Nothing ‘Sub’ about this game
An underground criminal gang known as The Forsaken have been terrorising cities around the globe, operating via a fleet of submarines. Acting on the intelligence gathered by a former operative, you have managed to stow aboard an unmanned sub in the network and are tasked with sabotaging their dastardly plans.
Can you infiltrate the organisation and stop the next attack before it’s too late?
ESC the Game emerged in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic when online escape “rooms” became all the rage, with the goal of building a better online escape room experience. And their first game, ESC From Cell 126 certainly delivered on that point, with a bespoke online interface unlike anything else we had seen at that point, and combined with some great puzzles for an altogether enjoyable game. And now they’re back with a new game: ESC From Sub TXI.
ESC From Sub TXI brings back the same clever online portal that we remembered from the company’s first game, with three different options for play. The first two involve only one person interacting with the game and entering solutions, either because you’re playing in the same household, or because you’ve chosen to screen share while playing remotely. But ESC the Game offer an alternative to screen sharing to remote teams as well: it is possible to access the game from separate devices and interact simultaneously. The game will also update in real-time, so if one person solves a puzzle, it will be unlocked for everyone. There are pros and cons to each option, but whichever option you choose, the game also offers a “Backpack” mode, so that even if you choose to screen share, everyone will be able to access the clues to help solve the puzzles.
As with ESC from Cell 126, despite being located on the same sofa, Gord and I chose Remote: Option 2, allowing us both to log into the game portal and to investigate, interact, and solve independently. The game even saves your progress and will allow you to come back with no issues if you accidentally leave the game (which I did several times). The game itself is structured in a relatively linear way that lends itself well to playing via screen share if you like, but still presents some more open moments where puzzles can be tackled in any order, or simultaneously. This does mean that the game feels less like a team effort, but also ensures that if someone doesn’t feel involved in the current task, then they can move on and try something else.
Once again, the interface was a pleasure to navigate, with puzzles that had been solved being clearly marked, irrelevant information automatically removed from the backpack (and clear ways to enlarge items for a closer look), and different ways of interacting with the platform to unlock puzzles as we came across them. This, combined with puzzles that revolved around the setting and the story ensured that the game was as immersive as a game could be without evolving into an ARG, and spreading out across the internet. While the narrative never felt as though it was particularly instrumental in driving the game forward, it was there, with little snippets of story being uncovered as we progressed through the game, culminating in a twist I wasn’t expecting and a final push to escape from Sub TXI.
The puzzles in Sub TXI were varied, engaging, and ultimately very fair. Subtle sign posting in both the clues we uncovered and the text ensured that we were rarely at a loss as to what to do as we worked our way through the various tasks at hand. The game used many standard sorts of puzzles that we expect to come across in escape games (codes and cyphers, word play, logic problems, and even a minor bit of maths), but my favourite puzzle in the game required us to do something that would normally have me raging if I were to come across it in an escape room, but with a bit of applied logic, it was less overwhelming than it appeared at first, and actually a bit of fun.
Although technically a self-contained game, one puzzle may require you to leave the confines of the game, as it arguably uses outside (although generally common) knowledge, but that will be entirely dependent on your own world knowledge. We managed to complete the puzzle without looking anything up (although it was close), but in a play at home game would it really be cheating to Google something you don’t know if the information isn’t provided?
Once again, hints are readily available and clearly marked for each puzzle. Should you need to take any help, expect to see the same format of three gradual hinting/nudges followed by the solution that has become prevalent in the world of online escaping; and why not? It does work after all. We found the puzzles intuitive enough to just ignore the hint button, so I can’t comment on how well they get you back on track, but based on our experience in Cell 126, they’re probably just the right level of gentle guidance.
But be warned: ESC the Game now runs a leaderboard, and your position will depend on both your time and the number of clues taken, with a slower, hint-free, game potentially ranking higher than a quicker game with many hints taken. (If you care about that sort of thing that is.)
We were impressed with ESC the Game’s first offering to the world of online escaping, and ESC From Sub TXI is equally as enjoyable, if not more so. With an arguably near-perfect online interface for remote teams, coupled with clever puzzles and a nice game flow, Sub TXI is one to consider.
- Device with an Internet connection
- Mobile phone capable of scanning QR codes (optional)
|Value for Money|
Team: 2 players
Time Taken: 41 minutes, no clues (259 points)
*Disclaimer: we weren’t charged for this experience, but this has not influenced our review.