I have found my happy place! Escape Simulator is such a lovely thing, a first-person simulacrum of escape rooms, built in 3D, with realistic physics. It is, as its title suggests, a simulation of attending a real-world escape room, in a way that almost all room-escape video games are not. Apart from when it’s in space.
Let me clarify. I absolutely love throwaway room escape games, with their daft puzzles, ridiculous attempts at storylines, and deeply peculiar obsession with chucking away every useful tool after being used just once. I love the actually good ones even more, and none are better than Rusty Lake’s Cube series. But also, none of these is anything like playing in a real-life escape room.
Escape Simulator‘s huge number of incredibly detailed rooms vary between easily recreated in the world, and delightfully impossible given our relative inaccessibility to space travel. There are familiar office settings, posh country mansions, and indeed a futuristic spaceship. But each works in the same way: you’re in a room, there’s a lot of stuff, and you need to ransack the place to solve all its puzzles.
What makes the ransacking all the more special here is the first-person perspective combined with the realistic physics. It means you can pull heavy boxes off shelves, drag office chairs out of the way, throw annoying books across the room, and just make an enormous mess. Or indeed you can approach things far more methodically, be very neat and tidy, and even dispose of unnecessary items by popping them in the trash.
With each new room, you take a moment to get your bearings, look around all four walls, and then begin looting the place for clues. There will be notes, post-its, peculiar patterns on walls, keys hidden behind plant pots, and so on. You gather everything that seems important, take closer looks by hitting Space and then inspecting items in 3D, and start piecing together possible combinations for padlocks, passwords and code-solving.
Each room (but for one) has a 15-minute timer, but this is only for a trophy. Once that timer runs out, nothing else changes, and while I finished a bunch of rooms in under the time, I found things far more relaxing in others once I realised I wasn’t going to make it, and just took my time.
The 22 rooms are grouped into four groups of five, and then a couple of bonus rooms at the end. You can approach them in any order, but there’s a gentle curve of difficulty if you play them in order. Then, all those finished, you can either jump into the room creator tool, or play those created by others.
A DLC pack from the developers is due in June, themed around Steampunk, and this time featuring larger rooms. These will be possible to play in co-op too, all aboard an airship, trying to escape before the whole thing goes kablooie. These will be more sizable levels, so the four new rooms are expected to offer four hours of play.
The game came out in October, and despite being incredibly well-received on Steam, has had a deeply peculiar lack of press coverage. This is so bloody good, and it’s kept me happy all week.
There’s a co-op mode, even, so you can be trapped in these escape rooms with a chum, which sounds absolutely fantastic. But on my own, Escape Simulator offers a far more tangible sense of the feeling of playing a real-world escape room, one spaceship aside, keeping things within the realms of possibility. Ooh I can’t wait for that DLC.