YouEscape – Magnum Opus [Review]

Escape room video conferencing.

Location:  the Internet

Date Played: October 20, 2018

Team size: 1-4; we recommend 3

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $30 per team (regardless of player count)

Ticketing: Private

REA Reaction

And we have another new escape room format! 

YouEscape offers Internet-based escape games. The creator/ gamemaster pointed his camera at a table with puzzle props. We delivered commands that he executed. 

We didn’t know what to expect from this one and ended up having a good time. YouEscape is still exploring how to build games for this format, but they are off to a good start.

There’s an opportunity to create something unique this way. In its current format, it’s an affordable way to play an escape game from the comfort of your own home. 

If you’ve played all of the games in your area, want to play with friends who live far away, or really love escape room puzzles, give YouEscape a try. They are creating new games on a monthly basis. 

In-game: The revised set with a starscape backdrop and blue table cloth.
Magnum Opus after some iteration.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Friends who don’t live in the same place, but want to play together
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • A novel escape game format
  • The challenge of instructing interaction with physical objects
  • Cooperation across different physical locations
  • Fun puzzles

Story

The master alchemist had disappeared and it was up to us – his apprentices – to discover why.

Google Hangout: The initial game setup features many locked boxes and styrofoam cups, some with drawings on them.
Magnum Opus as we played it. 

Setting

Magnum Opus was an online escape game where we joined a video chat with our teammates and the gamemaster. The gamemaster’s camera was pointed at a table with all of the game’s props. We only saw a pair of hands reaching in around the camera and doing as we instructed. 

The physical props, puzzle components, and locked boxes resided with our gamemaster. Additional instructional materials and puzzle components were organized into folders in Google Drive.

We remained in our own homes, communicating with our teammates and gamemaster through Google Hangouts. We issued commands and he interacted with the props and delivered verbal hints. Repeat until solved. 

Google Hangout: The post-game image declaring that we escaped, and depicting the elixer.

Gameplay

YouEscape’s Magnum Opus was an atypical escape game played over the Internet by a remote team giving the gamemaster verbal commands. There was a moderate level of difficulty, some of which came from learning how to control the game.

Core gameplay revolved around observing, instructing, communicating, puzzling… and navigating different tabs and windows.

Analysis

➕ YouEscape’s format enabled cooperative gameplay through physical escape room components, across different locations and time zones.

➕ Playing via the gamemaster’s hands was deceptively challenging. In fact, we missed a critical detail in one puzzle for quite some time. I’m sure we would have seen this if we’d been handling the props ourselves. We appreciated how the format added different twists to puzzle solving.

➕ YouEscape designed some excellent puzzles. We particularly enjoyed the opening and closing challenges. Magnum Opus was at its best when we had to explore the props to solve the challenges.

➖ The physical props and puzzles looked like prototypes. There was plenty of room to craft more captivating game components. 

➖ Although YouEscape set Magnum Opus against a mystical alchemy theme, that theme was absent or unimportant for much of the experience. With the exception of a few physical components, most of the props and puzzles didn’t draw on alchemy.

➖ Much of the gameplay took place in Google Drive. While YouEscape shared well-organized folders, we found it burdensome to continually switch windows and tabs. We can solve puzzles in documents and browser tabs any time, without a gamemaster in a physical room of puzzles. This portion of this experience didn’t take advantage of what made YouEscape’s gameplay format special: the hands and props. It was also clunky to use.

➕ YouEscape offered a different spin on the escape room concept. We see potential in combining physical props and puzzles with Internet-facilitated player communication. We recommend YouEscape lean into the physical components, upping the intrigue there. Those elements made the format special and introduced interesting new gameplay challenges.

➕/➖ The Patreon subscription model is great if you want to play monthly… and a big hindrance if you want to experience a one-off game.  Additionally, the race to constantly generate new content could eventually hold YouEscape back from producing some truly wonderful games, as speed of development will ultimately be in the driver’s seat. 

➕ YouEscape is rapidly iterating. A day or two after we played, we received this image of the newly revised “set.” If YouEscape can continue working on this concept, distill their games down to the best interactions, and gather compelling props to facilitate the fiction, they will have a fantastic product. 

❓I think this format offers an opportunity to create delicate, messy, or dangerous interactions that are safe when handled exclusively by the game designer, but could never appear in a traditional escape game. 

Tips For Visiting

  • You will need a computer than can comfortably handle at least 6 browser tabs and a video chat without freaking out, a stable Internet connection, a microphone, and a notepad (physical or virtual, but we found physical to work best).
  • We recommend that each player use their own computer, from their own space, and communicate through Google Hangouts. This allows each player to move between the tabs/ windows as they’d like.

Book your hour with YouEscape’s Magnum Opus, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: YouEscape comped our tickets for this game.

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