Home Reviews 3.5/5 Review Mystic Academy: Escape Room Review

Mystic Academy: Escape Room Review

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Let’s not beat around the bush: this is a Harry Potter escape room. Sure, there are no sorting hats or golden snitches, but you get the sense that mc2games would have tossed them in if they could get away with it. When the puzzles start dabbling in spell names, you can feel the temptation to replace them with expelliarmus or wingardium leviosa

Harry Potter might not sound like the ideal topic for an escape room, but think about it for a sec. Not only is Hogwarts a place that most of us want to explore – Hogwarts Legacy very much capitalised on that – but the books and movies are mostly about testing Harry. Has he got what is needed to become a wizard and defeat Voldemort? The wizard question is similar to the one that Mystic Academy: Escape Room concerns itself with, as the escape rooms form a trial of sorts for your budding magician. Pass the trials and you’re a wizard, ‘arry.

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A spell-casting escape room

So, we start in what can only be described as the Gryffindor common room, a locked door barring the way to the next room. Then it’s onto a lounge, a library, an apothecary and a kind of dungeon. Locks separate each, so your task is to find the keys, switches or magical seals that allow you to travel onwards. 

Our first reaction was one of relief. The escape rooms we’ve played most on the Xbox are the OnSkull Development escape rooms (the Escape First series and Curious Cases). They’re hard, hard work, often looking more like a room in Fallout than a room to escape: everything in them is interactive, and it can be difficult to discern exactly what is pertinent to the puzzle. Is this bottle important? This pen lid? Plus, they’re awkwardly ported from PC, making it difficult to even hover a cursor over something you want to press. Mystic Academy: Escape Room is infinitely more accessible than any of them. 

What Mystic Academy: Escape Room is not, though, is Escape Academy. We should set expectations here: if you are a fan of escape rooms and want a semblance of that experience on Xbox, then play Escape Academy first. Play it, fall in love with it, then do the same with the DLC. Only then should you ask yourself whether you’re hungry for more. That’s when we would point to Mystic Academy: Escape Room. It’s not got anywhere near the wit, charm or colour of Escape Academy, but if you’re a convert to the concept, then this is your next step. 

Where Mystic Academy: Escape Room gets stuff right is its puzzle design. These puzzles, set up as isolated stations in each escape room (so no two puzzles overlap and confuse), have an extremely high hit rate. They hit various sweet spots: they are not so easy as to be benign, nor obtuse enough that you need guides (not all the time, anyway); they use similar concepts, like counting things in the environment and then corresponding them to the puzzle, but not so repetitiously that they grate. Even better, they feel fresh. For our sins, we’ve played every hidden object game on the Xbox, and – somehow – there is no puzzle in Mystic Academy: Escape Room that looks like anything we’ve seen from them. 

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A Harry Potter escape room?

Our favourite room in Mystic Academy: Escape Room, with almost an uncanny ability to make us feel like puzzling gods, is the herbal kitchen. Swarms of bugs are given numeric values, which is just enough information to work out what each bug is worth. That knowledge is brought to another station, where you make a potion, and then bring it to another station for colouring. When the puzzles cascade from one to the other, working to the same objective, Mystic Academy: Escape Room can be rather special. 

But it can fumble the Quaffle on occasion. Puzzles often feel like they have more than one answer. The opening room asks you to list items in the room in ascending order, but there are multiple items that are equal. What do you do in that situation? The answer isn’t obvious. A puzzle in the second room does something similar: it asks which item of furniture is present three times over in the room and, again, there are multiple. Trial and error gets you there, but it feels a bit imprecise, a tad inelegant.

A walkthrough exists on the internet, but there’s nothing particularly in-game that will hint or point you to a solution. When later puzzles get abstract, it feels like an omission. A tiered hint system would have suited Mystic Academy: Escape Room down to the ground. We regularly found ourselves solving a puzzle, but not inputting the solution in the way it wanted us to. Nothing is more unsatisfying than solving something but failing because you pressed a brick the wrong way, or tapped some buttons in a backwards order. 

Aside from some puzzling nips and tucks, what’s missing most from Mystic Academy: Escape Room is charisma. This is an escape room set in a wizarding school after all: the sheer number of opportunities for magic, fantastical beasts and wild storytelling is mind-boggling. But mc2games sidesteps them all. The puzzles are never more than tinkering with devices and furniture. There’s very little in the way of spellcasting and sorcery. And there are no characters to talk to, no plot to follow as you progress. These are independent rooms that have very little interconnection, when they could have told us so much more about this place, me, or the person setting the exam. 

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BUGS!

What we don’t take for granted is how easy it is to play. We’ve already mentioned how unwieldy the Escape First series is, and Mystic Academy: Escape Room is nothing like. Puzzle stations are clearly separated, so you know what you’re working on. The stuff you can’t interact with – at least not yet – is clearly marked too, and there’s no inventory management or other fiddly interactions. You point your cursor over something and tinker with it. That leads to reactions, and soon you’ve got all the ingredients of a puzzle. Mystic Academy: Escape Room is extremely good at clearing obstacles away from the Mensa stuff. Sure, it’s not Escape Academy in this regard, but it’s clear and accessible. 

While Mystic Academy: Escape Room may sound like a Harry Potter escape room, it’s not got anywhere near the charm of the Wizarding World to pull it off. Nor is it the pinnacle of escape rooming on the Xbox, since Escape Academy safely retains its crown. But lower the expectations, adapt for the dryness of its desiccated Potter setting, and there’s a compendium of rather well designed puzzles that would truly stump a Dumbledore.

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mystic-academy-escape-room-review<b>Pros:</b> <ul> <li>Harry Potter escape room!</li> <li>Puzzles are fresh and clever</li> <li>Honestly, the puzzles are really very good</li> </ul> <b>Cons:</b> <ul> <li>No story, charm or magic</li> <li>Some puzzles are too abstract</li> <li>Other puzzles feel like they have multiple answers</li> </ul> <b>Info:</b> <ul> <li>Massive thanks for the free copy of the game, TXH</li> <li>Formats - Xbox Series X|S (review), Xbox One <li>Release date and price - 1 November 2023 | £9.19</li> </ul>
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