Escape Academy review: Escape room fun, minus the stakes

A place in Escape Academy.

escape academy

MSRP $20.00

“Escape Academy offers lovingly designed puzzles that shine in cooperative play, but it can’t fully replicate the thrills of an actual escape room.”


  • Well-designed rooms

  • Manageable logic puzzles

  • Ideal for children and adults

  • Excellent cooperative

The inconvenients

  • Underdeveloped story

  • No real consequences

  • Very short

Sometimes a simple idea can turn into a deceptively tricky puzzle. This is the case with escape academy, a new indie title that brings the idea of ​​an escape room to your living room. It’s a grand slam idea, one that the game achieves in many ways, but not without struggling to come up with a few solutions.

It’s not due to a lack of experience. Developed by Coin Crew Games, the first-person puzzle game was created by people who designed real-life escape rooms before the pandemic. Coin Crew wanted to properly honor that experience in video game form, replicating the satisfying joy that comes from solving an intricate puzzle box. Many of the fundamentals of the escape room translate perfectly to a digital medium, although others don’t integrate as well.

escape academy features expertly designed puzzles that shine in a co-op setting, though it struggles to replicate the tension of a real escape room. With its limited number of levels and short runtime, I’m already looking to sign up for a bigger and more complex sequel.

The art of escape

When the game begins, players are quickly enrolled in a university for the sole purpose of teaching students the art of escape. There’s a spy narrative across the game’s line, which ties together its disparate puzzle rooms, but it’s little more than clever dressing up to create fun tests. There are traces of creative world-building, but they’re a bit lost in the briefest dialogue interstitials.

Each room is entirely distinct from the others, bringing a mix of inventive puzzles to match the theme.

escape academy excels where it counts: designing puzzles. Throughout the game, players will solve just over a dozen puzzle rooms earning Pokemon type badges. Each room is entirely distinct from the others, bringing a mix of inventive puzzles to match the theme. For example, one piece made me make a cup of tea. I am deposited in a greenhouse with a stove in the center. During the level, I drop tea leaves under a microscope and count elements of its cells to deduce a lock combination. Another set plays out like an action movie, where I radio numbers to my teacher as I watch her orchestrate a prison break via security monitors.

What’s particularly nice is that none of the rooms feel obtuse or confusing, even late-game ones. I’ve never been overwhelmed by having too many clues and objects to interact with at once. I usually had a few key things on hand at a time and some notable level design tips to direct my attention. This especially makes it feel like a proper escape room, as it’s not designed to make you feel lost. If you see a piano, you know you have to play it; it’s just a matter of figuring out which other puzzle will tell you the right keys to press. Even if you mess up, a generous hint system provides clear nudges, making it much friendlier for players of all ages.

A row of computers shows a puzzle in Escape Academy.

The first-person perspective works here too, allowing players to replicate the experience of anxiously walking around a room. A particularly small, but nice touch is the ability to pin a hint on the screen, which makes things like number puzzles much easier to complete without the need for a pen and paper. I wish there were more ways to write clues in the game – my moleskin full of numbers and notes currently makes me look like a serial killer – but the puzzles are small enough that it’s generally easy to keep a combination or a short and safe pattern in mind.

Missing keys

It’s clear that the game has been lovingly crafted by escape room experts, as each level is packed with intuitive logic puzzles that are easy to love. It gets a little trickier when it comes to replicating the high-stakes energy that real-world escape rooms bring. In these scenarios, it’s a race against time with teams struggling to escape the venue before being kicked out by the 25-year-old running the reception.

escape academy isn’t quite able to capture that same manic spirit. Each level has a time limit and an ominous countdown clock at the top of the screen, but it’s a placebo. If time runs out, there is no consequence. The play continues as usual. The only downside is that you will get a slightly lower grade on the report card you receive at the end of each level.

There’s no good reason to come back to a level other than to try it in co-op.

Those ratings aren’t exactly a strong incentive to do better. There are no leaderboards where players can compare scores or even room clearing times. The lack of friend list competition makes sense, because once you’ve solved a room, there isn’t much of a challenge left. You can easily replay it armed with every puzzle answer and get an A+ in minutes. There’s no good reason to come back to a level other than to try it in co-op.

This is where the digital and physical experiences of the escape room clash with each other. You are only supposed to do a real one once. The threat of failure makes an escape room an exciting evening, but failure doesn’t make as much sense in a game. You can always reset or try again. In one room, I had to cut the right wires on a bomb. If I was wrong, my only consequence was that a few minutes counted on the clock. I could screw up all I wanted until I finally cut the right thread. What was the game going to do, tell me I couldn’t try again unless I paid for another attempt?

escape academy lab

To his credit, escape academy find other clever ways to bring a sense of tension. Real escape rooms may cause mild panic, but it’s still a safe environment with low stakes. Here, players are thrown into a burning library or a series of slowly flooding rooms. These scenarios make the race to escape more exciting, although the lack of a meaningful consequence of failure proves to be a real challenge.

I wouldn’t mind as much if there was a bit more in the package. escape academy only has a dozen rooms, most of which were traversed before reaching the suggested time limit. It only took me about three hours to complete it. An epilogue would allow me to come back and replay old rooms at any time, but it’s not much fun.

The ultimate couple game

If you’re going to play Escape Academy, I highly recommend you do it with a friend. The whole story can be completed by two-player split-screen mode, and that’s where the game really shines. While I mostly played the game solo, my favorite experience with it came through co-op. This is when the game felt most delightfully chaotic as my puzzle buddy and I bounced around a room shouting hints at each other and exchanging notes. It joins the pantheon of top tier “couple games” right next to It takes two.

Every little design detail stands out with two players. The ability to pin a hint to the screen works especially well in a split-screen environment where one player can hold a note while the other solves a puzzle. There are usually at least two tasks that can be completed at any time within a level, allowing players to divide and conquer without straying too far from each other. The simpler puzzle design also makes it a great option for parents who want to play something with their child.

Players solve a puzzle in cooperative Escape Academy mode.

Whereas escape academy can’t quite capture all the nuances of the escape room experience, it nails the social component. It is a game that is best enjoyed as a bonding exercise. It’s an excuse to invite a friend over and chat afterwards, much like an escape party inevitably ends at a bar. Its short and sweet nature makes it a perfect addition to a social gathering session.

Don’t play solo first or you risk becoming the obnoxious friend who keeps rushing your friend impatiently through puzzles.

Our point of view

escape academy is an endearing puzzle game that just wants to share the unique fun of escape rooms with everyone. Each well-designed level brings a set of clever logic puzzles that are always satisfying to solve, especially with a friend. It has a harder time giving players a meaningful sense of failure, as the meaningless time limits suck the tension out of the room. Despite its difficulty in harnessing the energy of real-world escape rooms, it’s one of the most fun ways to spend a Saturday game night this summer.

Is there a better alternative?

The Room series offers incredibly powerful puzzle box gameplay. If you are looking for a longer and more complex cooperative puzzle game, It takes two is the best in its category.

How long will it last?

It took me less than three hours to finish the game, even though I had already done a few rooms during demos. Even so, games will last around four hours with no incentive for replays.

Should I buy it?

Yes. Even though it’s short and flawed, I had a wonderful time solving each piece. Grab a friend and make it a night out.

escape academy has been tested on PC and Steam Deck.

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