Great, but pricey
You had been promised treasures of your wildest dreams, but now you find yourself in a locked cell room in the basement of the great palace. A note apologizes for the mishap and promises that more riches lie ahead if you can just make it through the challenges of the Sapphire Palace, but first you have to break out of the cell.
Early on, during the first UK (and worldwide) lockdown, Toby over at Escape The Review published a list of Free Online Escape Games. One of his top three recommendations from this list was Palace of Destiny from Palace Games in San Francisco. This game has been one that has been on my radar for nearly a year now, but life keeps getting in the way and we still haven’t gotten around to playing. However, Palace Games have since expanded their online offerings, with The Jewel Palace Series: The Ruby Palace and The Sapphire Palace (with more jewelled palaces on the way).
Ordinarily, we would have played the first game in the series prior to tackling the second, but as both The Ruby Palace and The Sapphire Palace are $20.00 per player, and we’re on a budget, we opted to only play The Sapphire Palace, as it was chosen for the 25th EG- Olympics (Escape game Olympics), which meant we were able to play for only $20.00 for the entire team. With a saving like that, we decided to take advantage and joined the competition, along with our teammates Amy and Ian, of Brit of an Escape Habit. (We came in a semi-respectable 21st place out of 43 teams.)
The Sapphire Palace is an entirely self-contained, browser-based, digital escape game. It is optimally designed for four players, although it is possible to play with three or more, with no upward limit (although more than five is not recommended.) If you do decide to play with more than the recommended number, be warned, some players may find themselves twiddling their thumbs, as if a teammate is already investigating something, another won’t be able to look at it at the same time in certain places.)
Although we’ve not played The Ruby Palace, the start of The Sapphire Palace gave me the impression that the narrative behind the game was a continuation of the story introduced in the earlier game, but it’s totally fine to play out of sequence, as no outside knowledge from any prior games will be required. The Sapphire Palace felt like the early computer games of my youth, with a simple point and click structure, that was easy enough to navigate. The game proceeds in a relatively linear fashion, but despite the strict order in which tasks must be completed, it never felt overly linear due to the cooperative nature of the game. While playing the game you can also see which team member is in which location which certainly helps.
While the game didn’t feel particularly driven by the narrative, there is still an underlying story, driving the game forward, as we discovered more about why we awoke in a strange cell, and what was expected of us to escape. The graphics of the game reminded me of the computer games from my youth, as we made our way through the many doors of the Sapphire Palace.
The biggest challenge in The Sapphire Palace is communication and teamwork; not really surprising given its optimal 4-player design. But alongside this aspect of the game were a wide variety of incredibly different puzzle types, from pattern recognition to wordplay. Logic puzzles, skill tests, maths – this game had it all, and each puzzle was a delight once we figured out where we were going. With the variety of puzzles throughout the game, there’s bound to be something that appeals to everyone on the team, and allows everyone to play to their strengths.
While we found the puzzles to be fair and logical (if you’re stuck, make sure you read the cryptic notes, sometimes they help), no digital escape game is complete without a more robust hint system, and thankfully The Sapphire Palace does come equipped with one. Hints are available by simply clicking a lightbulb above the “room.” These hints are time released to ensure that players really do give it a good try before immediately pressing for another clue, but the light will flash when your next hint is available, should you need it. If you’ve decided that you must have a clue, the system will follow the standard of providing two granular clues, followed by the solution the third time a clue is requested.
I loved everything about The Sapphire Palace, from the interface to the puzzles, and the format to the story. But at $20.00 per player for a game without a live host, I’m going to have a hard time recommending this game to the majority of escapers, no matter how great it is. But if you’ve got the budget, why not give it a go?
- PC or Tablet running modern browser (Chrome/Edge/Firefox)
|Value for Money|
Team: 4 players
Time Taken: 1hr 11mins