TwoSet Escape Room [Review]

The Devil’s Violinist

Location:  at home

Date Played: December 15, 2021

Required Equipment: computer with internet connection

Recommended team size: exactly 2 players

Play Time: 30-60 minutes

Price: free

REA Reaction

I’ll begin with some personal context. In addition to being a writer for Room Escape Artist and a full-time puzzle designer, I’m also a professional violinist and violist. I started learning classical violin as a young child, I studied ethnomusicology and composition in university, and I now play in a klezmer band with multiple albums forthcoming.

I’m just about the biggest classical music nerd you can find. My idea of a fun Friday night (when I’m not marathoning escape rooms) is bingeing Shostakovich or Mahler symphonies. And one of my favorite YouTube channels is TwoSet Violin. Brett Yang and Eddy Chen β€” talented violinists who are also really funny β€” make classical music accessible to their over 3 million subscribers through meme-filled sketches, challenges, and analyses of classical music in popular culture.

Matthew sitting with the creators of TwoSet
I met Brett and Eddy in person at their show in San Francisco in the before-times.

When TwoSet posted a video in early November 2021 of the duo playing an escape room in Australia, I was excited to see what “very special announcement” would be coming soon. Lo and behold, later that month they announced that they’d made their own music-themed virtual escape room!

Designed for two players in a style reminiscent of the asymmetrical information-sharing games from Enchambered, the TwoSet Escape Room was a delightful addition to (or perhaps start of?) the classical music-themed escape room canon. The game was playable by non-musicians as well, but it would be a good degree more challenging and make a bit less sense for players with zero classical music background.

The TwoSet Escape Room distinguished itself from other promotional escape rooms in that it wasn’t really a promotional escape room. Other than a brief plug for the upcoming TwoSet World Tour and a glamor shot of Brett and Eddy, this game truly felt like a gift to the TwoSet fandom, and to classical instrumentalists more generally. The gameplay was smooth and accessible to players with no puzzle background. An amusing story framed the game, though I would have loved to have seen the narrative more directly inform the puzzles.

I don’t mean to string you along, so I’ll get to my key point: I whole(note)heartedly recommend giving the TwoSet Escape Room a play if you have any classical music background, even if you just studied piano for a few years as a kid. I’d love to see more escape rooms designed by folks with domain-specific expertise, and it’s so wonderful to see TwoSet Violin giving back to their community in creative ways like this.

Who is this for?

  • Instrumentalists
  • Fans of TwoSet Violin
  • Puzzle lovers with a basic classical music background
  • Any experience level (with puzzles and/ or classical music)
An intro letter to TwoSets.

Story

We β€” a violinist and a pianist β€” showed up to our backstage practice rooms, but we got locked in. We had to communicate with our respective duo partner to learn who’d trapped us, and escape by the time the concert began.

A portion of a keyboard with the notes labeled.

Analysis

βž•Β The TwoSet Escape Room was thoroughly music-themed, very clearly made by musicians and for musicians. The puzzles were simple and fun, and they respected how musical instruments, Western musical notation, and other music-related concepts actually function. Many in-person escape rooms could learn from this; the many times I’ve seen piano keys mislabeled and musical notation abused in escape rooms is enough to drive my poor musician brain mad.

βž•/❓ TwoSet fans will appreciate the many musical Easter eggs and references sprinkled throughout the game. A musical variation on a common escape room plot twist made me cackle, and the game concluded with thematic victory music. However, players who don’t get these references might miss out on much of what makes this game shine.

βž• The game was well designed for two players, requiring constant back-and-forth communication. The gameplay flowed well and felt balanced between the two players.

βž• The game’s interface was reasonably attractive and intuitive. Having spent many thousands of hours in dingy university practice rooms and backstage green rooms, this sparse “set” felt spot on.

❓ Instrumentalists will have a major advantage while playing the TwoSet Escape Room. The game is still technically playable by non-musicians, though they would essentially have to “solve” how a few basic Western musical notation concepts work to get through. The game thoughtfully provided needed context to make musical concepts accessible to players of any background.

βž– One clue was a bit on-the-nose, and its specific wording was fair but slightly clunky.

βž•/βž– The game ended with a cute selfie moment, but at least in Chrome, a tech glitch distorted the photos of our faces.

Play the TwoSet Escape Room, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

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