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Escaping Reality: Next Gen Puzzle Adventures

VR escape rooms have been around since the early days of VR arcades.

They typically allow up to 4-6 players, and the games are designed to be completed in less than an hour. There’s a tremendous business advantage for VR versus physical escape rooms. VR rooms offer unlimited flexibility of experience.

You can offer 10 different games in the same physical space. Compared to physical rooms, the cost of a few headsets has flipped the economics of escape rooms on its head.

There are two types of games: room-scale and free-roam. Room-scale games restrict players to an isolated physical space, showing up in the virtual space together using teleportation for locomotion. Free-roam games put players in a shared physical room together and let them walk around.

The advantage of room-scale escape room games is, with teleportation, the virtual play spaces can be expansive. Room-scale games keep players close to each other, much akin to physical escape rooms.

Some physical escape game fans complain that VR rooms don’t contain the high-level puzzles they crave. Many VR rooms are more like adventure games, with some light puzzle solving.

Some even include shooting elements. Many operators refer to their VR rooms as Adventure Rooms or Escape Adventures to not disappoint hardcore escape room players, who might give them low reviews on social sites.

Zero Latency Gold Coast offers two VR escape rooms in addition to its arcade games and simulators. Each room is about 6 x 6 meters (around 360 square feet) and features four Quest headsets with BOBOVR M2 headset straps. They offer six different compact free-roam games from VR Cave, a provider out of Canada that claims more than 150 locations.

I spoke to the owners, and they said the additional attractions were critical to their ability to attract larger groups, which can be the difference between a profitable location and one that struggles. They also said people come for the escape room and are curious about Zero Latency and vice versa.

I recently tried an escape room experience in Melbourne, Australia. The game lasted about 45 minutes, during which we had to search for clues scattered around the landscape and inside a building. Finding them felt random, and there was little in the way of puzzle solving. It was more like picking up every random object to see if you could find a code.

Virtual Room out of France offers some of the best VR escape games. But their library hasn’t grown much in the last several years. They’ve been stuck with four games, with a fifth only recently announced.

Video game giant Ubisoft entered the VR escape room market in 2018 with Escape the Lost Pyramid. They quickly followed up with the Assassin’s Creed-themed Beyond Medusa’s Gate.

They now offer five games, including Huxley, a story-driven puzzler developed by Berlin’s EXIT VR. It contains challenging puzzles and striking visuals.

Vertigo Games has two adventure/escape games in their free- roam library on Springboard VR. Corsair’s Curse and Eclipse both support 4D effects like vibrating floors and wind, which can deepen immersion and allow for higher consumer prices.

A new game coming from Lightning Rock

A newcomer to LBE escape games is Lightning Rock out of Canberra, Australia. Their initial game, Chronosphere, is generating some buzz online. They have two other games in development scheduled for release later this year (an aggressive release schedule to say the least). One of their features is that they support both room-scale and free-roam in the same system, with multiple room sizes for flexibility.

Another newcomer from Australia, and candidate for the most memorably named studio, is Plucky Wombat. They offer a prison escape game, The B-Block Breakout, and have another game coming in 2023.

Escape Games offer the benefit of more extended gameplay in relatively compact spaces and support high prices per player. Licensing fees vary widely, and some games have minimums per month. Download the full VR Buyer’s Guide for details.

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