the Heist has made us believers in the format!
For more info – go to their website and check it out: https://theescapegame.com/remote-adventures/
Thoughts from Other Opinionated Gamers
James Nathan: What Dale said. The Escape Game has some of the _fun_est rooms I’ve done, so I was excited to try another. The format worked better than I expected it might, and I really like the way everyone can be involved in each puzzle. I usually have to stop myself from butting into everyone’s puzzles in a physical room, or my wife pulls on the lab coat I’ve put on to stop me from interrupting, but the interface and sort of one-at-a-time dialog really kept me in check (in a good way.) While it won’t replace the experience of an in-person room for me, it reproduced the experience better than I had expected it could and kept much of the feel. I look forward to trying the Ruins.
Ratings From the Opinionated Gamers
- I love it! Dale Y
- I like it. James Nathan
- Not for me…