How 2 Escape PC Review

How 2 Escape brings a different way to look at cooperative games and executes the idea well enough to make it work flawlessly.

By AtillaTuran, Posted 30 Aug 2023

It is not unusual to not be able to find a game to play with your friend or your special someone. Sometimes it is the barrier of not having computers with adequate specs or not being able to afford a console, and sometimes it is the genre of the game not preferred by one in the group. Although this obstacle is not easy to overcome, people still can find games to play together. And in terms of How 2 Escape, they have taken this idea a bit further and made it so everyone can play, without ever connecting to each other in-game.

How 2 Escape, Puzzle, Co-op, Partner, Escape Simulator, Time Management, NoobFeed

Before talking about the core gameplay of How 2 Escape, let’s talk about the story of this neat game first. Emy wakes up in a train carriage without any prior knowledge of how she got there. The antagonist, who is slowly giving little hints about what they do, allows her to speak with her brother Johann. This whole process happens with a phone, where Johann is able to assist Emy with solving puzzles and hopping onto the next carriage. Her goal is to reach the locomotive and pull the lever, stopping the train and saving herself from the situation.

Although there is a story going on with the whole Emy being trapped, the antagonist with no face barely ever speaks. Besides every start of the carriage, you never hear him directly speak to you, and since you are mostly unaware of what is going on, his speeches tend to affect your consciousness while you are trying to find out what is going on. But that is just a little nitpick, the gameplay is of course more important as you are mostly trying to solve puzzles with your partner.

As I mentioned earlier, How 2 Escape relies on its coop aspect of solving puzzles and getting onto the next levels dubbed as train cars. The puzzles are easy to begin with and they slowly get harder to decode by yourself and your current partner on the other end while they are trying to help you. Although the later levels become harder than usual, with some critical thinking and brain-storming together, finding the solution suddenly clicks and both of you move on to the next set of puzzles.

How 2 Escape, Puzzle, Co-op, Partner, Escape Simulator, Time Management, NoobFeed

How 2 Escape actually employs a unique method of gameplay when it comes to cooperative games. I, as someone who chooses to title games in a different way, always try to avoid mentioning other games in reviews because it is always best to describe them in their own style. It is certainly better than giving developers the courage to make their games stand out on their own rather than showing what they want to be. However, in this case, where I must give a point of reference, I will point out the similarities of How 2 Escape with another title that was released almost eight years ago: Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes.

The core mechanics of both of these games are very similar, yet their executions of the idea are just distant from each other. To remind everyone, Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes is another cooperative game in which a bomb is set to defuse and you have no clear identification of what to do. On the other end, your partner, or partners are out there with paper instructions, giving commands to you on which buttons you must press, which knobs to turn, etc. This creates a basic chatter between you and your cooperative partners about changing information and overcoming an obstacle. It is the same with How 2 Escape; you, as an escapee, need to learn the information about how to solve the puzzle with the help of the other person, using the companion app downloaded on their phone.

Now, upon hearing that How 2 Escape requires a phone in order to play, it gave me a flashback of Blizzcon 2018 appearing in my head: “Don’t you guys have phones?” Then, that thought sort of flew away once I realized the game does not fully focus on the phone; rather, the player who is using the phone aids the main player in front of the PC. They are tasked to trade information provided on the phone with the player, who is trapped in the car, and it happens through the communications platform you happen to choose. These could be regular calls on the mobile phone or a Discord or a Skype call through the net. The game advertises it to be “no internet required for gameplay”, but despite that statement, it does require at least some internet usage to a degree.

How 2 Escape, Puzzle, Co-op, Partner, Escape Simulator, Time Management, NoobFeed

The companion app works perfectly, even if two machines are not connected to each other at all. This connectivity gap was cleverly solved by a few codes and inputs given by the person who is currently playing through the campaign on the PC. For example, in the companion app, levels are blocked off and not accessible to the person on the phone, but by giving the shape drawn on a 9x9 square, a person on the phone can enter the same level. As for the puzzles inside the level, the game hides codexes in certain areas. Codexes are 4-digit numbers that can be registered on the phone and unlock hints for the puzzles for the player on the phone.

Meanwhile, researching this game, I came across lots of people questioning if the game requires someone else to join their party or if two copies are needed in order to play. I feel like it must be said here too, How 2 Escape requires no connection between two players who are in a party, except for the voice chat app of their choosing. The app can be downloaded on Google Play for Android versions or App Store for iOS versions. But beware, there will be two different versions that will be available for the companion app, and be sure to check if you have downloaded the retail version.

When it comes to gameplay, the puzzles range from very basic, easy-to-grasp puzzles to sometimes exceedingly hard-to-understand types. The game suggests that you should never look at your partner’s screen or vice versa, but at certain times, we would stuck in a certain puzzle with barely any proper instruction. There is a way to get around some puzzles with a hint system, however. During the level, you can find coins that would help you get hints from a box. These coins are scattered around the level, and by inserting a coin in a specific puzzle’s slot you get one hint.

How 2 Escape, Puzzle, Co-op, Partner, Escape Simulator, Time Management, NoobFeed

Hints work very differently than you think. Once you insert the coin, a word shows up. This word can be used to send a message in the companion app to get hints. Then the person on the phone can read the message back to you and sort the puzzle out. If things are very complicated for the person in the train car, they can have up to three different hints for each puzzle.

Some puzzles were unique in their own way, but there were a few that we thought were already used in any other capacity in a game. For instance, in the engine carriage, there is a blank maze and a dot you have to control; the person in the companion app has to give you orders for the maze such as three up or one left. I would say it is a trope of a puzzle, but it fits the gameplay nonetheless. The main premise of each carriage has three to four puzzles in varying styles and difficulty. Although it sounds simple enough, players must do these puzzles in less than 45 minutes, as stated in the Nixie tube-style clock on the exit door. Each time you solve a puzzle, you get a key and it is used to unlock the door to the next area. Some levels require keycards or buttons but they are basically as same as the keys, only aesthetically different from the previous parts.

In order to play How 2 Escape, you will need a partner of course, and in my playthrough, I have chosen my girlfriend as my partner along the adventure. We had a blast solving the puzzles and getting info about the general idea of the game. But at certain times, we just couldn’t bear some of the puzzles and their complexity, so we did what most of the other people did, and cheated a little. Just a little, we promise. To be fair, we failed to deliver some vital information to each other from time to time due to the complexity of some of the puzzles, but once we checked out our screens on both my end and her end, we realized the puzzles were very straightforward and easy to understand. Maybe it had something to do with our end; who knows?

How 2 Escape, Puzzle, Co-op, Partner, Escape Simulator, Time Management, NoobFeed

One other experience we had was not being able to play the game properly despite the companion app downloaded on the partner’s phone. No matter how we tried, the codex given in the second level would not allow access to the information on the next level. We tried entering different number layouts, and numbers in different orders, but nothing happened. Feeling lost, I decided to join the game's Discord server to get a lead on what to do.

Once I got into the server, I forwarded my question and one of the developers was there to help. After exchanging some words, we got it all sorted. I must say their help was immensely helpful and I really need to thank them for their immediate response. It showcased to me how they cared about their project and every person who had an interest in the game was valuable to them. Also, I must mention that if you are looking for a partner to play in your upcoming How 2 Escape adventure, you can find people who are willing to cooperate on PC and mobile, which is a lovely way to make friends and be social.

Graphics and sound design in How 2 Escape was nothing to run about, but they companied the game well for its own style. Each time you get into a puzzle, the camera locks onto a specific angle, making it easy for you to navigate through buttons or sliders. Graphics-wise, it is an odd choice, but since the game is set on a train, it has that 50-60s vibe to it. One of the aspects of the game, which is being trapped, is portrayed well with graphics. As the clock starts ticking down, the screen gets greener and the vision around your screen starts being blurred. It is a clear way of indicating to the player that they are running out of time and they must act fast.

How 2 Escape, Puzzle, Co-op, Partner, Escape Simulator, Time Management, NoobFeed

Overall, my experience in How 2 Escape was very fluent and enjoyable. From support from devs to fluid and fun gameplay, it offered a proper way of establishing a well-structured coop game with a twist that had not been implemented in a very long time. For a long time, me and my partner were looking for a coop game to play together, and certainly, How 2 Escape made us come back to play a couple more times than usual. If you are looking for a fast-paced, grey-matter exercising coop game that does not require the internet, How 2 Escape will surely catch your interest.

Atilla Turan (@burningarrow)
Editor, NoobFeed 

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General Information

How 2 Escape


Platform(s): PC, PS5, XBSX, PS4, Xbox One, Switch
Publisher(s): Just for Games
Developer(s): Breakfirst Games
Genres: Puzzle
Themes: Co-op, Adventure
Release Date: 2023-08-31

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