Haunted Rooms: Escape VR Game [Review]

Haunted with ads.

Platform: iOS & Android

Release date: November 12, 2016

Price: Free – ad supported

Story & setting

A self-described “escape the room” virtual reality game playable with Google Cardboard or as a standard point and click escape game, Haunted Rooms: Escape VR Game was straightforward: I was trapped in a haunted house and needed to escape.

In game: a ghost in a hallway holding a chainsaw.

Haunted Rooms: Escape VR Game was broken up into 6 episodes, each playable in less than 5 minutes.

It looked and sounded pretty good:

However, look and sound only carried it so far.

Puzzles

Calling Haunted Rooms: Escape VR Game an “escape the room” was a generous description. The puzzles were non-existent.

In game: a piece of paper reads, "5-30-7" above it a message displays reading, "This might be a clue!"
No kidding?

At best this was a virtual scavenger hunt. Items either screamed “USE ME! I’M BRIGHT RED!” or, on a couple of occasions, they required pixel hunting because they were the same drab color as the background.

If I touched a thing that needed “solving” it straight up told me what to do.

In game: a door, a message reads, "It's locked. Maybe I can try shooting it?"
I’m not sure what I should do. Could someone give me a hint?

Standouts

It looked pretty great, especially for a free game.

Shortcomings

There was no depth to the story, puzzles, or frights. It was staggeringly one-dimensional.

The puzzles were lame and would barely even qualify as puzzles.

There were jump scares, but they didn’t impress. These were seriously overused.

Every milestone triggered an ad. Exiting the game triggered an ad. Opening doors triggered ads. (Don’t get any ideas, escape room owners.)

Should I play Rabbit Mountain’s Haunted Rooms: Escape VR Game?

Haunted Rooms: Escape VR Game was not an escape room game. It was a reasonably pretty ad-supported tech demo.

This app got a lot of press, so I figured it would be worth playing at the low cost of free. I was wrong. It wasn’t worth my time.

Escape Games Canada – Geist Manor VR Demo [Review]

Frightening, fast, and fun.

Location: played at the Chicago Room Escape Conference, but available in Toronto, Canada

Date played: August 13, 2016

Team size: 1

Price: Free at the conference, pricing TBD by hosting facility

 

Story & setting

Played via the HTC Vive, Geist Manor was a one-player virtual horror escape room experience. I played the 7-minute demo (of a 10-minute game) that was available at the Escape Games Canada booth at the Chicago Room Escape Conference.

This is a game that Escape Games Canada created in partnership with a EscapeVR. The game will be available for players to experience in Escape Games Canada’s facility, as well as a number of other escape room facilities that have purchased the rights to use the game.

Set in a haunted house, the game was dark, creepy, and a little bit freaky. Everything from the staging to the lighting to the sound pushed me deeper into the experience.

In a beautiful way, I felt like I was in a horror movie.

In-game screen shot of a dimly lit haunted room.

Puzzles

The puzzles were your basic seek, observe, and input interactions that I’ve encountered in my previous Vive escape room experience.

Standouts

Escape Games Canada likes to toy with their players’ minds and this game was no exception.

It looked great and sounded even better.

Escape Games Canada did a masterful job of throwing off my equilibrium and playing with my senses.

In-game screen shot of a dimly lit cabinet. A drawer is open and containing a cup of dice. Beside the dice the words "ROLL THE DICE" appear in blocky chalk writing.

The setting truly enhanced the experience. Lisa was a bit rattled by the horror; during her playthrough she had more trouble focusing on the tasks at hand.

The hinting was heavy handed, but well executed; it was clearly designed to keep the player moving.

Shortcomings

There were some physics problems, both those within the game and those inherent to the Vive.

It wasn’t particularly puzzley.

If you don’t like horror, then that’s going to be a deal-breaker.

In-game screen shot of a dimly lit long spooky hallway. A small femine figure stands in the shadows at the opposite end.

Should I play Escape Games Canada’s Geist Manor?

Escape Games Canada put me in an experience that I knew wasn’t real and managed to make it feel intimidating.

This is only for folks who are open to a horror adventure and don’t get motion sick in a VR environment.

If you’re down for an excellent immersive experience that is light on puzzles and heavy on brain-tricking interactions, then this is your game.

It’s brief even at full length, which makes it a great add-on to a room escape outing at Escape Games Canada’s Toronto facility.

Contact Escape Games Canada to book your session with Geist Manor, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Madame Tussauds – Hyper-Reality Ghostbusters Experience [Review]

“Wait, wait, wait! I’ve always wanted to do this…”
– Dr Peter Venkman

Location: New York, New York

Date played: July 18, 2016

Team size: 3, only 3

Duration: ~10 minutes

Price: $49.75 per ticket

Story & setting

Madame Tussauds Ghostbusters Experience wasn’t an escape room, but it was an immersive “hyper-reality” game that absolutely overlapped with escape rooms and where the escape room world is heading.

We were Ghostbusters on a mission to bust ghosts. It couldn’t be more familiar or straightforward.

Image of two players weaing the VR gear.

How did it work

We were outfitted with proton packs on our backs, the corresponding blaster in our hands, and a virtual reality visor on our faces. Once it was turned on, we were in a virtual world where we could walk around, interact with objects, and most importantly wreck everything around us as we shot and trapped ghosts.

As we walked through the physical space of the game, we saw detailed 3D renderings of rooms, elevators, the Manhattan skyline, and ghosts of all shapes and sizes.

When I took my visor off, I could see that the room’s shape mirrored what we saw in the game, but everything was painted flat black.

The Ghostbusters Experience felt like being a ghostbuster, right down to the comically callous disregard for property damage.

Another nifty feature was how we saw each other as ghostbusters. Our heads rendered at the correct height based on the positioning of our visors, and the game programmatically built bodies down to the ground. It was neat.

Standouts

It worked really well. After a brief adaptation to walking in a virtual world while knowing that my body was in an unseeable physical space, things felt strangely natural.

The shooting was so much fun. Seeing the damage and destruction we caused was a riot.

The last half of the game was badass. There was a brief moment that messed with all of our equilibrium and that was uncomfortable, but awesome.

I saw the climax of the game coming a mile away, but it didn’t make it any less incredible to be a part of it.

Shortcomings

It was short… like 10 minutes, short.

While I couldn’t do a side-by-side comparison, I think that the HTC Vive’s commercially available VR visor had a better screen and equally good motion tracking.

The visor was incredibly uncomfortable with glasses. The Vive and Oculus Rift are both better for glasses-wearers.

During one of the most dramatic moments of the game, the room was structured in such a way that it encouraged us to move into a space that was a motion tracking dead zone. When I moved into this place, I lost control of myself in the game. (The exact same thing happened to my father during his run after ours.)

It was strange that all players were rendered in-game as adult white dudes. My 9 year old cousin Angie looked like a very short 30 year old guy who hadn’t shaved in a couple days. Lisa and I looked like taller versions of the same guy. Given the emphasis that the 2016 remake put on non-sexualized female protagonists, this was odd and disappointing.

Should I play Madame Tussauds’ Ghostbusters Experience?

This game was pretty damn cool, but it was expensive and short. There are a few factors to determining whether the Ghostbusters Experience is right for you:

If you’re a Ghostbusters fanatic, it’s a must-play. While my passion for Ghostbusters has waned over the years, it was my very favorite movie when I was 3-4 years old. There was a moment while playing where my mind wandered back to being a kid chasing “ghosts” around the backyard and basement with my toy proton pack on my back. It was a moving, intimate, and special moment.

$50 per ticket is serious money, especially for approximately 10 minutes of playtime. The Ghostbusters Experience ticket also provides full admission to Madame Tussauds Wax Museum. This held no appeal for me, but if that’s your jam, then it certainly expands the value of the ticket.

Finally, the ticket value depends on your access to current gen VR. A proper VR rig is a lot less expensive than it used to be, but it still ain’t cheap. If you haven’t experienced VR lately, this is a good chance to see just how far VR technology has come.

Book your session with Madame Tussauds‘ Ghostbusters Experience, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

VR – Vacate The Room [Review]

It’s like a flashy Flash game.

Platform: play at home on an HTC Vive

Release date: July 15, 2016

Price: $4.99

Story & setting

A good friend recently acquired an HTC Vive virtual reality rig and set it up in his livingroom. Upon learning of this, I encouraged him to acquire the new VR escape room game Vacate The Room.

The single-player game had me locked up in a small room searching for objects and determining how to use them to ultimately spring myself from the room.

The experience lasted about 15 minutes per player. It was really only worth playing through once as it would take about 3 minutes to run through if you knew what to do.

Puzzles

Vacate The Room felt like a Flash-based escape room brought into a 3D space. It was heavy on searching and tasks and light on puzzles.

In-game image of a hand holding a glowing object.

Standouts

The Vive in general was cool because you could walk around with it on. Also, the learning curve in Vacate The Room was soft. Lisa has never been a big video gamer and she mastered the controls in minutes.

The graphics and controls were solid and vastly superior to the VR room escape we tried in Los Angeles earlier this year.

It felt like an escape room. If you know what you’re doing in a real life escape room, then you’ll know what you’re doing in this virtual escape room.

It would serve well as a basic escape room tutorial.

The virtual space was a fun place to spend a quarter of an hour.

I found it strangely amusing to throw unneeded objects around knowing that I couldn’t break anything.

Shortcomings

One particular object was hidden in a high place within the virtual environment. At 6’1, I found it easily, at 5’4, Lisa couldn’t see it at all.

The physics of the room were a bit funny. Dropped objects all fell at the same rate, in the same way, and produced identical crashing sounds. This was especially off-putting when I dropped a single sheet of paper.

The physics were also a bit problematic because the objects weren’t solid enough. It was easy to drop items through shelves or desks. You could also drop objects through the floor (never to be seen again) and reach through seemingly solid items. It got a bit weird. I expect that some of these issues will be patched.

Also, there weren’t enough puzzles.

Should I play Vacate The Room on the HTC Vive?

Vacate The Room is a fun, quick, and basic escape room. It’s interesting to play with a group because everyone takes their turn in isolation while being watch (and judged).

At $5 and lasting 15 minutes, if you have a Vive and love escape rooms, Vacate The Room is an easy purchase.

It would be insane to purchase a Vive and computer powerful enough to run it just to play Vacate The Room.

Download it on Steam.