The question "are escape games worth it" didn’t start off written down on a page.
It was never emphasised in bold or writ large in a super-sized font when I happened upon it...
It was innocuous, barely there at all, breaking the surface in faint ripples and idle ponderings.
Which is to say, recently, I realised it’d been on my mind for a while.
And my mind had changed while it’d been there.
This feature explains why.
Duck Or Rabbit?
You might have come across the famed Duck-Rabbit optical illusion before (or its counterparts – Young/Old Lady or People-Vase). Looked at in one way, the illusion presents one thing and in another, well, I’m sure you’re already ahead of me.
There’s a similar point to make about Escape Room Games. On the one hand, they’re an Escape Room, on the other… They’re a board game.
This has probably never confused you.
Comprehension might be straightforward, but we are also influenced more subtly…
Whilst it may not matter whether escape games are one thing, another, or both, it does affect what we compare them with. I never gave that much thought, but when I buy these games… It’s a board game retailer I buy them from.
Making board games the obvious point of comparison.
In making comparisons with other games, one major metric (you’ll see it in all our reviews) is Replayability. Something an Escape Room fares very poorly on.
Here we award scores from 1-5, but if there was ever a candidate for 0, the Exit Games would be it...
Not only can you not play them again, but they also can’t be passed to others either.
Part of completing these games involves destroying, scribbling on, or otherwise manipulating their contents in ways that don’t promote repeated use.
Is this a problem?
Well, perhaps not a big one, but if I click around the site at random, I can guarantee any game I landed on and considered buying, I’d anticipate several plays of afterwards.
Value for Money = Game Price ÷ Number of Times Played
An Exit game is a bad investment.
That holds compared with nearly any game.
Before any of the above calculations, we had a reasonably positive experience with our first Exit game (House of Riddles).
Sure, some of the ‘Strange Items’ – physical components for puzzles – felt a little gimmicky or contrived. As if an effort was made to replicate physical escape rooms but succeeded in drawing more attention to how this paled in comparison. Most of the overall experience was good, but some reservations also took seed.
The Unlock! series of escape games seemed better value. Three games in one box, all still intact afterwards.
I’ll admit to enjoying several boxes of these and even coming close to advocating for them. Still, there were caveats.
I enjoyed most of my time playing the Unlock! games, but never all of it. I felt these games showed glimmers of greatness in some puzzles, but always expected the next would fully make good on their unfulfilled promise. Rather, they offered diminishing returns.
I was usually about 85% satisfied, but the 15% I wasn’t was gaining more focus. Rushing game ends to get it over with; resenting ruinous translations; moving forward by elimination instead of solving riddles. Thirty minutes into one of the later boxes, we abandoned the game entirely. Even with dinosaurs, I couldn’t convince myself it was worth persevering with. The Unlock! series was retired.
Shortly before it – this time – we’d given another Exit game a try.
My mind was ready for changing.
The Great Escape?
For a physical Escape Room, you might expect to pay £20 a head for 1-1.5 hours of escaping. For an Exit game, you pay about £15-£20 for 1-2 hours. You can enjoy this in the comfort of your own home – perhaps with a glass of wine – wiling away an evening or a pleasant afternoon.
We’ve had plenty of time to reinforce what a valuable lockdown activity this can provide. Nor does this diminish outside of lockdown.
The consistent, involved focus of solving riddles – bouncing ideas off each other for a sudden lightning bolt moment, is a genuine ‘quality time’ way to pass several hours in company.
It’s an experience I’ve come to appreciate more in the last 6-12 months and one which I’d (now) recommend to others.
As someone who has walked a full circle on their attitude towards the Exit games, I’d suggest them as a worthy alternative to physical Escape Rooms. More than that, a great value one.
As well as affordability, ultimately, it’s also the quality of enjoyment that matters. This too is a reason to give an Exit game a try.
We Could Escape Together?
I did. You can. We can do it again too.
I’d recommend starting with one or two of the traditional Exit games. Then, if you enjoy those, the recent jigsaw/ Escape Room hybrids (The Sacred Temple and The Deserted Lighthouse) lend an inspired expansion to the initial idea. The Catacombs Of Horror also offers a longer (2-3 hour) two-part edition of a standard Exit game.
That’s it. A simple account of how a mind changed led to fun and games.
And with that, I’m out of here.