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Review: 20000 Leagues Under The Sea (Remote) | Novel Escape


JUMP TO: THE INFO | THE GALLERY | THE GUIDE | THE REVIEW





THE INFO

20000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA |

NOVEL ESCAPE


🗺️ Based In United States

⏲️ 65 Minutes ▪ 💪 N/A ▪ 🔢 Unlimited, 2-6 Recommended

📚 You're a prisoner on a submarine, and the captain has offered you one chance at escape: find the treasure hidden deep at the bottom of the ocean. The catch? Your air runs out in ONE HOUR. It's a race against the clock. Do you have what it takes to scour the ocean floor, capture the treasure, and make it back to the surface before you run out of time? (Just because you can’t leave your house doesn’t mean you can’t take an undersea adventure. Our remote escape room is just like our in-house game, minus the germs!)





THE GALLERY

20000 Leagues Under The Sea (Remote) | Novel Escape





THE (QUICK) GUIDE

THIS, IN A NUTSHELL, IS...

▪ Classified As: Play At Home » Avatar-Led Remote Escape Room

▪ A Zoom-livestreamed version of an existent, underwater themed escape room that features an inspired plotline and characters from the novel by the same name from Jules Verne. The story takes Captain Nemo and his virtual crew into the body of submarine Nautilus, which then ventures deep into the ocean floor to help Nemo find the true treasure of his life. Innovative and fun mental puzzles are plentiful, though an outstanding performance from the hosting actor/avatar positively steals the spotlight. For those who enjoy reading classic tales and solving escape puzzles in their free time--Novel Escape is the company for you.


YOU'LL ENJOY THIS, IF...

▪ If you're a fan of the original novel "20000 Leagues Under The Sea", and want to see it come to life in escape game form.

▪ If you enjoy an amusing theatrical take on how hanging out with Nemo would be like, and appreciate some good laughs.

▪ If prefer savoring a game with solid puzzles that require mental work, as opposed to one with an overreliance on showy tech.

▪ If you want to support a new, small business in Austin, Texas, which has shown great potential to grow and expand.

▪ If you enjoy these similar/related options: Nautilus, The Argo (to be reviewed), The Heist, Operation: X-13.


SOUNDS GREAT, NOW WHAT?

📖 CONTINUE READING THE REVIEW BELOW!

🛒 WHEN YOU'RE READY... TO BOOK, CLICK HERE!

💻 For remote experience, watch out for potential time & date difference due to varying time zones.

💻 Live feed requires Zoom. Inventory uses Telescape Live and requires a reliable web browser, such as Firefox.

🧐 Based on everything discussed below in the review, with my team of 4, the difficulty subjectively feels like a 3 to 4/10, (which may differ from the company's official rating). As such, I recommend a team of 3 to 4, possibly more if players are beginners.





THE (FULL) REVIEW

Captain Nemo and his crew aboard the Nautilus submarine | Novel Escape



IMPRESSIONS


▪ Rather than explaining the rules or going over the basic premise, "20000 Leagues Under The Sea" started off with our avatar, in full character as Captain Nemo, doing a mixture of both through "story time": She literally grabbed a book off the shelf, summarized what's to happen in the next hour, in some sort of rhyming poem. Probably a first for my team, and a different approach from most company to begin a Zoom game, this worked uniquely in a tongue-in-cheek way as Nemo explained, "Hey, this is how we do it at NOVEL escape, get it?" Chortle. I do, Nemo, I do. And I love puns and word play. You already got me.


▪ Nemo then led us, via the live broadcast, through the corridors of the venue to the entrance of the escape room. This short but deliberate display of the hallways may break immersion for certain audience, but for me, it still aligned with the company's bookish theme. Synonymous to the idea of "reading opens up a whole new world", we're about to step through the escape room door (the metaphorical book cover) into the heart of the story universe--the metallic body of a deep sea submarine. But hey, if this doesn't work do it for ya, I get it; it's a very brief moment to overlook in any case.


▪ Our adorable, pink-haired avatar (Kelly) played Nemo with a convincing British accent, and being unfamiliar with the original plot line, I assumed this was canon--but it's all very impressive all the same. Captain Nemo was perhaps the best, yes, that's correct, the best part of my escape experience. Having a theater background, this young lady pulled off being both charming and humorous, all whilst fulfilling avatar duties as being our eyes and arms. As both an actress and an avatar, she effortlessly exerted a friendly presence and maintained a steady control and pacing throughout. In short, she was just fantastic.


▪ Though I expected the entire game to take place inside Nautilus the submarine much like the Disney attraction, the room actually consisted a significant portion of ocean floor exploration, rendering it already more varied than any sub themed escape game I've played. To recreate both the interior of an underwater voyager and the bottom of the sea is an ambitious project, and Novel Escape has done a reasonable job in delivering on this front. Production value was not movie-set level amazing; quality is consistent and reflective with most small business's budget. I saw a lot of heart and hard work put in, and it looked decent and was exceptionally functional for its purpose. As with any good adventure, several unsuspected secrets await.



THEMING


▪ The theme drew direct inspirations from the publication of the same name, (as I suspect all rooms of this company will,) though you need not to have read the book to take joy in the game. From my rather cursory understanding of the novel from pop culture, I expected a deep dive quest featuring fishies, sea creatures, and/or monsters, and indeed that's what I got. Names like Nautilus and Nemo are direct pulls from the book, and I imagine fans of the original may find more allusions to appreciate.


▪ Because "20000 Leagues" was not confined to only inside the Nautilus and extended to the unknown waters beyond, this actually felt more like an adventure than one might foresee. The game was very mission-centric, and very clear on what you need to achieve in order to triumph: You are to get from point A to point B, search and retrieve an artifact, and safely return. It almost felt like an Indiana Jones or pirate expedition, except oxygen tanks required. Various special effects, like loud noises and strategic camera "tricks" (thanks, Nemo!), brought different surprises (and semi-disasters) alive even through Zoom.


▪ Because of the way the story, or rather, the missions are structured, we saw not one, but two climaxes during the game, giving us the rare opportunity to celebrate twice--which felt really nice! To be honest, with the first objective succeeded, I thought the game had wrapped, then I proceeded to panic a bit when I finally realized there's still much to complete before time runs out. The game writers (and our lovely thespian) also closed with a heartwarming finale, which completed our "novel" with a satisfying conclusion. Overall, the story book concept was executed well, and therefore making it a great option for kids and families.


▪ And let's not forget Kelly's naval uniform and magnificent Frenchman mustache. (Hey! I thought you were British!)



Inventory platform via Telescape Live | Novel Escape



PUZZLES


▪ "20000 Leagues" is mostly a gen-1 puzzle dominated experience, and that means get ready for loads of padlocks. Combo-based challenges are a more traditional form of escape room gaming, and I remain to be a big fan of these mentally-geared brainteasers. Though the locks themselves are familiar number lock, letter lock, or directional lock, the way to obtain the solutions are mostly novel (this time meaning new and usual, not the paperback), and tend not to recycle hackneyed ideas used by most. Expect to: search for numbers hidden in props, play with visual perception, match similar patterns, listen to audio cues, and some of my personal favorites--have fun with word plays, and there's quite a few of them!


▪ To maintain a good variety and a more balanced and exciting experience, there are also noticeable mechanical and technological parts added to bolster the experience in between padlock opening, and they are all very efficient and competent. This is most prominent in the Nautilus section of the room, which makes sense, since tech gears are most easily hidden and just plainly expected in a large, submerged vessel. Control panel, periscope, and a surprise guest are among the more gadget-y challenges you'll face as you set sail with Captain Nemo miles beneath the sea level.


▪ There is a reason why the session started with a rhyming story time. One particular puzzle will make it all so clear...


▪ Though I did not find issues with the puzzles themselves, I did think certain clues were very "puzzles for puzzles' sake" and could be reworked and reintegrated better one day. For example, I am no marine biologist, but I am pretty sure quotes and texts randomly appearing in ocean water, or peculiar glow-in-the-dark symbols, are not a normal part of the hadalpelagic ecosystem. (However, alternatively, if you treat the adventure as "jumping into a book", which aligns nicely with the ongoing novel theme, then the random quotes appearing throughout become a natural component of reading contents--which then makes sense!)


▪ When asked of my team, "What was your favorite puzzle or moment?" by our host, we fought to give different answers; and the truth is, there were many memorable moments to choose from, including a few puzzles that I haven't seen employed first-hand in an escape room before. My portfolio of puzzling tips and tricks has grown today!



The greatest treasure can't be measured in gold or gemstones | Novel Escape



OTHER CONSIDERATIONS


▪ Like many, many, many remote escape games out there, "20000 Leagues" also used Telescape Live as its inventory interface, offering players supplemental information like photo close-ups, video clips, and 360° panoramic view. What I want to point out specifically is Novel Escape's genius and limited use of Telescape: Only absolutely necessary clarifications were provided in our Telescape window, anything else that you can easily obtain from the live feed, you do so as such. As a result, I never dwelled on the inventory webpage for long, and focused my attention at Nemo's broadcast, and that in turn made me that much more engaged with the avatar, the room, and the experience itself.


▪ On a related note, as mentioned, because our actor as Captain Nemo was just such a star to the show, her performance not only supported, but actually elevated the experience by many folds. And for that critical reason, this is the second instance (this being the first) where I feel a livestream virtual play was arguably a better way (than in-person) to enjoy this product!


▪ And the price tag, $60 flat for first two connections? An absolute bargain. As long as you have 3 to 4 people to split the cost and can safely stuff said members behind no more than two Zoom accounts, you can enjoy this Texas escape room gem anywhere for no more than $20 per person, and that's insanely cheap. (Definitely helped push this title to the "MUST DO!" rank!)



OVERALL: 😍


▪ Though Novel Escape is a new company that has only debuted relatively recently, it's coming in strong and ready to make its mark in the community. It reminds me a lot of the many smaller, perhaps family-owned businesses I've had to pleasure to work with in the past. It may not look lavishly fancy, but it's undeniably bursting with great ideas and awesome talents, waiting for its future fans--and I forecast many in the making--to take notice. "20000 Leagues Under The Sea" is loved by my entire team, and I very much look forward to more story times in the future.





Signing off,

ESCAPE MATTSTER

Instagram @EscapeMattster Facebook.com/EscapeMattster


Full disclosure: complimentary game access was generously provided for review or testing purposes. All media are sourced from and credited to rightful owners. No copyright infringement intended. In certain cases, media materials are made available under fair use doctrine of copyright law. NELeagues.