Escape Academy’s PVP escape room mode is exactly what it takes

Last year I fell in love with Escape Academy the moment I played it for the first time. I was immediately drawn to the well-constructed digital escape rooms that were accessible and intuitive without being too simplistic. While I adored the core gameplay loop, the package around it was a little lacking. It was over in a couple of hours and there was no reason to go back – it’s not fun to replay a puzzle box you’ve already solved. Developer Coin Crew Games has been working to fix these issues with additional DLC for the past year, but it’s yet to come Tournament of Puzzles DLC feels like the last missing piece.

Escape Academy: Tournament of Puzzles is a free update that will come into play sometime this year after the launch of the second paid DLC. It adds a new multiplayer mode to the game in which two players compete to solve escape rooms. This makes for an exciting puzzle race that the developers hope will inspire Mario Kart-style trash-talking. The most exciting feature, however, is that rooms will have a procedural element, potentially solving the base game’s greatest weakness.

I played (and won) a round at this year’s Game Developers Conference and was once again won over by the ever expanding puzzle game. It’s a smart content drop that shows Coin Crew took the feedback to heart.

PVP puzzles

Tournament of Puzzles plays exactly like that Escape Academy, throwing players into escape rooms filled with clues, interactive objects, and puzzles. The main difference is that each room has two sets of each puzzle piece. In my demo, I could only interact with objects marked in blue while my opponent dealt with red ones. Our match would throw us into a series of Egyptian-themed rooms where we would have to solve all the puzzles to get keys and open other rooms. The first to have all the keys and open the last gate would win.

To think that I already knew some of them Escape Academy design philosophies, I quickly had the jump on my opponent. One puzzle required me to swap colored symbols around a grid to solve a Sudoku-like puzzle, while another required me to light up the correct tiles on a stone tablet by looking for clues around them. With two keys in tow, I unlocked a blue door and sped into the next room.

This created an interesting comeback system for my opponent. He still had to solve these puzzles, but now he could walk around and see the solutions I left behind. That would allow him to reverse engineer the solution to his own puzzles based on my answer and catch up quickly. We played in split screen, so he could have just glanced at the screen, but waiting to copy my homework is almost a more efficient strategy when you’re stuck.

During a subsequent chat with Coin Crew Games, the team members present noted that they wanted the mode to feel like a match of Mario Kart. They’ve already noticed players taunting each other during some GDC playthroughs, and figured out how to add more of that into the final track so players can play around directly with each other. I’m curious to see how this will play out as the idea of ​​a cutthroat escape room certainly sounds enticing.

I would solve the rest of the puzzles with a little spontaneous brainwork. One would have me arranging pots based on a classic ordering puzzle (this has to be next to this one, this has to be placed on top of the sun symbol, etc.). Another had me comparing a mural alongside a drawing of it, which led to a tricky spot the difference game. As in the base game, each puzzle here feels so intuitive that given enough time a puzzle fan could figure them out. The racing aspect also adds a fun dynamic and gives players the opportunity to figure out the logic of a puzzle on the fly.

The only thing I didn’t really see was how the procedural aspect that could give will work Escape Academy the spark it needs. The Coin Crew team notes that each themed arena will have multiple puzzle types that generate procedurally each round. This means that no two rooms will be exactly the same, but I’m not yet sure what the limits of this idea will be. It sounds like certain puzzle archetypes repeat themselves, so the sudoku section I finished might have a different answer each time. When this is the case, the mode needs a lot of different options to ensure players don’t keep repeating the same few ideas over and over again. The final solution is not the actual puzzle in an escape room; it’s the logical deduction needed to get there.

Regardless of how deep the mode is, it should solve many of Escape Academy’s biggest problems in one fell swoop and give it a far longer lifespan. With that and its two-story DLCs, the final game should be at least twice the size of the base game, making it feel like a more complete, weighty puzzler. While I might have preferred to have had all of that at launch, I can’t say I get excited about the idea of ​​being given a good reason to go back to something I have a real soft spot for. I will solve these escape rooms as long as Escape Academy locks me in them.

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