Escape Tales: The Awakening
Players: 1-4, Time: 180-360 mins, Age 16+
By Board & Dice
A copy of this game was sent to me by Board & Dice to review. There was no obligation to provide a positive review either asked or given
Escape Tales: The Awakening is a 2018, 1-4 player, co-operative, story driven, escape room, style game from Jakub Caban, Matt Dembek, and Bartosz Idzikowski, and published by Board & Dice.
Before I begin, This review is spoiler free and all images are either from the very first opening of the game or in one case images without context. Also be aware this game is rated 16+ for a reason and not just to get round CE regulation testing. It deals with some difficult subject matter including referencing suicide which could make it unsuitable for younger players. With that said here we go.
Promise or Premise?
Going into Escape Tales: The Awakening you are provided with very little information. Your daughter is in a coma for an unknown reason. The doctors are baffled and she is deteriorating. You meet a man who tells you that his child had the same thing happen. He goes on to tell you that there is a book containing a ritual that might help you but there is a cost involved (were not talking cash here either). Are you ready to do what it takes?
What’s in the Box?
Inside your copy of Escape Tales: The Awakening you will find,
A Story book, Location Cards, Game Cards, Doom Cards, Rule Book and Action Tokens.
You will also need access to a mobile phone, tablet or laptop. This is because the game uses an app to keep the puzzle answers hidden and allow you access to individual hints (or even answers if your completely stuck) as opposed to your needing to open envelopes or tear cards. What is nice though is that once you have accessed the app you can play offline.
“Action Tokens. We thought you said it was an escape room game that means there is a timer yes?” I hear you ask.
Well, no. Escape Tales: The Awakening breaks the 1hr and done mould of other escape room style games. In fact the publishers have claimed 180-360 minutes (3-6 hours!)on the side of the box and I can confirm my first play-though came in at just under 4 Hours (minus comfort break).
Do not panic, you don’t need to complete the game in one sitting either. There is a very simple save and resume function explained in the rule book which allows you to record your progress and get back up and running again really quickly.
This is how we do it?
Board and Dice have managed to create a very rules light game with Escape Tales: The Awakening. To play a game you will basically
Move to a location- a location consists of 2 Tarot sized cards and a smaller map grid card.
Take Tokens- Collect a specific number of action tokens.
Place a token onto a grid space of the map grid card.
Read out the relevant paragraph from the story book.
Take associated actions, cards etc. as depicted in the book.
Attempt to solve puzzles.
Enter your solution in the app.
Follow the directions of the app after a correct puzzle answer.
Now to be totally clear there will also be hidden steps between steps 6 and 7 which consist of get answer wrong, ask for hints, find out you need more clue cards, try again and use more hints. You can use the app to tell you how many cards you need to solve the puzzle.
As there is no ticking clock pressure and no final score to worry about, you do not feel so reluctant to be using hints. You can even use the final hint to reveal the answer itself if you need to (yes we did on a couple of the puzzles).
You will very quickly realise that you are not given enough tokens to visit every space available so the need to prioritise your choices is worth discussing before spending tokens. However if you do run out of tokens on a location there are Doom cards which can provide you with more after resolving the effect of the card. As you would expect with a name like Doom, The more you use the worse it gets for you.
The pressure builds as you move through the story due to the inability to move to another location until you have found the exit to your existing one. This is not always an obvious doorway either.
You need to pay attention to everything as there can be clues all over as you try to complete the ritual and save your daughter. Escape Tales: The Awakening has multiple endings so your choices really will matter.
I’m not in Mensa?
There is definitely something for everyone in Escape Tales: The Awakening. The mix of puzzles ranges from the simple “A+B=C” variety going all the way up to the “This card needs to lay across these two at this angle, while looking upside down” variety. I would be so bold as to say that 99% of groups will get stuck on some of the puzzles and need hints at some point.
The puzzles themselves try to have some relationship to the story itself. Some more successfully than others. To say more would be spoiler territory
It is all about the story?
The overarching story of a man trying to perform a ritual to awaken his daughter from her coma works really well. You will find yourself becoming emotionally invested in the main characters journey throughout the complex and branching storyline, containing multiple endings and decisions with far reaching consequences on the outcome of the story.
Some may find the emotional tone and some of the subject matter referenced uncomfortable. It’s a dark story with plenty of emotionally disturbing themes. However these points are in my opinion dealt with in the right way and not shoved in your face.
Pros and Cons?
Escape Tales: The Awakening is an ambitious attempt at creating a story driven adventure in the escape room style games with a hint of Choose Your Own Adventure thrown in for good measure. This is an aim that if does to different degrees of success.
Some of the location card images are hard to see properly, this is quite a big issue especially as visual reference is so important. The box is plenty big enough to have allowed for larger location cards and this would have improved the playing experience greatly especially if you have 4 players all trying to see what an image is.
Some of the key decision points in the game will likely be reached with incomplete or insufficient information.
Escape Tales: The Awakening is not a cheerful game.
At 3-6 Hours Escape Tales: The Awakening is a long game.
Puzzle cards are marked with clue identifiers to help you keep them grouped.
App tells you how many cards you need for a puzzle (if you want it to).
A Mature theme not watered down for extra sales.
No time limit.
Re-playability You don’t destroy any components.
I personally enjoyed my time with Escape Tales: The Awakening. I found the story to be thouroughly engaging with some meaningful decisions that I became emotionally invested in. My first playthrough was done in a single sitting and I came away feeling drained as the puzzles were taxing. That being said I did find some of the logic connundrums to be a bit of a stretch and a little obtuse.
In fact there was one puzzle that even after all the hints and revesling the answer I could still not see how it was worked out. This very fact stops me from reccommending this game to a solo player. You really need at least two or preferably 3 players so you can combine your thinking. That is where this style of game really shines.
With the first play of Escape Tales: The Awakening you will experience roughly 60-70% of the content. A second playthrough allowed us to experience many of the same puzzles this allowed for speedier play but was still worthwhile. I cannot see my group playing 3 times or more just to try to access the extra endings. Even saying this, the amount of content is equivilant to at least three of the Exit games so value for money is very high.
If you enjoy escape rooms style gameplay, are not put off by the storyline and tone or the need to really look hard at the cards or use a magnifying glass (which is what I did but I don’t have great eyesight any more). Then Escape Tales: The Awakening is recommended
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