An escape room for your ears.
Producer: The Owl Field
Date Played: April 13, 2019
Team size: Potentially unlimited, but we recommend playing solo
Duration: 60 minutes
3D Escape Room: Frequency was an audio drama with escape room puzzles built in so listeners could solve along at home. It felt a lot like playing a tabletop escape game, but with podcast tracks instead of envelopes and tactile puzzles.
Unlike most podcasts, 3D Escape Room: Frequency was comprised of a set of tracks meant to be navigated in a certain order to reach the end of the game, with decoy tracks thrown in to obscure the correct answers.
The Owl Field’s 3D sound design was immersive and engaging. Some of the puzzles depended completely on the audio format, which felt novel and intriguing.
Though 3D Escape Room: Frequency could be played with a larger group, playing solo seemed like the ideal experience. The puzzles didn’t involve collaboration, and it was more convenient to listen through one set of headphones. If you typically enjoy playing puzzle games solo, try this one by yourself.
3D Escape Room: Frequency probably won’t stump veteran solvers, but it’s still worth checking out, especially considering that there’s zero cost or travel barrier.
It was exciting to experience an escape room in this new format, and we’d love to see The Owl Field (or other podcasters) create more games like this.
Who is this for?
- Fans of podcasts and audio entertainment
- Puzzle lovers
- Any experience level
- Innovative audio format
- Exciting storyline
- The convenience of playing anywhere you want
Madison and her friends go off the grid to check on Lenny, a reclusive conspiracy theorist who’s gone missing. They find themselves locked in his trailer full of old radios and recording devices, and they must solve his puzzles to escape… and maybe save the world.
3D Escape Room: Frequency was an escape room built into a podcast format. The story and puzzles were conveyed through the voice actors and the audio clips the characters found.
The sound was binaural, so the action seemed to be coming from all directions through the headphones. The audio design was elaborate and well produced, adding ambience to this at-home escape adventure.
3D Escape Room: Frequency had 40 separate audio tracks: 10 puzzle tracks and 30 decoy tracks. Each puzzle’s solution code matched the name of the next track players needed to access in order to find the next puzzle and advance the story. The game proceeded in a linear fashion through each puzzle track to the conclusion.
As each puzzle track progressed, the hints became increasingly transparent. As soon as we determined the solution to the puzzle, we could advance to the next corresponding track. Listening through to the end of the track ultimately revealed the solution to the puzzle.
The total runtime of all the puzzle tracks is greater than 60 minutes; final solving time depends on how quickly the player finds the codes within each track and moves on to the next.
3D Escape Room: Frequency was an interactive podcast escape room with a linear structure and an approachable level of difficulty.
Core gameplay revolved around listening, pattern recognition, and simple math. Some of the puzzles could have been presented in written text but were transformed by the audio format. Others completely relied on sound.
➕ The Owl Field created a slick product out of a unique idea. This audio escape room format could easily be repeated with all sorts of themes and still be fun and exciting, just like live escape rooms.
❓ Technically, 3D Escape Room: Frequency could be played in a group, but it makes more sense as a solo experience. The puzzles were relatively simple and unfolded one at a time, which precluded the teamwork element of most escape rooms. Plus, it would be hard to communicate with others while concentrating on audio puzzles.
➕ The 3D audio design was surprisingly cool. It added to the immersion, and it made the overlapping dialogue easier to understand. The binaural effect also provided certain puzzles with extra depth.
➕/➖ 3D Escape Room: Frequency used some of its puzzles to reveal bits of the story, and hinted at a larger narrative through snippets of dialogue and sound. Though the dialogue was sometimes a bit goofy and certain plot elements remained unexplained, the voice acting and audio design carried the game and the story well.
➕ The characters periodically reported how many puzzles they had left to solve. These regular progress reports felt natural and helped track progress through the game.
➖ The introduction instructed players to write down which tracks they’d listened to in case they made a mistake and needed to backtrack. Since most of the decoy tracks appeared to be tied to a particular puzzle, it would simplify the gameplay if the decoy tracks indicated which track to return to.
➕ The puzzle tracks repeated the pertinent information multiple times, with the characters providing subtle hints, then increasingly less subtle hints, and eventually revealing the solution at the end of the track. This in-character hint delivery felt authentic and seamless. Listening to the characters attempting to solve the puzzles provided gentle nudges towards the solutions.
➕ The answer confirmation also worked smoothly. The 30 decoy tracks made it counterproductive to guess at an answer until it was 100% clear. Also, since the decoy tracks revealed incorrect guesses after 30 seconds, each track was padded to the same length. This obscured which tracks were relevant and which were decoys.
❓ Distortion was a key element of certain puzzles. Some players might find this frustrating; others might enjoy this particular sensory challenge.
➖ The ending felt a bit abrupt. Considering the format, it would have been cool to receive different endings for the win and loss states.
➕ In a podcast-based escape room, the additional dimension of time could easily have created chaos if players decided to skip around searching for clues. 3D Escape Room: Frequency’s linear design avoided this potential confusion. It kept things simple, and it worked.
Tips For Listening
- For best results, listen with headphones in a quiet room. It’s not 100% necessary to use headphones, but the overlapping dialogue and distorted puzzles will be much easier to understand. Plus, it is an audio drama, so immersion is part of the experience.
- If you’re playing with others, make sure to sync up the tracks at the same time, and use a podcast player you’re familiar with to avoid technical issues… Or use a headphone splitter.
- Unlike other podcasts, 3D Escape Room: Frequency requires your full attention, so don’t plan on multitasking while you listen. As the introduction says, a pencil and paper for taking notes is key. And keep a timer handy if you’re feeling competitive.
- This podcast contains some instances of swearing, but otherwise it’s totally kid-friendly.
Add 3D Escape Room: Frequency to your podcast queue, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.
Would this be a good way for a blind person to experience an escape room type thing? I have a friend who is blind who thus far I have not been able to share my obsession with escape rooms. Not that it would be entirely the same thing, but it might give them a better idea of what they are like.
I would say so! The whole thing is audio-based, and it’s very much like the IRL escape experience recreated in an audio format—just a bit more linear than the average escape room.