X&Y is a donhua (Chinese anime) video series where the main character is drawn into a mystery about an escape room owner.
Style of Play:
- Animated tv series (to watch, not to play!)
Who is it For?
- Story seekers
- Anime fans
Required Equipment: A device where you can watch Crunchyroll (mobile phone, computer, or switch)
Recommended Team Size: very flexible
Play Time: There are 16 episodes. Each episode is approximately 15 minutes.
Price: Included with a CrunchyRoll subscription, which is $7.99 per month, with a 14 day free trial
Booking: watch at your leisure
This is an animated tv series. You are watching the show in Chinese with English subtitles.
Theresa W’s Reaction
X&Y is a Chinese donghua (animated show) with a unique premise: a businessman steps into an escape room business with a coworker, causing weird and unexplained events to occur in the days after. The animation style is fantastic, with a contrasting color palette between the grim business world and the bright escape room, with characters who develop deeper personalities as the show progresses. As most animated shows, X&Y includes a twist in the plot, throwing the viewers for a loop. The story is interesting enough, but I wish it was deeper and had more consequences with thorough explanation. Each character’s motivations fall a bit flat, and viewers are left with unsatisfying loose ends.
From an escape room standpoint, the puzzles are mostly fair and fun to solve along with the characters. Some of the puzzle design is lacking, but for an animated drama, more fleshed out than expected. The genre falls somewhere between slice of life, drama, and suspense, with mystery undertones, but never delves too far into horror or thriller.
A second season has not been confirmed yet, and while the story wraps up, I hope there is a better conclusion to these characters and their stories.
Brett Kuehner’s Reaction
X&Y (aka “Aiyou De Mishi”) is fascinating but wildly uneven. Even though the show consists of less than 4 hours of content (broken into 16 episodes of under 15 minutes each), there is a lot going on.
In the first episode, the main character, Yan Yuechu, is walking home with a friend. When it starts to rain, they duck into a nearby building, which turns out to be the location of X&Y Escape Room. In the lobby, they are greeted by Xu Aiyou, the owner.
She tells them that there are no themes to pick from and that each customer has to start from the easiest level. After a standard set of instructions (nothing is too high to reach, no force is allowed), they sign a waiver. Aiyou hands them a walkie talkie, and tells them they get three hints.
Sounds like a normal experience so far, right? Not for long, as things immediately get weirder. The game has an unusual start that would be fun in a real room, and Yan Yuechu turns out to have a great knack for analyzing and solving escape room puzzles, unlike his co-worker Hu Zhi. About half the episode is dedicated to the two characters playing the room, with some solid puzzle design evident, making it clear that the creators are familiar with real escape rooms. Ending on a dramatic cliffhanger, we’re now ready for episode 2.
As the series progresses, the relationship between Yan Yuechu and Xu Aiyou changes, and the plots swing from escape room play to romance to weird dream-escapes (or are they real?), and there are odd and sometimes disturbing subplots involving a co-worker at Yan’s office. The tone and style and music change from horror to light comedy to romance, often all within a single episode. There are several interactions between Yan and Xu that are very odd, and one that seemed uncomfortably non-consensual.
Several of the middle episodes have no escape or puzzle content at all, but in the later episodes we again get to see Yan Yuechu analyze puzzles and even design an escape room of his own (although he’s a bit cocky, thinking “I have experienced so many escape rooms, it should be easy for me to design one”). Some of his solving is at Sherlock Holmesian levels of skill, deriving solutions from details and presumed design constraints.
The pace picks up rapidly, and the last few episodes are increasingly bizarre. The ending does give some explanation for many of the weird things going on, but it leaves several threads unresolved and creates new questions.
Throughout the series, the discussions of design goals, how game progression should help tell the story, and detailed breakdowns of puzzles will be of interest to players. The art design, music, and overall style of the show is very appealing, and despite the dull stretches and squirm-worthy moments, escape room fans will likely enjoy much of the show.
Matthew Stein’s Reaction
X&Y was equal parts baffling and intriguing. On one hand, the show was overdramatized, filled with problematic gender dynamics, and tended to drag on in parts despite short episode lengths. On the other hand, the world portrayed was one in which escape rooms are a impressively normalized part of everyday culture, with random office workers playing escape rooms on the regular as a social activity during their lunch breaks and after work. Amongst these characters, there appeared to be a shared understanding of what characterizes a “good” escape room.
Perhaps most importantly, the escape scenarios portrayed in nearly every episode were genuinely interesting. The puzzles were well designed to be enjoyable to watch as they’re solved, with a sprinkling of puzzles where it was possible to solve along as information was progressively revealed. Many puzzles were designed to taunt the player, subverting their expectations while ultimately still being logical and fair. In one episode, the main character even remarks that a certain interaction shouldn’t be within the bounds of play if it would require a “leap of faith” which might turn out to be wrong — a level of self awareness that recognizes the role of a responsible escape room designer in the player experience. To be clear, most of these escape rooms were not ones which would be reasonable, possible, or safe in real life, yet in context, they made sense and successfully took advantage of the fictional medium in which they were presented.
X&Y provided a tantalizing peek into a foreign escape room culture about which I know very little but am now inspired to learn more.