It’s time, I’ll do it. The book with the ritual to awake Lizzy lies before me. I’m freezing, although it’s not really cold in here. The strange feeling of emptiness in the cellar goes beyond the mere absence of other people. Lizzy was often here and played. I could never understand her fascination for puzzles the way her mother did. Now I tighten my shoulders, shake off the painful memories and gather all my courage. I resolutely open the book cover, it’s time for The Awakening.
From various exit and escape games we are used to find ourselves as players in sometimes bizarre situations. This is no different with Escape Tales: The Awakening by Jakub Caban, Matt Dembek and Bartosz Idzikowski. We have puzzled our way through and wrote down a review of the game published by Board & Dice for you. In doing so, we do without spoilers. You won’t read anything about the story that you won’t already know from the box, the rules or the structure. Speaking of the story: Already on the game box you will be informed that this is a Story Driven Escape Game. You can read here how fascinating we personally found the story-driven escape game.
Desperate father love
You take on the role of Samuel, whose daughter Lizzy has fallen into a coma for inexplicable reasons. At the hospital they have no explanation for you and the hope that she will ever wake up again vanishes with each passing day. So you set out to find a solution yourself. Your research led you to a man who went through exactly the same thing with his son. You sought him out and he gave you a book with a strange ritual in it. As a warning he gave you that it will cost you something and you should be careful. So now you are sitting in your basement and want to perform the ritual for the sake of your daughter, after all you have no one else in the world.
Instructions for Rituals – How to play The Awakening
This is the situation you are now in as a player. The basement and all the other rooms you will visit later on are represented in the game by two cards, which are divided into 12 areas. If you want to take a closer look at an area of the cellar (e.g. D2), this will lead you to a certain section in the story book. Here you will first find a short text section that will let you dive deeper into the game. You can also get item cards, which are mostly parts of puzzles.
The puzzles themselves are checked via an app. You select the puzzle there according to the corresponding symbol. Here you also get to know how many cards you need to solve the puzzle and can estimate if you have to search for more pieces or if you are ready to solve it. For a closer look you will need tokens for each area in the room. At the beginning you will get six of them. So you can’t look at all 12 areas in the room with them. If you run out of tokens, you can draw a Doom card to get more. As the promising card name already suggests, this will cost you something. At first the consequences will be harmless, but later you’ll have to make harder sacrifices to get additional action tokens.
In case you are totally stuck, you can also get tips in the app. Otherwise, your mobile phone or tablet or whatever you use is pleasantly discreet at the gaming table. The app does not need a permanent internet connection. The main part of the gaming experience takes place at the table with the cards and the storybook. You puzzle your way from room to room and you feel it is getting worse and worse. The basic mood is dark and you are pulled deeper and deeper into the abyss of the ritual.
A maze of dark paths
The occult aspect didn’t bother us that much, but the subject of the child lying in a coma already gets on your nerves as a parent. You have to be able to deal with it first. Especially since we were told in an interview with the publisher Board & Dice, where the game was published in English, that there are only a few endings that are positive. The majority of the seven possible endings are negative and not what you would wish for as a player.
Let’s do it again
The fact that there are so many possible endings naturally raises the question of replay ability. We were fortunate enough to have reached one of the positive endings right on our first run. Although it did have a negative connotation here as well. It wasn’t really Happy then either. For that the basic mood of The Awakening is probably too dark. But our urge to explore the other possible endings isn’t very high because of that. Probably it’s different when you get a really disastrous ending for the story. Then the “we can do better” effect will surely kick in.
However, a second or even third pass is possible without any problems. The first time you don’t even see the first part of all puzzles, which are present in the game. In the app you also have a good overview which puzzles you have already solved and so you know which ones you missed. From each of the rooms there are also different exits. You will have to make decisions in between that will affect the progress of the story. All of this makes Escape Tales: The Awakening a really good and highly recommended game that offers players an experience.
One, two or four?
The focus on the story is well implemented. The mood is dense and with every story entry is actually getting intensive all the time and if you think it couldn’t get any worse, it puts you on top of it. The two of us got together to wake up Lizzy. From our experience, we would definitely recommend this as a lineup. Often you just don’t get the idea on your own, more players get around this problem. On the box is a maximum of four players. This is certainly still quite feasible in the right group. Theoretically you can also play it with more people, but that probably won’t help the atmosphere, nor will everyone be able to see the game material and solve puzzles.
A light in the dark?
But there are a few small weaknesses and we don’t want to leave them unmentioned. This concerns the storybook. That’s actually a good thing, because it allows for a coherent narrative. We don’t want to belabor the fact that it is not a literary masterpiece. We really don’t think that’s important, because the story carries the game very well. However, you’ll have to be very careful in finding the right section. If you make a slight mistake and end up in the wrong section, you’ll get information that isn’t meant for you yet and you might not notice it until much later. However, we don’t want to blame the game too much for this. A warning is however appropriate.
Variety in the Escape Jungle
All in all we had some great and intense evenings with the first Escape Tales and are already looking forward to more parts of the series. We like to experience stories and make decisions and also with other Escape games we would like to see more in this direction.