Review: The Escape Game – Ruins (Remote Adventures)

Ruins: Forbidden Treasure is physically in Nashville but now you can play it from anywhere and with anyone! You’re on a relaxing aerial tour of a remote jungle when everything suddenly falls apart. You’re stranded at the foot of ancient and mysterious temple ruins – home of a massive fabled treasure. Adventure has come knocking and the treasure could be yours for the taking! Fortune favors the bold. Will it favor you?

The Good

Quality Puzzles at your Screen (+8)

This room is fairly non-linear once you know what series of things you need to look for. After that you can really either just have someone gather all the ideas and execute, or split up the work. We tend to provide something for someone to run with and then let that person act on the rest. I can honestly say these puzzles used parts of my senses that other escape games don’t often use. They had a good balance between abstract puzzles and “find the similar things” puzzles so not everything was a massive mental effort.

Admittedly I was very worried at first that this would just end up like a virtual point-and-click adventure, and it was totally not that. Some escape rooms fill in voids left by unimaginative puzzles with jump scares or excitement but they didn’t do that either. Even without being in the room, it was a delight to just sit there at home in front of the screen, pondering the meanings of things. I remain, hours later, absolutely and pleasantly surprised.

Fabulous Customer Experience (+8)

Normally there is a receptionist present to greet you, and they sort of had that here as well. They checked in with us to make sure we had used Zoom before, as well as provided some suggestions on default configuration to get the best experience. They also gave us a photo op with a cute Escape Game frame too!

The entire time there’s a “Jungle Scout” that is physically in the escape room in Nashville that will do what you ask of them, as well as that first “receptionist” figure. Both of them were so friendly as well as open to just enjoying the experience with us. They even laughed at a very terrible pun I made about a prop we found in the room. You can follow up with me later to see if you reached the same pun I did.

User-Friendly In-Browser Dashboard (+6)

They have an in-browser dashboard that contains fisheye pictures of the room inside and an inventory. The photo captures give you the ability to browse around without your “Jungle Scout”, while inventory gives you close up views of important pieces. Our receptionist person was very good about removing items from inventory that no longer were relevant to the current puzzle. I consider this a tiny hint about the mental direction to take but it did not spoil any fun. Areas that still had things to solve were left open as a fisheye location so that you can mentally venture off on your own. The support role tends to be my favorite way to contribute in a team anyway so I’m glad the dashboard allows for that.

The Bad

Hard to See Details (-1)

Yet, my one gripe about the dashboard is that it is set to a specific resolution and therefore you don’t have much control. Your eyes will pull tricks on graphic details. I had to zoom in with the view in the browser and even that only helped so much. For example, my eyes were giving me information that was completely wrong. The guide was merciful enough to tell me I was headed in the wrong direction.

Managing a Random Teammate (-1)

The “Jungle Scout” is the only way you experience the escape room in the remote setting. In this way, they sort of become part of the team and the types of instructions needed are very different. For example, you may have access to some information that they don’t. Having to translate that information with verbal commands is difficult. Quite frankly, it wastes a little bit of time. Some puzzles are also based on interpretation and logistics so similarly to giving someone directions over the phone, this aspect of remote adventures may be frustrating. We did escape though, so it didn’t really have a big noticeable negative impact as I’m letting on. I just have high expectations when I play these games.

Slightly Difficult to Communicate Effectively (-1)

Even if you’re with those who you communicate with well, the environment is not as effective as in person. This exacerbated the faults of our style, which tends to be to talk over each other in an organized chaos. For this reason, having to talk one person at a time was a little awkward. Luckily the foundational way we regard each other came through and it only set us back early into the room.

Once the puzzles started to escalate we got into go mode and just let one person steer the solutions at a time while the rest of us quietly thought about any unresolved puzzles. It’s also slightly difficult to just start being a leader when what tends to happen in video conference calls is the loudest person is heard and drowns out the others. This is in direct conflict with the quietest person possibly having the most insight. So it’s a bit of a hurdle but not impossible.

The Ugly

Introductions are not Immersive (-0.5)

Our receptionist person was clearly in an office with no backdrop or theme. In a normal escape game, you receive the introduction in the first room and therefore get an early opportunity for immersion. They did provide a fun introduction video like they normally do before getting the room started, so it made up for it slightly.

Missing that Tactile Experience (0)

The great thing about escape rooms is the opportunity to get off the screen, so I find it funny that we are right back into sitting on our butts in front of a screen again. That tactile response to the discovery of new pieces, and the aesthetic plays from the ambient light… all mostly gone. I wanted to take note of this even though I didn’t dock points off because this is one of those situations where you need to set your expectations correctly. It won’t be an escape room like you’re used to, so comparing it directly and punishing it for being something it was never meant to be would be unfair. However I am still entitled to being grumpy about the state of things… so there!

May Be Motion Sick (-2)

Our friendly Jungle Scout is wearing some kind of camera on their person, and if they moved wildly or were confused you risked some motion sickness. Thankfully if you look away and just start checking the dashboard you may still be helpful to the team. Much of the validation comes from the Scout’s camera feed though, so you won’t know if something worked. More importantly you won’t get the cool visuals in the room without watching the feed.

Difficulty: 3/5 for Expert
Satisfaction Grade: B+ (88.67%) for Great
Worth Your Money? Yes!