YouEscape – Demo [Reaction]

It’s like Facetime but with puzzles.

Location:  the Internet

Date Played: April 14, 2019

Team size: 1-4; we recommend 2-3

Duration: 30 minutes

Price: $0 per player

Ticketing: Public or Private

REA Reaction

YouEscape created a free demo to help entice more puzzlers to play their Google Hangouts-based escape games.

It was quick, but emblematic of what YouEscape was all about. If you’re curious about YouEscape, read a review of one of their full games, Elements.

In-game: A hand reaching in and hitting play on a radio.

YouEscape has waded into some interesting waters where they’re creating unusual puzzle games designed for play in-browser.

This style of game is best for people who would love to play escape rooms together, but cannot because they live too far away from one another.

I’d like to see YouEscape continue to push the boundaries of what they’re producing, as I think that there is a lot of untapped potential in this format.

If clever puzzles made from unusual inputs are one of the bigger draws of escape rooms for you, then you should give YouEscape’s Demo a try. It might not be a mind-blowing experience, but I really get a kick out of playing an escape room with friends in London from the comfort of my dining room and pajamas.

Post-game screenshot of all of the boxes opened, a sign reads "REA Escaped April 2019"

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Geographically dispersed friends
  • Players with at least some experience
  • Players who don’t need to be a part of every puzzle

Why play?

  • You can puzzle with friends from afar
  • It’s affordable
  • YouEscape does some clever stuff

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.

Contact YouEscape to book your session, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

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 Escapes 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.

YouEscape – Magnum Opus [Review]

Escape room video conferencing.

Location:  the Internet

Date Played: October 20, 2018

Team size: 1-4; we recommend 3

Duration: 60 minutes

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

Ticketing: Private

REA Reaction

And we have another new escape room format! 

YouEscape offers Internet-based escape games. The creator/ gamemaster pointed his camera at a table with puzzle props. We delivered commands that he executed. 

We didn’t know what to expect from this one and ended up having a good time. YouEscape is still exploring how to build games for this format, but they are off to a good start.

There’s an opportunity to create something unique this way. In its current format, it’s an affordable way to play an escape game from the comfort of your own home. 

If you’ve played all of the games in your area, want to play with friends who live far away, or really love escape room puzzles, give YouEscape a try. They are creating new games on a monthly basis. 

In-game: The revised set with a starscape backdrop and blue table cloth.
Magnum Opus after some iteration.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Friends who don’t live in the same place, but want to play together
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • A novel escape game format
  • The challenge of instructing interaction with physical objects
  • Cooperation across different physical locations
  • Fun puzzles

Story

The master alchemist had disappeared and it was up to us – his apprentices – to discover why.

Google Hangout: The initial game setup features many locked boxes and styrofoam cups, some with drawings on them.
Magnum Opus as we played it. 

Setting

Magnum Opus was an online escape game where we joined a video chat with our teammates and the gamemaster. The gamemaster’s camera was pointed at a table with all of the game’s props. We only saw a pair of hands reaching in around the camera and doing as we instructed. 

The physical props, puzzle components, and locked boxes resided with our gamemaster. Additional instructional materials and puzzle components were organized into folders in Google Drive.

We remained in our own homes, communicating with our teammates and gamemaster through Google Hangouts. We issued commands and he interacted with the props and delivered verbal hints. Repeat until solved. 

Google Hangout: The post-game image declaring that we escaped, and depicting the elixer.

Gameplay

YouEscape’s Magnum Opus was an atypical escape game played over the Internet by a remote team giving the gamemaster verbal commands. There was a moderate level of difficulty, some of which came from learning how to control the game.

Core gameplay revolved around observing, instructing, communicating, puzzling… and navigating different tabs and windows.

Analysis

➕ YouEscape’s format enabled cooperative gameplay through physical escape room components, across different locations and time zones.

➕ Playing via the gamemaster’s hands was deceptively challenging. In fact, we missed a critical detail in one puzzle for quite some time. I’m sure we would have seen this if we’d been handling the props ourselves. We appreciated how the format added different twists to puzzle solving.

➕ YouEscape designed some excellent puzzles. We particularly enjoyed the opening and closing challenges. Magnum Opus was at its best when we had to explore the props to solve the challenges.

➖ The physical props and puzzles looked like prototypes. There was plenty of room to craft more captivating game components. 

➖ Although YouEscape set Magnum Opus against a mystical alchemy theme, that theme was absent or unimportant for much of the experience. With the exception of a few physical components, most of the props and puzzles didn’t draw on alchemy.

➖ Much of the gameplay took place in Google Drive. While YouEscape shared well-organized folders, we found it burdensome to continually switch windows and tabs. We can solve puzzles in documents and browser tabs any time, without a gamemaster in a physical room of puzzles. This portion of this experience didn’t take advantage of what made YouEscape’s gameplay format special: the hands and props. It was also clunky to use.

➕ YouEscape offered a different spin on the escape room concept. We see potential in combining physical props and puzzles with Internet-facilitated player communication. We recommend YouEscape lean into the physical components, upping the intrigue there. Those elements made the format special and introduced interesting new gameplay challenges.

➕/➖ The Patreon subscription model is great if you want to play monthly… and a big hindrance if you want to experience a one-off game.  Additionally, the race to constantly generate new content could eventually hold YouEscape back from producing some truly wonderful games, as speed of development will ultimately be in the driver’s seat. 

➕ YouEscape is rapidly iterating. A day or two after we played, we received this image of the newly revised “set.” If YouEscape can continue working on this concept, distill their games down to the best interactions, and gather compelling props to facilitate the fiction, they will have a fantastic product. 

❓I think this format offers an opportunity to create delicate, messy, or dangerous interactions that are safe when handled exclusively by the game designer, but could never appear in a traditional escape game. 

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.

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

Disclosure: YouEscape comped our tickets for this game.