One of my favorite new developments in 2019-2020 was the advent of the online escape room. While businesses everywhere were locked down, clever business owners realized there was a new opportunity to offer puzzle games playable from home. While escape rooms you can play on your computer are nothing new, the novelty of having an online game master walking you through a scenario was great, and even after physical businesses reopened, I still appreciate playing these games from time to time.
One of the coolest businesses that conducts these games, Paruzal, is closing its virtual doors at the end of December. Paruzal offers fifteen different games- I believe this is the highest total for a single business. Paruzal also had some other novel concepts for the business style, such as an annual tournament in which players would race to the finish and shoot for the lowest time.
I was a latecomer to trying Paruzal’s games, but in the last few months I’ve been steadily working my way through the games with various teams. With the games shutting down at the end of the month, I’ve been rushing to see the last few before they go.
Paruzal’s games are unique in that each represents a whimsical adventure in a relatable setting, like a classroom, movie theater, office, or restaurant. Strangely, because the settings tend to be grounded in reality, they come across as unique in an activity where common themes include zombies, bank heists, and time travel. I also appreciate how the games hide a number of Easter eggs for players to catch- I caught a few references to things like Back to the Future and Monty Python, and I’m sure I missed many more.
I also really appreciate the diligence of Paruzal in maintaining online leaderboards, separate for hints and no hints. It gives competitive teams something to shoot for in every game, while non-competitive teams can ignore the leaderboard.
I’ll miss one of the big online escape room presences, and I appreciate what Paruzal has done to keep interest in escape rooms high while most of the physical rooms were closed!