Novel Escape – 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea [Hivemind Review]

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea is a real-life escape room livestreamed and played through an avatar, created by Novel Escape in Austin, TX.

Room Escape Artist reviewed the real-life version of this game in August of 2019. This is a review of the online adaptation.

In-game: A locked hatch within the submarine.


Style of Play: real-life escape room livestreamed and played through an avatar

Required Equipment: computer with internet connection

Recommended Team Size: 2-5

Play Time: 75 minutes

Price: $60 for first two connections; $15 for each additional connection

Booking: book online for a specific time slot


This is a standard, avatar-guided adaptation of a real-life escape room. In addition to the live first-person video stream of the room, you also have an auto-populating inventory that allows you to inspect items up close. This game uses Zoom video chat with Telescape inventory.

In-game: A control panel with a variety of switches and buttons.

Hivemind Review Scale

REA's hivemind review scale - 3 is recommended anytime, 2 recommended in quarantine, 1 is not recommended.

Read more about our Hivemind Review format.

Tammy McLeod’s Reaction

Rating: 3 out of 3.

Given that “Novel Escape” is the name of the company, I loved how our experience began with “story time.” I felt real enthusiasm experiencing the game through the eyes of the dynamic and entertaining host. The game plays smoothly in the remote format. The puzzles were thoughtfully designed and logical and I think I even entered flow state a couple of times while solving. The aesthetic of the entire experience was very charming and there were so many little touches that just made me happy.

Joel Smileypeacefun Reaction

Rating: 3 out of 3.

This experience proved that if you go in enthusiastic and you share your joy, this can be infectious on the whole team and even the gamemaster.

At its best, this was a delight from the moment the instructions began to when we finished. We got a nice variety of puzzles mixed with a light, but charming story. Novel Escape made smart changes to the virtual version, like a 75-minute timer instead of 60 minutes. While we didn’t need the extra time, it was thoughtful.

At its worst, it wasn’t the most immersive set. The inventory website is a good standard, but sometimes objects took a few moments to show up. I wanted to experience the more hands-on puzzles in real life, but you can’t hold that against them.

On a personal note: In previous reviews, I’ve grumbled about wordplay, because this can be frustrating to non-native English speakers. However, in this game I was over the moon happy to solve a well-designed wordplay puzzle!

In-game: A periscope hanging from the ceiling.

Matthew Stein’s Reaction

Rating: 2 out of 3.

Novel Escape has one of my favorite premises: each of their games will be based on a different classic novel. Their premiere game is an adaptation of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, a similar but more literarily anchored relative to the many Atlantis- and submarine-themed escape rooms out there. The game starts with a thematically rhyming intro – a welcome variant on the canonical escape room rules spiel – and though the game is quite light on tech, it manages to pack in some delightful and humorous moments of discovery throughout. Most of the puzzles were reasonably adapted to the remote medium, but certain perspective reveals and tactile actions still would be much more satisfying to solve in person.

Sarah Mendez’s Reaction

Rating: 3 out of 3.

Pre-pandemic, I had been recommending the physical version of this game for its story-driven puzzles, adorable set, and the fun ways it incorporates literature and literary elements (without requiring knowledge of either). Therefore, I was eager to see whether its charm would translate across Zoom, particularly because some of its best puzzles have distinctively physical aspects. And, translate it did! As a fly on the wall, I watched my teammates giddily progress through the story with the same visceral delight that I remembered from playing in person. Captain Nemo (the avatar) navigated the physical puzzles in a way that helped us still feel involved, and the video stream actually made certain aspects of the set more immersive. So, this virtual adaptation is a worthy companion to its in-person counterpart, and I’m glad the game can now endear itself to a global audience.

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