Here at WhatNerd, we’re huge fans of escape rooms. (What’s an escape room?) But escape rooms aren’t the most convenient hobby to have. For one, they can be pricey. For another, you have to travel around the world to experience the most interesting ones. It’s definitely a geeky activity everyone should try at least once, but sometimes it just isn’t practical.
And then along comes I Expect You to Die, a virtual reality game that thrusts you in the role of a spy agent who needs to solve a series of logic puzzles that are essentially miniature escape rooms. It isn’t exactly an escape room, mind you, but there are enough similarities that it can serve as a good introduction for anyone who has never tried it before—and for anyone who loves escape rooms, it will adequately scratch the itch between now and your next escape room.
Disclaimer: My copy of I Expect You to Die was provided by Schell Games. However, my opinions in this review are solely my own and have not been influenced by Schell Games in any way.
I Expect You to Die is a stationary game that can be played while seated. It starts off with a quick spy training reel that takes you through all of the controls, which are pretty intuitive even if you’ve never played a virtual reality game before. I love that everything is in-character right from the start—there are no menus to fumble through. You start in your agent office, and you go on missions by inserting the relevant reel into the projector (where each reel explains what your mission will be).
I Expect You to Die is the kind of game that trusts you, as the player, to figure things out on your own. It stops holding your hand after the spy training reel is finished, and you may feel like a fish out of water as you’re thrown into the first mission—especially if you’ve never done any kind of escape room activity in the past.
In this case, the first mission involves figuring out how to start an old automobile and drive it out of the cargo bay of a plane that’s flying thousands of miles in the sky. You’re given everything you need to get through the mission, whether by means of the mission briefing or the enviromental clues scattered around you in the level, but you’re also surrounded by extra interactable bits that aren’t necessary to solve the mission. (Some might call these red herrings, but I think they’re essential doodads that prevent missions from being too easy.)
What it boils down to is a game of observation and logical deduction. You need to figure out how the various objects around you interact with one another, and then use a bit of creative out-of-the-box thinking to do what you think is necessary to reach the next step.
I appreciate that, even though there’s no direct hand-holding in I Expect You to Die, the game does provide feedback in the form of a sound effect when you find a new piece of crucial information or successfully complete one of the many steps towards solving the overall mission.
I also appreciate that the scenarios in I Expect You to Die are logically designed, such that you can use common sense to figure out how to move to the next step. For example, in order to start an automobile, you need a key. But where’s the key? Well, think about where a normal person might stash a spare car key, and you’ll soon find your way to the answer.
Sure, I Expect You to Die lacks the tactile experience of a real-life escape room, but it captures the overall thrill pretty well. It’s extremely satisfying when you’re stumped and unsure what to do next, but something clicks in your mind and you finally figure out what you’re supposed to do. And most the time, that feeling is one of “Why didn’t I think of that before?!” rather than “OK, that didn’t make any sense whatsoever, but at least I’m past it.”
If you’re the kind of person who loves that feeling of having things click in your brain, you’ll love I Expect You to Die. I personally love logic games like sudoke, picross, etc., which would explain my appreciation of this one. If you’re the type who gets frustrated easily, you may want to pass on this one.
My biggest gripe with I Expect You to Die is that it relies a little too much on trial-and-error gameplay. In other words, there are lots of ways to fail a mission, and the cost for failure is usually death. You can try again—as many times as you want—but you have to start from the beginning of the mission every time. As you can imagine, this can lead to frustration when you’re stuck and have absolutely no idea what to do.
For example, there’s one puzzle that involves experimenting with fictional chemicals. The right answers make sense in retrospect, and you can figure it all out using the clues given to you in the scene, but the road to getting those answers is hazardous. One wrong conconction and it’ll blow up in your face, forcing you to repeat everything you did to reach that part of the mission. There are only so many times I can disable the security measures of a scientist’s office before I start losing my mind!
And when you’re stuck, there’s no hint mechanism. You either have to give up on the game entirely or hit up the internet and risk getting other steps spoiled before you find the one particular answer you need. Some kind of optional hint request would have been super appreciated.
My other main gripe is that I Expect You to Die only comes with five missions, and the entire game can be completed in about 2 hours at a leisurely pace. For $25, that’s a ballsy move! I had fun, but at that price I wish there was a lot more content to go through.
Overall, the complete length of I Expect You to Die is about the same length as an involved real-life escape room. It’s also about the same price. How do I make a value judgment here? Compared to a real-life escape room, there’s nothing unusual. But compared to other virtual reality games, the price is steep and the game lacks replayability. You can get a lot more playtime if you spend that cash on other games.
I thoroughly enjoyed this one, but I can only recommend it for absolute fans of logic puzzles. If you love escape rooms, you owe it to yourself to try this game. Otherwise, it may be more frustrating than it’s worth.
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