YouEscape – Elements [Review]

Good morning, good afternoon, good evening, & good night.

Location:  the Internet

Date Played: January 19, 2019

Team size: 1-4; we recommend 3

Duration: 75 minutes

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

Ticketing: Private

REA Reaction

YouEscape’s online escape game format allowed us (New York) to play an escape room with Ken Ferguson of The Logic Escape Me (London) and Yolanda Chiu of Asia Escape Game (Taiwan). The four of us are rarely in the same part of the world, let alone the same escape room. This was the true beauty of YouEscape’s format.

In-game: An inflated balloon and a sign that says, "Yolanda, Ken, & REA Escaped. Jan 2019."

Playing an escape game in a web browser using Google Hangouts, Google Drive, and other assorted web apps came with its own quirks and obstacles. Still, the low price point and ability to play with friends across the world was wonderful.

YouEscape had made some significant improvements in game design from the earlier episode that we played last year. They incorporated a few incredibly clever interactions that only worked because we were playing online.

Last time around we played with one of our regular local escape room teammates. This time we played with friends from afar and that was way cooler (sorry Lindsay). If you have friends who live too far away to join you in a real-life room, give YouEscape a try. It’s great for far-flung puzzle lovers.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Friends who don’t live in the same place, but want to play together
  • Players with at least some experience
  • Players who are comfortable navigating between browser tabs and through Google Docs

Why play?

  • You can play with friends on the other side of the world (we did!)
  • Puzzles that you won’t find in traditional escape rooms
  • The challenge of instructing interaction with physical objects
  • Fun reveals

Story

We were poisoned, lost in a dense forest, and running out of time. We needed to signal for help.

In-game: Google Drive image reads, "Eating those unknown fruits was a bad idea after all. A rescue helicopter is on its way, however they won't be able to locate you unless you launch an emergency balloon. You have to find a clearing in the forest as soon as possible.

Setting

YouEscape games take place over the Internet.

We explained the set up in our review of YouEscape’s Magnum Opus.

Elements had a similar set up with the addition of a backdrop behind the props, which added ambiance.

In-game: The game table staged with puzzle components and locked boxes.

Gameplay

YouEscape’s Elements was an atypical escape game played over the Internet by a remote team giving the gamemaster verbal commands. Elements had a high level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around observing, instructing, communicating, puzzling… and navigating various web-based content.

Analysis

➕ Many of the puzzles relied on sets, props, materials, or constructs that wouldn’t work in a real-life escape room, or a play-at-home escape room. They only worked in an Internet-based escape room.

➕ Elements had a meaty middle chapter. We “traveled” to a remote place and entered this set. While it would have been too busy for a real-life escape room, where players would have had too many items to touch, move, and destroy, it worked for the well-clued puzzles in the Elements. It was a fun place to puzzle around in.

➖ The first chapter didn’t play to the strength of YouEscape’s Internet-based gameplay. A good puzzle was made much more difficult by the need to visualize and instruct, and not in a fun way. To solve it, we really wanted to handle the puzzle components. Additionally, by starting off with this section, there was no onramp to help players familiarize themselves with the format and pick up momentum. It was a rough start.

➖ We struggled with each having only one screen. We were constantly moving back and forth between tabs. If a teammate had instructed the gamemaster to move a prop while we were working something out in front of information in another tab, we might look back at the props to find everything had changed. We found ourselves continually wanting to put various puzzle components side by side, but there wasn’t a good way to do that.

➕ The gamemaster manipulated all the props. If a lock didn’t open, it wasn’t user error. Our gamemaster tried every wrong combination so that we could see whether or not the lock would open. This was a nice touch because he could have just told us that we were wrong.

➖ Our gamemaster told us at the onset how we would send the distress signal to be rescued from the forest. We think there’s opportunity to have the players figure this out as they play. That would create an exciting aha moment.

➕It was fun to send our distress signal and watch the culmination of our efforts unfold in the final scene.

❓ The YouEscape format added a challenge of communication between the players and the gamemaster. Some of us enjoyed the puzzle of how to instruct the gamemaster to manipulate objects. Others preferred the puzzles to be in the puzzles.

❓If you’re not a native English speaker, Elements would be an especially challenging game. In addition to English language puzzles, it required constant communication between players and the gamemaster over the video call.

➕/➖ The Patreon subscription model is great if you want to play monthly… and a hindrance if you want to experience a one-off game or want to play only a few times a year. At $30 per month for a team, it would be less expensive than a real life escape game, but more expensive than many play-at-home boxed escape games. If you’re looking for teammates, there is a $10 per month option where you will team up with other Patreon backers, which could be neat. Your mileage with the Patreon model really depends on your play preferences.

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.
  • Have a notepad on hand and take screenshots liberally.

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

Disclosure: YouEscape comped our tickets for this game.

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