#696 – Rogue Scientist 1990 [Spoiler-Free]

Base price: $10.
1+ players.
Play time: ~60 minutes.
BGG | Board Game Atlas
Buy directly!
Logged plays: 1 

Full disclosure: A review copy of Rogue Scientist 1990 was provided by The Escape Game.

Alright, got a shorter one for y’all this week! I had the pleasure of taking on a few more escape room games while I’ve been stuck at home, and I’ve been pushing out reviews as I can! We did a few more EXIT games, but there’s a ton left in the pipeline, so get hyped. The best is yet to come, probably, I say with no real guarantee that that’s the case. Either way, we’re trying out a title from The Escape Game, today, so let’s dive right in!

It’s the 90s. That’s pretty much all you’ve got to say about that. You thought your biggest worry was Y2K in a decade (or whatever people worried about in the 90s), but you’ve got more pressing problems. A scientist has been conducting unethical experiments and needs to be taken down! Your recon unit is gathering information, but hasn’t been able to figure out where he is or how he’s getting his information around. They’re putting their best people on the case, and that’s you. Will you be able to crack the codes and take down this rogue scientist?

Contents

Setup

Essentially none. Go to http://tegunlocked.com/ and enter the activation code you get from the site and you’re ready to go!

Gameplay

I mean, you’re here to track down a rogue scientist! This escape room game will have you figuring out his collaborators, their secrets, and then finding your way into his lab to catch him before it’s too late!

Generally speaking, this game will present you with a puzzle that needs to be solved and some clues that will help you do so. These clues will be usually pictures, text, or sounds, with some video to help connect everything narratively. As you crack the codes, you’ll enter them in to try to advance to the next puzzle.

Solve all the puzzles and catch the rogue scientist!

Player Count Differences

I’m not sure there are a … ton, frankly. This is a single-input system, right, so you have to follow the puzzles somewhat linearly and enter the answers. There’s not much room for collaboration on it. That said, having an extra head or two for some of the puzzles can help a lot, so I’d generally recommend this at two or three people. I think you may be able to split some of the puzzles off to more people (especially if you have multiple people playing on different instances of the game at the same time), but if you’ve only got one and you’re screensharing I’d probably cap my preferred player count for this one at three players.

Strategy

  • As with all escape room-style games, use hints if you need them! This game has a fairly robust hinting system, so don’t just keep hacking away at a puzzle if you’re stuck. Use a hint! There’s no scoring and no like, failure state, so there’s no worries about like, losing forever or something if you take a hint. It’s fine.
  • You may need to think a bit outside of the box. Not all the solutions are particularly obvious! Sometimes the best thing you can do is take a step back and look at it fresh if you’re finding yourself stuck. There were a few times we were pretty thrown off, and that really helped us get back on track.
  • There’s no penalty for being wrong, but don’t just brute-force things. This is more just advice in general for enjoying escape room games, but yeah, don’t just do a thing where you try to brute-force your way through a puzzle. It makes the game less fun, in my opinion. Unless you’d prefer to not solve the puzzle, in which case, go off. That said, if you don’t want to solve puzzles, maybe a puzzle game wasn’t the best choice. But who’s to say?
  • Don’t assume you know the answer without finishing the puzzle. I definitely got a bit ahead of myself a couple times while we were working on this and thought I had gotten the correct answer. I was … not right. So make sure you’ve planned the puzzle the whole way through before you click that submit button.

Pros, Mehs, and Cons

Pros

  • I think I genuinely love the entire aesthetic of the game. I grew up playing a lot of computer games in the 90s that have a very dated feel to them, and I think this did enough of a good job emulating it that I half expected to see a Broderbund or The Learning Company logo pop up. It’s extremely good.
  • Additionally, there are a lot of touches that make it really feel like a product of the 90s. I think, for me, it’s the unnecessary chirps that everything makes. It reminds me of when I used to make PowerPoint presentations in middle and high school and added sound effects to every letter as they would pew-pew onto the screen. It’s kitschy as hell, but it really works to create an aesthetic that isn’t just visual, and that’s hard for a lot of games to do well.
  • There are several videos with the game that are pretty fun to watch, which is nice, and they have closed captions! I think they did a good job making it feel, again, a bit kitschy, but intentionally, which is good. It reminded me a lot of the old spy computer games I used to play. I was very pleased that it had captions, as well. I prefer to watch videos with captions.
  • This game plays very well remotely, with a few quality-of-life choices that were made to make remote play easier, I think. The thing I most appreciated is that everything you find (in terms of puzzle materials or clues or things to read) can be full-screened or downloaded, which makes it super easy to share. I played this over a screenshare with my puzzle group (The Clue Kids), and it worked flawlessly. I was writing on my whiteboard and other folks were dictating clues at me; it worked perfectly.
  • Good hint system that even includes explanations! It is three hints, then then answer, then an explanation, and I really like the explanation aspect; it helps you better understand the puzzle creators’ reasoning, which can help you better understand subsequent puzzles.
  • I particularly like that it’s replayable. It’s a nice touch, really. I’m not sure why, since I already know all the puzzles, but I think I like the idea of being able to revisit it in the future if I’d like to do so.

Mehs

  • There were a few audio-specific puzzles that had no captions or transcript, which can make it hard for some players. They’re relatively minor and they repeat the audio, but it would be nice to have an alternate lane of access (like a printout or a transcript) that folks who can’t do audio clues could read.
  • Very minor thing, but having closed captions on by default for videos would be nice. Same deal; just turn them on by default. I am familiar with a few people who need captions on video, and it’s a nice low-hanging accessibility fruit, especially if you’ve already got captions for the video. If you don’t like captions, you can just turn them off, then.

Cons

  • A number of the puzzles had color dependencies, which will make this game challenging for some players. This is just kinda an ongoing problem with a lot of games that focus on color as a way to distinguish between things. Some of the puzzles instead use shapes, and that’s fine, but a few are very specifically color-centric.

Overall: 9 / 10

Overall, Rouge Scientist 1990 was super! We really had a blast, and I think it is pretty solidly what you’re looking for in terms of online escape games. I whined a few times about the puzzles being “too hard” (they weren’t immediately obvious to me and I made a few mistakes) but, as my co-puzzler reminded me, there are times where it’s important to make you, the player, work for it. And the game certainly did, at times! It was a great experience. I think for a lot of escape room games, they tend to really be made or broken by their theme, since you can often apply puzzles to a wide variety of contexts. Thankfully, this game’s theme really makes it, for us, as dead-eyed 90s kids love vaguely-90s aesthetics and this is precisely what I’m looking for. It hearkens back to a bygone age of really old computer games while still incorporating a lot of modern accessibility and quality-of-life features. Really the best of both worlds. There were, of course, a few places where Rouge Scientist 1990 could have done a bit better: audio accessibility and visual accessibility, with a little work, could be top-notch. That said, for a game you can play in an hour or two with a friend, you can’t ask for many better ones. I’ve already recommended this to a number of friends and basically immediately wrote this review as soon as I got a free moment because it was a blast! I expect (especially with the increasing lockdown as I write this) that I probably won’t be hitting up many in-person escape rooms for a while, but if you’re like me and you’re looking for a substitute, I’d recommend checking out Rogue Scientist 1990! I thought it was pretty fantastic.


If you enjoyed this review and would like to support What’s Eric Playing? in the future, please check out my Patreon. Thanks for reading!

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