Escape rooms have become a hit in the last decade, with many groups working together to solve the puzzles and get out in record time. Virtual reality has also grown alongside this trend, leading to exciting VR escape room experiences. However, the thrills that those real escape rooms provide are nothing compared to the atmosphere in games like Atlas Mystery.
Starting as the new employee of the Atlas movie theatre, players are tasked with getting the place ready for its first opening in years. However, several puzzles stand between you and the actual movie theatre. While you solve them, you’ll learn more about the sordid events at the theatre years before.
When you first start, you’re stuck in a room with text telling you the game’s basic functions. The players can move dials, use a backpack, and solve puzzles to progress through the level. All the players are given, leaving them alone to solve the first puzzle to escape the tutorial room. While there’s plenty of set dressing, most of it is there to fill the space and can’t be interacted with.
Using the clues in the room, the game will direct you toward an older radio. Solving that puzzle was a genuinely fun experience that felt really rewarding when understood without any help. It makes the player feel like a genuine sleuth, piecing together each clue to reach a conclusion. This theme continues through much of the game, rewarding the player for exploring and thinking ahead.
Once you leave the first room, it’s apparent how alone you are. One side of the hallway features the power mechanics while the other is in pitch-black darkness. Be prepared to have the darkness staring back at you as you work through the next few steps. Until the player gets to the lobby section, they’ll work in semi-dark environments.
This darkness is genuinely very spooky and built on the atmosphere that was already more than a little nerve-wracking. Every little noise will have you looking over your shoulder to ensure there aren’t any other monsters hiding behind you. While there likely won’t be, it doesn’t make working in these sections any easier. Luckily, most of those puzzles are pretty easy to understand.
Many of the mechanics in the early game rely on keys to be turned; however, that isn’t as easy as it seems. When attempting to turn a key, it doesn’t turn with the player’s hand. At best, this is an inconvenience and, at worst, a headache.
Once you’re finished with the snack area, you’ll be able to move into the theater’s lobby. This opens up the play area and has multiple puzzles to solve, increasing complexity over the starter levels. Even still, the more challenging puzzles feel like an even more successful win due to the perseverance and follow-through shown by the player.
It’s good that Atlas Mystery doesn’t rely on the same puzzles repeatedly, changing it up with word problems, sorting, color matching, and more. The diversity in problems helps make the game feel like it’s a varied experience. Some of the puzzles are easier than others, while others are downright challenging. You could easily be stuck on a puzzle for half an hour or solve it accidentally in minutes.
The theater’s design is beautiful and very well resembles the early 1900s style. However, players can only interact with the puzzles, with everything else just working as dressing. Many of the objects don’t respond to being bumped into or can’t be touched, which does a lot to take the player out of the environment. Of course, no one’s asking for a comedy VR game’s level of interaction, but something would be nice.
After running around the lobby collecting gears and other tools, the player will finally unlock an elevator that takes them to a new area. Players are tasked with fixing a projector by solving different puzzles in the room. Once they repair the projector, they’ll use some previously found film to show a movie on the opposite wall.
This moment is one of the game’s highlights, as a random door appears on the opposing wall. While it looks like part of the movie at first, players can push it open to reveal a long and dark hallway. This is truly one of the best moments in the game, as it truly takes the player by surprise. The developer seems to have noticed this, too, since it’s one of the few tricks they reuse later in the game.
The game does a great job of trying to build lore with the scattered notes around the game. Interested players can learn about the murder there and why it happened just by progressing. While the game doesn’t spell it out in plain letters, the clues are there for the player to piece them together.
After the projector reveals the secret room, players will finally be able to enter the main theatre room. It’s a grand cinema with rows of seats and a large screen to watch a movie on. After solving a few more puzzles, players will finally be introduced to the game’s finale. After that, players enter another long hallway by reusing the same projector screen trick.
What awaits them at the end are the final clues of Atlas Mystery‘s story, rewarding the player with information for completing the game. In all honesty, it’s a little bit of a letdown after such a buildup in the other notes. It’s also not entirely clear what the final section conveys either. However, since you can complete the game in a couple of hours, there would hopefully be a more meaningful finale.
The Final Word
Atlas Mystery is a short escape room adventure that players of VR games have likely encountered before. While some of the puzzles are genuinely interesting, they don’t do enough to carry the narrative. Players looking for a spooky adventure through a 1930s movie theatre will likely enjoy it. However, players looking for a lengthy experience might want to stay away.
Try Hard Guides was provided with a Meta Quest 2 review copy of this game. Find more detailed looks at popular and upcoming titles in the Game Reviews section of our website!