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Review

Written by Jade Swann | Edited by John Gerritzen

This murder mystery has an interesting and engaging narrative, but not much to do besides watching.

FOR THE BIRDS

Developed and published by iNK Stories, Fire Escape is an interactive murder mystery game available for both VR and standard PC gaming. You play as a nameless character, watching your fellow neighbors from your fire escape in a modernized Rear Window style. During one night of spying, a murder occurs. With unlimited access to view and listen in on all of your neighbors, none of them are safe from suspicion.

AN INTRICATE WEB

Fire Escape does a great job at building the individual stories of the characters and setting each of them up with a potential means or motive for murder. As you watch your neighbors, you must keep an eye out for every small detail and listen closely for each snippet of their conversations, whether they’re talking to themselves or speaking to another character. From there, you’ll have to decide what information is suspicious and what is another red herring in a web of interconnecting stories and events. Is the syringe being stabbed into a cake filled with flavoring, or something more sinister? Is the man who punches his mirror just having a bad day, or is there something more to it? It’s up to you to take note of and analyze.

All of the information you gather, however, is only useful in helping you figure out the narrative for your own curiosity, rather than in the game itself. While you might be asked your opinion by your ASMRtist neighbor (warning: there are quite a bit of ASMR whispering noises in the game, if that stuff bugs you), your answers do not seem to bear much weight on the plot, apart from a few questions in the final chapter.

Largely, you’ll only be watching. You can click on apartments and answer a few questions via emoji options on your phone, but that’s it as far as game mechanics go. Though the story is engaging enough to hold your attention, I would’ve liked more to do. As it stands, it doesn’t feel like your actions influence much of the game, but rather like you’re simply along for the ride.

It’ll take you about twenty minutes to complete each of the three episodes, with very little interaction apart from picking which apartments to listen in on. There is some replayability in that you cannot watch everyone in one playthrough alone, so you will have to go back through the chapters a few times if you want to see what everyone is hiding. That said, it probably won’t take you more than three hours total to uncover all of your neighbor’s secrets.

SOMETHING’S OFF

While the title does run fairly smooth overall, there are a few minor issues. Some of the random characters walking along the sidewalk outside the apartment complex will occasionally get stuck, perpetually walking in place until the next scene or in-game prompt. Within the apartments, characters will sometimes clip through objects or not touch them at all, with their animations not quite reaching the object they’re supposed to be interacting with. For example, in the aforementioned cake stabbing scene, the character’s hand often goes through the cake, syringe and all. While these aren’t huge issues, they do take away from the immersion a bit.

A LACK OF OPTIONS

Fire Escape is very audio heavy; it has to be to fill in the plot. The voice acting is great and helps to keep scenes engaging, and you have to listen closely to understand what is going on, as the animations themselves are not very telling. While there is nothing wrong with that for most players, the problem that arises is that there are no subtitles to toggle on or off. While I understand that these can be hard to overlay in VR titles, there is a standard PC option available and that level of accessibility should, at the bare minimum, be available to players who might need it.

5

The Verdict: Fair

Ultimately, Fire Escape plays out more like an interactive movie than a video game. Though the plot is interesting and will keep you engaged, you won’t be doing much apart from watching. If you like murder mysteries and don’t mind watching over playing, I recommend checking it out.

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