Team Escape: Ready For Launch

By | September 3, 2020

by Team Escape (website)

2-1000 players

new
digital

Player review

Wei-Hwa Huang says:

Based on the advertising and the promotion and the screenshots -- and the hefty cost! --  I was expecting an exciting SpaceTeam-esque app, with a lot of interaction between teammates, lots of video game elements, and cerebral challenges.

Instead, we got, um, 8 puzzles.  Most of which I would not be surprised to see in a cheap "MENSA test your intelligence" books.  Six of them were just static images.  One of them used a crummy AR that was unreliable and all it did was overlay two images.  And the last one was just a bunch of beeps.

And even that would have been fine, if the technical issues and interface hadn't been so horrible.  First off, the app kept crashing on my 1-month-old Android tablet without explanation.  Probably because didn't have any cell phone signal, not that I could tell because there was no useful error message.  No problem, I'll install on my phone.  First thing is that it tells me that my phone doesn't have a built-in compass (it does) and that this could severely impact my game experience.  Spoiler -- the game doesn't use the compass or location services in any way.

You need a QR code to start the game.  Except that the organizers didn't send us one.  No problem, they sent a "unique game code".  And each player has a "player code".  But the screens where you are supposed to enter these just say "enter code".  Which code goes where?  Well, probably the game code first, then the player code.  Okay.  Oh, now the screen tells you to take a "team photograph" and type in your "team name".  The preview image is scaled differently than the actual image, but you don't know this, so you carefully line up your face in the center of the image, take your photograph, and it shows everything from your nose to your neck.  No eyes.  Oh, and "team name" apparently means "your name, which will be visible to your team".  All of us got this wrong, which meant that team Vanish the Escape Goat had four team members, named Vanish the Escape Goat, Vanish the Escape Goat, Vanish the Escape Goat, and Vanish the Escape Goat.  Which of course means that if any of us sent a message through the app's messaging system, we'd have no idea which one of us sent it.  It takes four taps to even get to the message-sending box though, so why would we bother.

Anyway, we realize our mistake and try to exit the game to see if that lets us change our name.  Okay, "Leave Game" works.  But now to join it says "enter code".  Is this asking for the "game code" or the "player code"??

Finally we get to the part where there are puzzles!  Ah, but the puzzles are on this giant image, which you can't read on a tiny phone screen.  No problem, they have two ways to solve this.  Method one is that you can pinch-expand to zoom in.  Method two is that in the lower left corner of the screen is a shrunk-down version of the giant image, and you can drag in that image to move the main screen around, or tap on it to zoom out to fit the whole image on the screen.  Oh wait, did I mention that the "shrunk-down" version takes up 40% OF YOUR SCREEN?  So, hope you don't have to zoom in on the lower-left of the image, because getting to there is literally impossible.  And when you are zooming the big screen, make sure you don't accidentally venture into the "shrunk-down" version, because it will suddenly go "fit image" and you'll lose all your zooming.

Okay, so we solve a puzzle and there's a separate screen to enter the answer we got.  Which is a bunch of letters.  The answer entry is FIVE SEPARATE PASSWORD FIELDS, ONE FOR EACH LETTER.  And it's case-sensitive.  So, if the answer is "HELLO", you need to type "H" in the first field, thank god it auto jumps to the next field, type "E" in the second field, and so on.  So it can tell you your answer is wrong.  It doesn't tell you the reason that your answer is wrong is that you submitted it in lower-case.  No problem, we're smart, we can double-tap the shift key to turn on CapsLock.  There.  HELLO.  Nope, still wrong.  Because each field is a SEPARATE field, the CapsLock TURNS OFF when it goes to the next field.  So, yep, the right way is Shift H Shift E Shift L Shift L Shift O.  On your tiny phone, because the game doesn't run on a tablet.  You know what would've made this just a bit less frustrating?  If I could ACTUALLY SEE WHAT I WAS TYPING but nooooo, these are PASSWORD FIELDS so everything I type just shows up as a round dot in the center of the cell.  Because wow, these folks are so concerned about my security, since, oh, some SPY from a DIFFERENT TEAM might be LOOKING OVER MY SHOULDER and evilly STEALING THE ANSWER TO THE PUZZLE.

One player has an important job. They are the Team Captain. Based on the explanations given, we originally thought that the Team Captain was the only person who could submit answers. This quickly disproved itself as we all discovered we could submit answers. Ah, maybe the Team Captain is the only one who will get their answers checked for correctness?  Nope, the app does that for everyone too. What is actually going on is that the Team Captain is the only person who can GET POINTS for a correct answer. You'd think this would be done by having the Team Captain's correct answers give you points. Nope. Instead, when the Team Captain enters a correct answer, they unlock another submission box, with instructions to "Enter 200 into this box to get 200 points".  So Team Captain has to tap the box, tap 200, and only THEN does your team get the points.  My best guess is that the designers couldn't figure out how to have a submission box give points for some players but not others, and they didn't want to force everyone on the team to submit the same answer to get points, so they came up with this crazy system.  

Okay, I've now spent more time typing up this rant than it took me to solve all the puzzles (not counting the time it took me to INPUT THE ANSWERS) so I'll make the other complaints brief.  Some trivial errors in the puzzles -- if the puzzles weren't so easy and copied from cheap intelligence tests those errors might have actually worried us.  The server is smart enough to figure out if you have the right solution to a puzzle, but for some reason isn't smart enough to give you points for the solution. One puzzle so badly translated that three out of the four players had no idea what the text was saying and the fourth player mostly got it out of image context. (It probably has to do with the translator not knowing that "digit" and "number" have different meanings.)  The "shrunk-down" version containing an image that doesn't match the main screen. Instruction pages come with "Later" and "Done" buttons, where "Later" means "I may or may not be reading these instructions now, but I definitely want to see them later", and "Done" means "I don't ever want to see these instructions again, take them away so that I can't get to them even if I want to come back and check them." Some puzzles have the submission box accessible on the same screen but some require you to submit elsewhere. A "quest" that is basically "download this PDF from this DropBox account and print it" ... wait, who the heck prints PDFs from their PHONE???  Maybe at least of just having a link, you could give the URL to the DropBox account?  Or a QR code?  Or a share button, or ANY reasonable way of actually getting the URL to a desktop computer?

We took 25 minutes of in-game time to finish.  Of that, I estimate maybe 6 minutes of actual puzzle-solving and 19 minutes of wrestling with the app. 25 minutes does not include the 20 minutes of trying to figure out the login. 

The folks who run this claim that the game can run for 1000 people. I sure would like to see that happen, it'd be like watching a forest fire...

Rated between 10 and 10 out of 5
Wei-Hwa Huang has played 149 games - see all ratings and reviews

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