*The Sapphire Palace – Palace Games – Home Play Game*

“Present” in January 2021 were: The Ant, Aunty Ant, Lioness

We’ve been playing the International Online Escape Game Tournament, hosted by Escape Roomers (DE), during the most recent lockdown. I can’t say we’re the most competitive team out there, but we are having fun and, interestingly, playing lots of games that we wouldn’t have picked out for ourselves. The Sapphire Palace was one of these. Based in the US (San Francisco), the company Palace Games wasn’t on our radar and the price ($20 per player) would definitely have put us off, being nearly three times our comfort zone price for online.

Which just goes to show how important it is to sometimes step out of your comfort zone, as this was almost certainly the best online game we’d played since The Insiders (albeit totally different). This is a half prison-break/half test-your-worth game, where the aim is to escape from your mysterious cell, activate the mechanics of the basement prison complex and open a vault, solving the intrigue of your incarceration. The set-up had several pretty unique elements and managed to combine the feel of an escape room into the computer game format in an impressive way.

This is a browser-based but self-contained game, and the honeycomb cell layout, with coloured dots representing each player does initially seem like fairly basic videogame territory. But the game rapidly burrows much deeper than that, showing greater engineering below the surface. The clever interface gives each player their own view, so you can split up and tackle puzzle sections individually, as you would in a real room. The sections are mostly interconnected, where the actions of player A impact on the gameplay of player B, requiring great teamwork and communication.

Important note here – this game is ideally designed for four players. We played as a three and coped, but there was a fair amount of doubling up and juggling about. When we saw the company advice for a team of four, we did assume it was just because there is a lot to do, but it isn’t really that. The level of co-operation required on most of the tasks is set up for four separate screen-users, and I would mostly recommend this. However, there is one section where we felt a quartet would be a real disadvantage. Our trio found this task total bedlam – utterly hilarious, original and clever, but definitely would have been easier with only a two!

This is marketed as a 90-120 minute game. We took 80 something (no hints) and were more than happy with our money’s worth*. It did have something for everyone; logic puzzles, some maths, some skills games, word puzzles, observation and plenty of communication and lots of fun.

*we played at a heavily discounted price, but the sentiment remains.

  • Storyline: Solve the mystery of your imprisonment by a strange organisation. Possibly an on-going plot with their other games? Didn’t matter.
  • Theming and Virtual Set: Nice, cohesive graphics, mix of industrial prison and retro gaming vibes.
  • Googling: Not needed.
  • Puzzles: Great mix, with overarching theme of teamwork and communication.
  • Physicality: Reasonable gaming reactions needed for one small section.  
  • Scare factor: None.
  • Age suitability: Teens who like KTANE would love this. Younger would struggle.
  • Timed?: Yes, and with a pause button and an intermission, which was a nice feature.
  • Requires: PC/laptops/tablet, plus additional comms or use the in-game comms option (we didn’t). Pen and paper helped, printer not needed.

Palace Games website