Escape Tales: Children of Wyrmwoods [Review]

I’ll be honest, I’m often not a fan of games that present one puzzle after another to progress, especially if the games are long. What can make that enjoyable to me is a great story. The Escape Tales series by Board&Dice promises to do just that, in the form of an escape room game that lasts several hours and across multiple plays. I was intrigued when I first heard of this series but also felt some trepidation. If the story they presented wasn’t interesting enough, then a several-hour long series of puzzles could quickly feel like a slog to me. On the other hand, if they could present a story that gripped me, I could be eager and excited for each new puzzle to present itself.

Reviewing a title like this is complicated because I obviously don’t want to spoil any story’s puzzles or parts. Even if spoilers didn’t bother anyone, this game promises 60+ possible endings, and I wouldn’t want to steer you down the same path that I took just in case you would discover something very different on your own. So, anything I say here will be about how the game is played or information you could find on the back of the box.

In Escape Tales: Children of Wyrmwoods, you play as a character named Gilbert who has spent his life in a small, walled town, surrounded by dangerous forests. In this forest grows the ever more aggressively encroaching Wyrmvines which can cause madness in anyone they touch.

The game consists of a few different decks of cards, a storybook for each of its three chapters, and a web-based app that is necessary for solving puzzles and advancing the story. As you progress through the story, various events will tell you to take specific cards, which could be locations, items you keep in your inventory, or parts of puzzles.

When you go to a location, you are allotted a certain amount of action tokens that you can place down to explore different parts of a location. This will tell you to read specific paragraphs in the storybooks, presenting you with different choices or asking you to draw more cards. If you run out of action tokens but still need to explore, you can draw a focus or rest card that will give you more action tokens and affect your character’s attributes, which can affect the story it goes on.

When you get a puzzle card, they will have a symbol unique to that puzzle. You can then go into the app and find the matching symbol to find out how many cards are needed to solve the puzzle and how many characters you have to enter in order to solve it. You also have the option to get up to three hints, and after that, if you are still stuck, you can have the app give you the answer.

Another thing the app lets you do is to try to combine cards. So if you have two items you think could do something together, you click the “combine cards” button, enter the number on the cards, and the app will tell you what happens as a result. This is a really fun feature, and I constantly found myself thinking about whether combining things could help any given situation.

As I mentioned before, this game is several hours long. There are no time limits to solving the puzzles, so the length can vary quite a bit from group to group. Thankfully you can save your progress by marking down what cards you have collected, but the game highly recommends you only stop between chapters or only when you change locations.

We played until the end of each chapter in our playthrough, and except for the last chapter, they were pretty long play times. This is because Children of Wyrmwoods is not a beginner escape room game, and I can not stress that enough. Admittedly a couple puzzles were on the more straightforward side, but for the most part, the puzzles were very challenging, and by the time we reached the end of a chapter, I felt like my brain was going to shut down in protest. The app can make this a little tricky. There were times when we just didn’t know what kind of information it was looking for. There was one puzzle that I won’t get into the specifics of, where my wife and I both knew what to do, both came up with a different way we thought we had to enter it into the app, and both of us were wrong, not in the puzzle’s answer, but in how the game wanted us to enter it. Granted, with games like this, it’s fully possible that there are people that wouldn’t have that issue at all, but it’s also possible there are people who could have that issue far more often.

When you finish your story, you are given the option to look at any of the other endings you want to, or you can reset the app to play through again at some point. I was tempted to look at the other endings but decided I may want to play through again one day. Children of Wyrmwoods kept me engaged in its fascinating world and story through every complex puzzle it threw at us. If I play it again, though, it won’t be for a while. My brain needs time to recover. If you love challenging, story-driven escape room games, this is perfect for your collection. If you are new to escape room games, keep this one in mind, but get your feet wet with some more accessible options first.

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