It feels like escape the room VR experiences are getting better every time I try a new one. I mean, sure, you pretty much know what to expect with these types of games so there’s usually not much of a difference between them except of variation in environments and puzzles. But even so, developers have been keeping things interesting with futuristic themes such as in Nano Shift VR, or adding in some action sequences like with Ikaros. EvilPort recently also added their take on the room escape genre to the mix with their debut title, Escape Room VR: Stories.
Much like the name suggests, Escape Room VR: Stories makes storytelling a central part of its focus by introducing different narratives and characters to each puzzle room. The game offers three completely different rooms and you’re a different character in each with different goals to complete. Of course, there are various smaller goals to achieve such as unlocking safes and finding keys but each room also contributes to an overarching plot with a related main goal you have to complete before the timer runs out.
Escape Room VR: Stories is available now on Steam and Viveport for HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, and Windows Mixed Reality at $14.99. I tried the game using a Vive and found it to be one of the more polished VR escape the room titles out there with a nice variety of puzzles and excellent environmental design.
Check out the trailer below:
In terms of the overall feel of the game, Escape Room VR: Stories reminded me a lot of another escape the room we tried a while back, called Escape!VR – Above The Clouds. Both offer the same type of highly detailed environments and a nice variety of puzzles with an overarching storyline. What sets Escape Room VR: Stories apart, however, is that you don’t have to complete all of the puzzles in a room, but you have to at least finish the main objective and escape each one in a certain amount of time. That said, the game does encourage you to go back and complete all of the puzzles because it has a star-based rewards system that awards you one to three stars depending on how well you completed a room. So that adds some replayability to the game – which is unusual for an escape the room game.
Earning Stars In Time
So there are three rooms in total to explore, in any order you wish. Though for the game’s storyline to make sense you’ll have to start with the first which is called ‘Dirty Money’. Escape Room VR: Stories doesn’t explain that, however, so things can get confusing if you decide to start with one of the other two first. In ‘Dirty Money’ you get pulled into a plot involving white collar crimes. If you want to continue the story in order, you will have to then enter a notorious fraternity and pass their final trial but will then find yourself in a seemingly hopeless situation in ‘Mad Kidnapper’.
Each room only gives you 30 minutes to figure out how to escape but I found that it wasn’t enough for me (I’m notoriously bad at puzzle games) so a second or even third run-through was sometimes necessary even when I wasn’t going for a full three stars.
A unique feature of the storyline in Escape Room VR: Stories is that’s it’s not just told through the voices of your character and other NPC but also with the help of a graphic novel. To be honest, I didn’t like this feature at first, since the game-world would just suddenly fade away and pop a couple of panels in front of you that were narrated by voice actors. It was jarring at first and didn’t seem to fit in with the rest of the game. However, it definitely adds a unique flair to an otherwise stale genre and that’s to be appreciated at least.
Hinting At The Obvious
There are also a lot of different puzzles in the game and some are, of course, much harder to figure out than others. For those, I would have liked to have the safety net of a hints system. Which, I guess, the game sort of incorporates at times through an offhand comment from your character here or a small note there.
But as is common with puzzle games in general, it often feels like the developers went out of their way to make things illogically hard. To the point where I’m wondering why I can’t just smash something open with a chainsaw that’s lying right there instead of having to work my ass off to find a combination for a locked cabinet that contains a key to a safe. There’s a level of redundancy that comes with many (if not most) puzzle games – especially escape games – that just puts me off the genre in general and it’s no different here.
In general, though, the puzzles weren’t too hard to figure out and I found myself rarely having those moments of silent frustration where you’re just standing in the middle of the room, wondering what to do.
Wandering In Circles
Escape Room VR: Stories also has a climbing system that comes in handy sometimes when you need to find a clue that’s on a different level, especially in the fraternity room where certain puzzles could only be completed by climbing and pulling levers. Movement overall was smooth in the game in terms of the grabbing system and teleportation – which is the only locomotion option it offers. There were a couple of time when this movement method was bothersome, such as when I was trying to reach things on a table with chairs in front of it. Luckily, most items and things in the environments can be interacted with – unlike many other escape game out there which only let you interact with certain puzzle-related elements. So pulling a chair out of the way or lifting one thing to get to another was perfectly fine in this game.
So if you’re into escaping rooms for fun then Escape Room VR: Stories will definitely offer a unique experience within the genre, with plenty of challenging brain teasers to work through, as well as an interesting storyline involving different characters.