Online, Sep 2020
Some games stand out for their puzzles, or for their story; what really impressed me about Cell 126 was just how slick its interface was. That seems like it should be only a minor point in a game’s favour – as long as its not actually undermining game play, the interface should matter far less than the content, right? But Esc The Game have built their game on a platform that made it effortless to keep track of clue items, where it was easy to navigate and enter codes, and which worked flawlessly with players split across locations. Curiously, the game instructions recommended that we have one person interacting with the game and the others watching via screen-share; maybe that would be sensible with a larger group, but with two it made much more sense to use the game’s multiplayer system.
The story is a familiar premise: follow the clues left for you by a previous escapee to escape from imprisonment. Your prison environment is evoked only by a blueprint map and the occasional illustration of an item in a room. There is however a clear structure that follows your progress from your cell towards freedom.
In addition to the interface I also liked the puzzles. There were a couple of points where I wasn’t sure I would, where the clues initially seemed a bit too ambiguous to resolve neatly and I thought it came down to trying each of two or three reasonable options. In both cases I then noticed details I’d been missing, which made the correct solution the only one that fit properly. And while the content is fairly typical escape room style with plenty of lock codes to enter, it has some unusual ideas and creativity.
One criticism common to many digital escape games: I would have liked to be able to go back through the game rather than being instantly locked out on entering the final code, though it’s not unreasonable that they want to prevent people circulating their access code to give others free access.
It was perhaps a bit on the short side – there are a lot of online and print-and-play games available at around this price point, and some of them offer a great deal more to chew on than Cell 126. But it’s slick and enjoyable throughout, and is both accessible enough for beginners to tackle and original enough to appeal to experienced players.
Disclaimer: We played this game on a complementary basis. This does not influence the review or rating.