“You are the “outside man” breaking into Alcatraz to help a few of your buddies escape the inescapable prison. Throughout this collaborative experience, you must work together to follow a series of clues and solve puzzles to unfold multiple layers of the game and move deeper into the facility to find your friends! You’ll encounter many obstacles and characters along the way—good luck! It’s more than a game, it’s an experience this game provides the thrill and challenge of an escape room, combined with the experience and world-immersion of a movie!”
This was an impulse purchase for me. I heard about it on the Puzzling Company podcast, the concept really intrigued me, and it was only $12 on Amazon—so I clicked “Add to Cart” right away. The marquee feature of this game is the six-sided game box, which contains a series of nested structures inside, each of which unfolds open to reveal more structures inside of them. It’s like a puzzle box Inception or a gaming Matryoshka Doll. It’s a really cool feature and makes the $20 price point even more impressive.
The game advertised two hours of play and that was about right on the money for me, even though I soloed the game. While the core gimmick and the narrative were both really neat, the puzzles underwhelmed me, and instead of feeling like I was making a daring escape at the end of the adventure, it felt more like I was swimming against the current to make it to the finish line.
The narrative part of this game really shines. The setting of the game was meticulously researched and the story was based, fairly faithfully, off of the one (potentially) successful Alcatraz Escape attempt in 1962. The game box features accurate maps and building names, though the 3D buildings are more simplistic, abstract representations of various spaces. They’re still really neat though.
The story and gameplay are told through a deck of cards, which are oversized and packed with story. The story imagines how the escape could have happened if the prisoners had a person on the outside: you. As that person, you’ll need to break in to Alcatraz to help those inmates break out. As a nice touch, since the fate of the real life inmates is unknown to this day, there are several possible endings that will determine the fate of both you and the inmates.
Unfortunately the puzzles didn’t quite live up to the excellent concept and narrative elements. The difficulty was pretty high overall, which in itself isn’t usually a problem for me. However, a lot of the difficulty came from poorly written instructions; several of the puzzles felt like they could have used a lot more beta testing—one of them was so confusing that I had to read the solution multiple times to understand what it wanted. At the end of the game, instead of wanting more, I felt like I had had enough.
Thankfully there was a decent hint system in place, each puzzle came with a hint card that used a red-filter to hide the hints. If you need a hint you can run the included radio card over the hint card to get progressively hintier hints or the solution.
The method of checking whether or not your solution was correct was a neat method; the game came with answer strips that you inserted into various slots located around the game board. This would then resolve to a symbol that matched the back of a card in the deck. Guess wrong, and it would lead you to a hint card. Guess correctly and it leads you to the next part of the story. Determining which strip to test and in which slot is a key part of each puzzle. Unfortunately for me, using these game strips were heavily reliant on being able to distinguish red from green, which was needed to test nearly every puzzle solution. I would often have to check both colors, because I wasn’t sure which was which. A minor, but frustrating quibble.
I feel like there was a lot of promise in this game, and at a seemingly impossible price point for what you’re getting. It’s just a shame that the puzzle half of it didn’t come together. I can’t really recommend this game, but if you’re an enthusiast and are interested in seeing a couple of novel new ideas, you can (at this writing) pick this up for about $12 and check it out for yourself.