Sunday, January 27, 2019

Boardgame - Escape Room The Game: Virtual Reality - Spin Master

"♫ You spin me right round, baby, right round... "





Publisher:
Identity Games, Spin Master (US/Canada)
Designers:
Unknown (boo!)
Artist:
Unknown (boo!)
Languages:
English, German, Dutch, Spanish, French and more
# of Players:
3-5 (3-4 in my opinion)
Age:
16+ (10+ in my opinion)
Duration:
60 min

BoardGameGeek References:

Game Design & Mechanics

Picture from the manufacturer's website
  • The gist of the game, in style and in structure, is very much akin to the "Escape Room: The Game", which I reviewed a while ago. Here I'm going to focus on what's different about it.
  • This version of the game is coupled with a free (and mandatory) app running on iOS and Android phones, using Google Cardboard. Such a device (the cardboard, not the phone, obviously) is included in the box.
  • While the original game used a "Chrono-Decoder" icon on some of its components, this time it's "VR" icon. Whenever you see that icon on a paper clue, it implies that you'll need to access the VR environment in order to solve that puzzle.
  • What does that VR environment feels like? With your phone running the app and tucked inside the Cardboard box, you gain access to a 360° scenery that one player at a time can explore.
  • The scene can be interacted with, to some limited extent. A cursor is middle in the middle of your field of vision, and it changes shape when you're looking at something that can be interacted with. The Cardboard has a button you can click on to toggle an interaction.
  • Those interactions, albeit limited, means that the VR environment can eventually "change state". Even though the "main game" happens in the real world, elements might allow you to make progress in the virtual world, hence gaining new clues to assist you in the table game.
  • I've already mentioned the "Chrono-Decoder" that was a staple of the original game. So let's be clear: this game does NOT include it! Even though the core game mechanic is still all about finding which 4 keys need to inserted into the 4 slots, 3 times, you'll have to either 1) use the Chrono-Decoder from another ERTG set, or 2) use a 2nd device running the same app, but this time to be used a virtual Chrono-Decoder. We tried both modes, and I felt that not having "real" keys is just not as enjoyable.
Pros
  • The VR works well enough, providing an exciting type of interaction that other boxed games don't have.
  • The overall format (with the Chrono-Decoder, the 3 successive "gates" and the disposable paper components) remains one of my favorite for playing with others.
  • If you own a Google cardboard device of your own (or any compatible phone-based headset), there's nothing preventing you from running multiple VR headsets at once, so that more people can enjoy the 360 display. However, keep in mind that the VR does track "state", so you could technically "move on" within the game in one headset while remaining stuck in the other.
  • The game has a print & play scenario that can be downloaded and played for free. However, it's only 15 min long, which means a 2nd device is necessary because it's not compatible with the Chrono-Decoder.
Cons
  • As mentioned above, if you play without the Decoder (and its physical keys), the experience just isn't as nice.
  • Depending on your teammates (especially younger players), you might have to regulate the usage of the VR headset, so everyone can have their go.
  • The game suffers from the same problems I've seen in other ERTG expansions: the scenarios just aren't as good as the first ones. There's absolutely no reason for that - the game system should be adaptable to all kinds of scenarios and settings. Yet somehow, the folks at Identity Games seem to struggle at making a scenario that's both "hard" yet "fair". Likewise, they seem to struggle coming up with "investigative"-type scenarios.

A Word of Caution

In the past, the publishers have done a great job at providing PDF replacements for all the "disposable" components. In "Submarine", however, they current only provide a replacement for one side of a piece of paper. 🤨 You might want to scan the other side and reuse it. (Or see my own humble attempt here.)


Scenario Results

Down Below (print & play demo)
Official difficulty: ? / 5
Played with: 5 players
Made it? NO

Submarine
Official difficulty: 3 / 5
Played with: 6 players
Made it? YES - 1 single second (!) remaining

Behind Enemy Lines
Official difficulty: 4 / 5
Played with: 3 players
Made it? NO

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