Chairs

Published by hozdesign. I played this on android. Seal of Goodness

The Short: You wake up in a blank room with four, color coded chairs. If you can figure out what the heck is going on, you’re in for a real treat.

Recommended if you like feeling taunted by pedestrian objects, stewing in time out

Description: I have had a lot to say about hozdesign over this past year. Most of their games really disappoint me. But now I can say that in addition to G.R.E.E.N., I also really like Chairs. 

Hozdesign has a talent for creating uncanny spaces. They populate their worlds with very common objects but subvert the meaning of those objects by expecting you to use them in bizarre and unexpected ways. They also create very streamlined spaces that are simplistic but in a cheeky way as if to say — while jabbing you in the rib cage — “The solution is so simple. Haven’t you figured it out by now?”

Chairs contains many difficult puzzles but manages to avoid becoming “Beyond Hard” by constraining the number of codices the player is expected to keep in their mind’s eye. I will say that in my version, I encountered a pretty ridiculous glitch that forced me to start over. I kept collecting colored tiles and they kept disappearing. For a long time I thought this was part of the game but it wasn’t. It was a total glitch. Starting over once fixed it 100%.

Difficulty: Hard
Difficulty Elements
great cascade | both readily apparent & invisible puzzle arrays | esoteric interfaces | some Absurdity | unique solves | tricky ending

Cylinders

Published by Brazen Cat. I played this on android.  Seal of Goodness

The Short: A small topsy turvey adventure and fun with cylindrical pedestals.

Recommended if you like RJD2, tube shaped things

Description: Cylinders is nowhere near as hard as its sister Escape Game – Cubes (which should not be confused with the legendary Cube Escape franchise). Still, this is a fun game with unique puzzles and a bit of loopy logic to boot. If you’re a fan of white, anonymous rooms you will feel right at home in Cylinders. Spend some time matching up codes, colors and shapes to various lock boxes around the room. This game is well designed, intriguing, and shouldn’t take you very long to finish.

Difficulty: Medium 
Difficulty Elements:
ok cascade | readily apparent puzzle arrays | esoteric interfaces | mild Absurdity | both typical & unique solves solves

Faraway Puzzle Escape ($)

Published by snapbreak. I played this on android. Seal of Goodness

The Short: Despite their age, mysterious ruins never get old.

Recommended if you like counter shading, sandstone, alone time

Description: What an awesome game. Faraway really nails it with fantastic artwork and a great soundscape. Swivel and glide through an a-cultural clutch of ruins to collect various brass implements, handwritten notes, and magic tiles. After the first 7 levels you will be invited to spend an additional $2.99 to keep playing and I wouldn’t be surprised if you wanted to pony up because this is a great puzzle world.

In terms of difficulty, Faraway does a great job of escalating things through the levels and introducing new game mechanics. Complete with cool contraptions Faraway includes an ancient system of electrical( or is pneumatic?) wiring to work with and also some laser satellites of antiquity. This is the type of game where you can re-play levels to improve your score by collecting all 3 of the handwritten notes from your unseen friend instead of merely 1 or 2 of them. I did not bother to do that but it is a nice dimension to keep the game engaging even after you’ve played through. And, if you’re into that #desertlife, I highly recommend Sphinx.

For the sake of transparency, I should tell you that this game made me sort of motion sick. The viewer does not give you 360 degree rotation so some rooms feel kind of stuck and weird. That’s really my only complaint though.

 

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Difficulty: Medium
Difficulty Elements:  
great cascade | both readily apparent and invisible puzzle arrays | esoteric interfaces | no Absurdity | both typical and unique solves

Toys

Published by nicolet.jp. I played this on android. Seal of Goodness

The Short: Another home-run from nicolet.jp.

Recommended if you like toy trains, bunk beds, cleaning your room

Description: Newton’s Third Law states that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Maybe there’s more to it than that but I’m into escape games, not physics so that is the extent of my understanding. Still, this Law provokes an alluring philosophical idea. Does every evil in the world conjure a virtuous countermand? Could it be that for every bad, ugly escape game, there is an equally good and attractive one?

Toys is a good game. There’s not much to say beyond that but I don’t want my lack of description to give you an impoverished sense of the game’s quality. You will like it. It’s cute and somewhat challenging. Sometimes it’s hard to find the words to communicate just how serene a good escape game can be. Perhaps it is telling that the language of English does not have much vocabulary or intellectual gestalt to discuss the virtuous absence of flaw. Instead, as a language, it is lousy with hyperbolic praise and mandatory assertion. Toys is good. I recommend it. I don’t know what else to say.

Difficulty: Medium 
Difficulty Elements:
good cascade | both readily apparent & invisible puzzle arrays | straightforward  interfaces | no Absurdity | typical solves

Yellow Room (Reboot)

Published by hozdesign. I played this on android.

The Short: A nearly good game.

Recommended if you like wildlife dioramas, arabesque archways

Description: A near miss really sucks. Yellow Room (Reboot) came very close to being a good game but committed a small sin. But as many Catholics may tell you, a sin is a sin no matter how small. At least I think that’s what the bible says?

Let’s start with what’s good. Yellow Room (Reboot) takes after its siblings in the hozdesign family. Aesthetically, it’s a great minimalist design with some cool arched ceilings, an expanding gamespace, and has some signature funny elements that hozdesign always likes to throw your way. The soundscape is good too.

In the puzzling realm, Yellow Room (Reboot) has some mad tricks up its sleeves. Overall, the puzzle diversity in this game is really great and there’s plenty of unique solves to explore. But the designers got too clever for their own good on one particular puzzle array. Spoiler Alert, I am going to tell you about it here in detail. There is a moment in the game where you have a transparent sheet with markings on it. It fits perfectly over a painting on the wall which also has markings on it. One would think that a code would be visible once the transparent was laid over the painting. It isn’t. You cannot read what’s there. It is illegible. I was convinced that I needed a second transparent to read the code and spent a lot of time doing nothing in this game trying to find the second transparent. Finally, after watching a walk through, I discovered that hozdesign believes you can read the code that’s already there. You can’t. It’s too garbled. I was disappointed, yet again, by hozdesign. And it really really sucks because literally everything else in this game was fun. SIGH.

Difficulty: Beyond Hard 
Difficulty Elements
great cascade | both readily apparent & invisible puzzle arrays |  esoteric interfaces | no Absurdity | unique solves

Cake Cafe

Published by FUNKYLAND. I played this on android.

The Short: Like no other cafe or bakery I have ever seen. A simple set of puzzles to solve.

Recommended if you like pink, PINK or PINK

Description: Cutesy and simplistic, Cake Cafe is not FUNKYLAND’s best work. (Their best work –in my opinion– can be found here) Still it’s a pretty solid puzzle environment chock full of keys, teacups, and plush wingback chairs. Will you be able to open this cherubic riot in time for the customers?

 

Difficulty:  Easy 
Difficulty Elements
little cascade | readily apparent puzzle arrays | straightforward interfaces |no Absurdity |typical solves

Egg Cube

Published by nicolet.jp. I played this on android. Seal of Goodness

The Short: A good egg.

Recommended if you like pastels, gold stars, smooth surfaces

Description: I am very excited about this publisher nicolet.jp. They are new to me but that doesn’t mean they haven’t been around forever. Regardless, Egg Cube is a great game with a distinctive, cutesy style. The puzzling itself is sort of a low-grade medium. I was tempted to call it easy but there is a good deal of cascade here to it gets a bump up for that.

Unlike other games that trade is adorableness, Egg Cube manages to steer clear of unintentional creepiness or bizarro babysitter vibes. The decor is childlike but in a dreamy sort of way. Plus there is a king egg who looks he could be some distant ancestor of the Kirby tribe?

Difficulty: Medium
Difficulty Elementsgood cascade | readily-apparent puzzle arrays | straightforward interfaces | no Absurdity | both typical & unique solves