We have talked about Escape Academy a few times here at CGMagazine. First in our preview of the title back in May, and then again when I got my hands on a second preview at Summer Game Fest last month. I added it to my Best 3 Family Games list, and now having had a crack at the full game—at home with my children—I can confidently say that Escape Academy is a lot of fun for single players, duos, couples and families.
Escape Academy isn’t just a series of escape rooms. The game follows a storyline that, though very basic, gives you some purpose as a player. You head into what you think is a regular escape room, but when you come out, something seems wrong. After a few more challenges, After a few more challenges, you find yourself off to the academy! Dialogue throughout the game can be campy, but it was able to give me a few chuckles here and there.
Moving your way from lesson to lesson, escape room to escape room, Escape Academy manages to bring a variety of settings to each space, keeping things fresh and fun. Puzzle games have the potential to become really repetitive, but that was never an issue here. Every level brought new challenges to the table. With puzzles that range from code cyphers to word play to matching, the game never felt stale.
I would highly recommend you bring paper and a pen to the party, and the game recommends it too. I tried to keep my phone handy with the note app, but ultimately caved and reached for my notebook. Most levels filled a page or two with my chicken scratch for math problems or anagrams, or just mapping things out visually.
The art style from Coin Crew Games is interesting, with almost a sketch-like quality—fitting since you spent a lot of time sketching in your notebook. It was perfect for the game, not too realistic, but also not so cartoony that it felt childish. In a game that involves looking at things very closely—and occasionally overanalyzing every detail—the team did a good job of making sure what we were looking at was easy to navigate.
Where Escape Academy really shines, however, is in its multiplayer mode. Of course, this is a game that can be played solo, which I did for most of it, but its couch co-op is a lot of fun. Not only is it helpful to have an extra set of eyes, but I found me and my partner laughing, shouting, and getting excited as we moved from puzzle to puzzle. Many high-fives were had.
“Where Escape Academy really shines, however, is in its multiplayer mode.”
This is also a game I think can do really well for families. Kids over ten can likely control the game themselves as a second player, but if you have children that are between six and ten, I recommend having them as a co-pilot of sorts. With my seven-year-old son, I took on the controls while he watched closely and helped me solve clues. Though most puzzles were a little out of his range, he was so excited to take part and looked so proud whenever he did help to solve something. It brought out creativity and problem-solving skills that are essential for kids that age.
Spitting up the puzzles with two players can be challenging. There are a lot of items to pick up in the game and swap between players, which can become tedious. There are some benefits, like one player deciphering a code while the other plugs in the numbers. It stops you from having to jump in and out of your inventory or pin things to the screen.
After each escape room, you get your Escape Academy report card! Mine were always awful. You are given a letter grade based on the time it took you to escape and how many hints you used. I hit the hint button often, both on purpose and by accident, which knocked me down quite a bit. It also displays every puzzle at the end of a round along with how long it took you to complete them each individually. To me, this was more annoying than anything, and I often sped through the pages.
When you finish a level, you’ll be brought to your dorm room before you head out to the next lesson. There isn’t a lot to do here, but there will be fun little Easter eggs from each escape room as decoration, so it was fun to check out each time. You can also head out into the campus map and revisit past rooms to see what the NPCs have to say (do it if you’re an achievement hunter).
Though there is a lot of good to say about Escape Academy, the game has some slight issues. You can fiddle with the controller sensitivity, but even after that, I found the controls a little…janky. The cursor is tough to get moving and often lands slightly off from your mark. I imagine this is probably easier to do with a mouse and keyboard, and it feels like they haven’t quite mastered the controller just yet.
The hint button on the Xbox Series X is the X button. I wish they had made it a trigger or a stick click, because it’s just so easy to press, that I often hit it by accident, lowering my scores. I remember this being an issue in the preview as well for both myself and my teammate. I’m also unsure about the replay value of Escape Academy. Outside of beating your past scores, I’m not sure what else there would be to do, and you already know all the answers.
That being said, Escape Academy only costs $19.99. For that price, I wouldn’t expect hundreds of hours of gameplay. The game went above and beyond my expectations, especially regarding the price point. If you are a fan of puzzles or looking for something to do on family game night, Escape Academy might just be the game for you.