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

Escape the Lighthouse

Published by Big Bad Bros. I played this on android.

The Short: More time was spent making this look cool than making this fun to play.

Recommended if you like sighing, grey scale, the Miyazakis (father or son)

Description: Escape the Lighthouse deserves commendation for creating very cool artwork and sound design. Beyond that though, this wasn’t a great escape game. Very short on cascade and the puzzles themselves were sort of non-diegetic? Let me explain. Usually the puzzles in an escape game are part of a puzzle array. The puzzle itself is literally part of the room. It is the mugs in the kitchen, the desk in the hall, a piece of paper hidden under the couch. You have to engage with the space to solve it. Escape the Lighthouse toggles between actual rooms in the lighthouse and then these disembodied puzzles like you might play in a puzzle book. It’s not as fun.

Difficulty: Medium
Difficulty Elements
little to no cascade | no Absurdity | readily apparent puzzle arrays | typical solves

Escape the Ghost Town [Multiple Iterations]

Published by A-S-G. I played these on android.

Iterations: one through four

The Short: Simplistic game series with great atmosphere. In certain version you can actually “Skip” the puzzles if you find them too challenging. I find that hilarious. I mean, why are you even playing?

Recommended if you like pensive fog, the spirit world, velvet chokers

Description: This is an updated review. I already played and talked about the first Escape the Ghost Town before I knew there were three additional games.

Escape the Ghost Town has an interesting aesthetic. At first, I was tempted to situate this game within Design Netherworld but then I checked myself. At the very least, Escape the Ghost Town is not making its digs in downtown, south central Netherworld. If anything, it’s more out in the Netherworld’s most respected suburbs. This game features standard issue haunted houses with spooky garden grounds, weird marble statues, sheds full of saws, and heavily carpeted indoor spaces that strongly imply musk and dampness. The music is actually quite nice. The overall effect is a cohesive game space that usually trades in “passable” but occasionally creates a somewhat interesting room or sequestered garden area.

Escape the Ghost Town is a perfectly nice set of games. They’re fairly easy.

Difficulty Level: Easy
Difficulty Elements: low cascade | readily-apparent puzzle arrays |no Absurdity | typical solves

Cryptica

Published by Pixibots. I played this on android.

The Short:  Fun with hieroglyphics minus the worry of raising the dead.

Recommended if you like runes, grids, neutral tones

Description: Cryptica is not an escape game. It’s a spatial reasoning puzzle game with sort of an Aztec-y aesthetic. In each level, you are presented with a grid. The grid contains at least one Active Stone and that Active Stone’s match-spot. You must move the Active Stone or Stones to their respective match spots to win. The trick in this game comes when you get multiple Active Stones. All Active Stones move in unison so when you move an individual stone once to the left, you move all of the Active Stones once to the left. The game is further complicated by Inactive Stones that work to block the Active Stones.

I love the shit out of this game. It has a really intuitive interface, great audio accompaniment to game play, and it’s challenging in just the right way. This is also a game where you can really get “in the zone” by playing multiple levels in a row, your brain really starts to think along the grid. The next time you’re meeting someone for coffee, especially your one friend who is always 15 minutes late, download Cryptica and feel the time fly by.

Difficulty Level: Medium
Difficulty Elementsreadily-apparent puzzles

Mr. 3939 [Multiple Iterations]

Published by hozdesign. I played these on android.

Iterations: Episodes One – Six

The Short: Unhinged adventures with precocious ducklings.

Recommended if you like Wallace and Gromit, primary colors, negative space

Description: I have many gripes about hozdesign products but the Mr. 3939 series is actually really good. Cute ducklings, interesting aesthetic and – my favorite– it’s all a tad mind-bending.

The minimalist roomscapes throughout the Mr. 3939 series all share common tools and decor so as a series everything feels unified. It’s all enhanced by a very restrained and cartoonish soundscape. In terms of difficulty, these games offer up mostly esoteric puzzles interfaces but there’s also plenty of basic codes to be found, keys to be turned and hammers to be hammered. Some of the more unique details include stacked chairs, framed photos of fruit, and dragon-doors are all graced. It’s all served with a healthy dollop of Absurdity. So, in addition to sussing out which doorknobs do what, you may need to take a few logical leaps of faith.  

More photos:

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Difficulty: Medium-Difficult
Difficulty Elements: good cascade | both readily apparent & invisible puzzle arrays | both straightforward & esoteric interfaces | some Absurdity | both typical & unique solves

The Room (Multiple Iterations) ($)

Published by Fireproof Studios. I played on both android and Microsoft Windows.

($) Iterations: One, Two and Three

The Short: My fucking favorite.

Recommended if you like pocket watches, Gothic literature, pivoting around a fixed axis
Description:  The Room is challenging, beautiful, memorable, and fun. The interface alone is enough to fangirl over. Really smooth game play, streamlined tutorial process, and an intuitive goal: open the box! I recommend  playing these games in chronological order. Also, strongly recommend playing this with a device that offers touchscreen.

These puzzles are hard! Despite the difficulty, I never felt cheated by this game. Every solution was a eureka! moment and never a let down. The mythology is kind of kooky but the overall vibe created by both the visuals and the music was truly unique if not enchanting. The theme music reminded me of the Harry Potter franchise which I think is pretty cool even though I’m not really into Harry Potter stuff. A little bit creepy, a whole lot of antiques, discover the power of ‘the null’ for yourself. I preferred The Room One and Three over Two but I have been debated on this point by others. More photos of the incredible design below:

 

Difficulty Level: Hard
Difficulty Elements:  lots of cascade| both readily apparent & invisible puzzle arrays | both straightforward & esoteric interfaces | some Absurdity | both typical & unique solves

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Myst (Multiple Iterations) ($)

Published by Cyan/Broderbund. I played this on Microsoft Windows.

$ Iterations: Myst, Riven, Myst III: Exile, Uru: Ages Beyond Myst, Myst IV: Revelation, Myst V: End of Ages

The Short: Before there was Lost we had Myst. The irony is, the fans of each rarely overlap.

Recommended if you like mysterious islands, time travel, math

Description:
If you’re into escape games, or video games at all, it’s hard to imagine you’ve never heard of Myst. As a result, this review is merely a formality. I’m not here to describe Myst. I’m just here to tell you how I feel about it.

Continue reading Myst (Multiple Iterations) ($)