Escape Simulator VR Hands-On: A Great New Way To Play

Escape Simulator demonstrates how VR can further enhance flatscreen games. Read on for our full impressions.

Between older hits like I Expect You To Die and more recent games such as Rooms of Realities, we’ve seen plenty of great VR escape room experiences across the years. Instead of watching this unfold behind a flatscreen monitor, VR directly elevates these puzzle games further by placing you “inside” these rooms for increased immersion. Escape Simulator isn’t quite the same; it was originally a flatscreen game and Pine Studio’s new VR Mode highlights this difference well.

VR Mode recently arrived as a free update on Steam, so VR players can access the entire base game, custom-built community rooms, and paid DLC packs. The game’s flatscreen roots are immediately evident from the main menu, though that’s not a bad thing. You’re initially placed in a fully immersive environment, and the main menu is treated like a theatre mode. After customizing my character with a pirate outfit, I got to work.

Escape Simulator lets you play solo or with up to 8 players in online co-op, both with VR and flatscreen players. Between an Egyptian labyrinth or futuristic spaceship packs, Portal’s Aperture Science Laboratories DLC or free extras like Treasure Island, there’s some great location variety complemented by cartoonishly vibrant visuals.

The main room packs feature five stages each with gradually increasing difficulty. As an escape room experience, your ultimate goal is to find the door key and secure your freedom. Being too specific might spoil how to solve certain scenarios, which range from finding lock combinations, deciphering riddles, filling out jigsaw puzzles, or even translating hieroglyphics.

Each room is filled with interactable items and this helps Escape Simulator feel like a natural fit for VR. A straightforward control scheme delivers pleasing interactivity when you grab objects with the triggers. Pulling up an inventory menu with a quick button press and placing objects away isn’t necessarily the most immersive method of item management, nor is magnetically grabbing items, but this isn’t a game striving for realism.

I found myself stumped on more than a few occasions, though Escape Simulator alleviates potential frustrations with a help button that offers clues. Those gradually get more direct until you run out of hints. It’s these moments where multiplayer shines since you can actively discuss strategies with friends, and solving puzzles with a co-op partner feels great.

There’s a range of VR comfort settings, too. Seated and standing mode are both supported, and you can swap between artificial stick-based locomotion and teleportation. Snap and smooth camera turning are present with adjustable angles and speed, respectively. Controller haptics can also be switched off or have their intensity adjusted.

So far, I’ve only spent two hours on Escape Simulator VR, so I haven’t completed the base game or tried any community rooms. However, what I’ve seen has left me considerably impressed. If you’re after a new PC VR game with friends, Pine Studio’s puzzler is worth a look.

Escape Simulator VR is available on Steam for $19.99, and you can download a free VR demo.

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