When an escape room promises a Legend of Zelda-like adventure, it's hard to keep the hype in check. Walking around in a world as immersive and interesting is a dream come true for anyone who's experienced the rich, thoughtful world of Hyrule.
"The Crumbling Prince" from Ukiyo promises an adventure that's along the lines of Nintendo's classic franchise, which put the entire WhatNerd crew's excitement levels through the roof.
After our groundbreaking experience with the first episode of The Crumbling Prince, I grew even more excited to experience what Ukiyo had in store for us in part two. The bar of expectation was set high, and I couldn't contain my hype going into it.
As far as the good parts, much of what Joel said in the review of episode one holds true here. The story really does make it stand out from other escape rooms. In fact, the creators don't even like calling The Crumbling Prince an escape room, because it really is more like an interactive story.
Unlike most escape rooms, which have a light narrative hook that ultimately boils down to getting out of the room through solving a series of puzzles, in Ukiyo's games, escaping isn't the goal at all. Rather, the players are attempting to move the story forward by solving the puzzles.
The use of masks is truly innovative, and it definitely makes both Crumbling Prince games stand out from others. It gives each player a purpose, so even if you have someone who isn't quick with solving puzzles, there will be parts where their mask is required to advance, and that makes it fun for everyone.
As mentioned, most of what I loved about the episode one remains in episode two. The art in the room still looks stunning, the AI is fascinating and really starts to feel like a living character, and the sound design is top notch for increasing the immersion.
But part two isn't perfect, and there are definitely a few issues that keep it from reaching the same incredible highs of The Crumbling Prince's first episode.
Unfortunately, because of the episodic nature of The Crumbling Prince, the story didn't grab me as much as the first one did. It does come with more closure than the first episode, but it doesn't feel like an ending that's overly satisfying.
In the end, it feels a bit like the two episodes could have been combined into one with faster pacing, and it would have been far more satisfying.
We only had a couple of days in between playing episode one and two, and even then I felt like the story lost me a little between plays. If you were to play them weeks or even months apart, it would definitely be hard to keep track of the details and characters.
This is really the biggest issue. I wanted to love the story and be invested in the characters, but the story lost me in this episode—not that I didn't understand what was happening, but I just didn't care as much as I did in the first one.
A big reason for this is the excitement of the first one. Because it's like nothing we've done before, it all feels fresh and exciting during part one. During part two, though, it feels a bit like more-of-the-same. Part of that is that the room starts out in the same location as the first episode, which doesn't make it feel overly exciting in the beginning.
As far as the puzzles, the second half of part two is fantastic and different from part one, but the beginning of the room feels way too similar to the first. Instead of finding one thing (I won't spoil it), you're looking for something else. Instead of playing music one way, you're doing it a different way. Both of these sections feel like filler designed to make a second part justified.
While the masks are one of the standout features of The Crumbling Price, they start to feel a bit like a gimmick in the second episode, especially since it uses the same masks with the same abilities. You can switch up which player is using which mask, but it could have freshened up the second room if there was a new mask.
The Crumbling Prince isn't a cheap experience. You'll need to shell out AU$69 for each person, with groups maxing out at four players (to go with the four masks). You can play with less than a full group, but it's not optimal.
If you want to play both episodes, that's a sizable AU$138. The room is slightly longer than most, taking about 90 minutes for each episode, so it's not a bad value as long as you set your expectations before going.
If you find yourself in Melbourne, you should definitely give The Crumbling Prince a shot, as it's a lot of fun, and it's not like any escape room out there. You can book at Ukiyo's website if you're interested.