Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

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Saturday, 22 June 2019

The Game Shelf Previews:- Escape Tales: Low Memory



Escape Tales: Low Memory is a sequel to Escape Tales: The Awakening from Board & Dice. It debuts at Essen 2019 and we were fortunate enough to pick up the tutorial scenario at the UK Games Expo.

If you arrived at the same ending we did in the original game (or if you read all of the alternate endings, because you couldn't help yourself!) then you might be able to speculate about the topic of the second box and we were hopeful that it will build a continuing story arc. Our teaser of Low Memory has so far not made it clear if the story will continue, but it does give an introduction to the new setting and some new mechanisms.



What is Escape Tales?

If you're not familiar with Escape Tales gameplay, the series is a narrative-driven escape-room style game that combines an app and a book. The game revolves around a map system spread over 2 cards per room. From here you may see hints as to what you need to do. You select where you go by placing an action token onto the map and reading out the highlighted paragraph. Over time you will find puzzles in various forms, usually a card from the deck. Solve these by putting an answer into the app which also gives you the chance to check all the cards you need to solve a puzzle and to outright give hints if you are stuck. Typically upon solving a puzzle you will be asked to look up a numbered paragraph in the book, which will then inform you as to any progress in the story, or any more puzzles pieces/items you have found.

All of this is layered over a strong, if dark, storyline which keeps you hooked from start to finish. One of the great things about the original was that this story wasn't fixed. There were many endings you could get and even separate paths that could be revealed. It was possible, if not guaranteed, that you would complete the game without seeing all the content. Some puzzles were important to the story, while others merely rewarded you action tokens (which you often spent in the first place to do the puzzle). Unlocking story could be almost as important as unlocking new puzzles as some choices were definitely very wrong, but you could easily make them if you weren't focused on the narrative.


So, what's new in Low Memory?

From the publisher...
"It is the year 2060. Elizabeth is saying goodbye to her husband. They are going on a family trip, but Elizabeth must first finish a research project, so she promises to catch up with him later. A moment later, she watches her husband's autonomous vehicle leaving the driveway, her thoughts already drawn towards her work. Another normal day — at least that is what Elizabeth believes.
The following morning, Elizabeth wakes up on her sofa. She is having a terrible headache and her home is trashed — turned upside down as if there had been a break-in. Although she keeps trying, she is unable to recall anything after the moment she left work the evening before. Elizabeth decides to use the memory scanner. It is the perfect tool for the situation! However, every technological advancement comes at a price..."

The prototype of Low Memory we played was only set in one tutorial room. As you might expect in a tutorial there was a bit of everything in the room, some locations were a waste of time (on purpose, to teach you not to explore unnecessary things), others revealed single-card puzzles, while others needed to be combined in order to come to a conclusion. A lot of the gameplay was familiar, but one noticeable difference was the introduction of progress tokens. In order to escape the room we had to collect 3 progress tokens, while in this tutorial that meant doing all the puzzles, it's easy to picture that in future areas you won't have to do everything to proceed, leaving you wondering if you did the right thing, and providing more chances for diverging pathways. 

If anything the puzzles seemed a little harder in the first room, which may be telling of our ability. In the original game we noticed that the difficulty ramped up nicely as we played through the game and learnt what to expect, with the app being useful enough to help you out whenever you got stuck. We cannot stress how useful it is having a system that tells you that you don't have all the pieces to solve a puzzle yet!

Overall this brief hint of Low Memory has merely whetted our appetite for playing the full game. From this brief glimpse the story seems to be unrelated to The Awakening, but we wouldn't be shocked to find some Easter-eggs, or even outright links as the story progresses.

Whilst it's not exactly clear what Low Memory will offer, simply more Escape Tales is enough for us. In our house, story driven gaming is definitely not a favourite and escape room games are a bit of an addiction, although often a frustrating experience. The narrative in Escape Tales was immersive enough and intriguing enough to make us care about the choices and ultimately to make Fiona nearly cry whilst reading out the ending. A game that can do that whilst also offering a breadth of puzzles that makes us feel smart as well as challenged is truly special.



A prototype, tutorial scenario of Escape Tales: Low Memory was provided to us by Board & Dice at the UK Games Expo 2019.

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