Forgotten Hill: Memento

Published by FM-Studio.  I played this on android. Seal of Goodness

Other Iterations: Surgery, Puppeteer, and Fall

The Short: Gomez, last night you were unhinged. You were like some desperate, howling demon. You frightened me.  Do it again!  – Morticia Addams

Recommended if you like guillotines, insane children, the squelch of bodily tissues

Description: Bravo! What an awesome game. Forgotten Hill has conjured a freakish and exhilarating puzzle experience in Memento. This game is packed to the gills with jump scares, horrifying imagery, and laugh-out-loud gruesome jokes. Memento features not one, not two, but five haunted houses for you to prowl through from top to bottom in order to discover the violent pasts of four families beset by tragedy.

The puzzling in Memento is top shelf. It is intricate with each house containing discrete, localized puzzles but also sharing tools and puzzle arrays with the other four houses. There’s a lot of ground to cover but the creators have taken pains to ensure you remain on track, even if you feel quite lost. This game engenders so much trust by being consistent with tools, consistent with messaging and utterly free of buggy weirdness or ill fitting clues.

Aesthetically, Memento sings albeit a song that is rather weird and disturbing. The contraptions are unique and unsettling: marionettes, scales that measure with human hands, and a litany of odd creatures. If you like the sound of this game, I also recommend Cube Escape. Here are some images from Memento for you to admire:


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Difficulty: the high end of Medium 
Difficulty Elements:
fantastic cascade | both readily apparent & invisible puzzle arrays |both straightforward & esoteric interfaces | plenty of Absurdity | both typical & unique solves


Published by hozdesign.  I played this on android.

The Short: The latest offender.

Recommended if you like being cheated.

Description: I furrow my brow and look closely. I am watching a youtube video. The video is a depiction of the solutions — the walkthrough — to a game called Block by hozdesign. I watch carefully. The solution I need arrives so I pause the video.

I screw up my eyes. I intend to understand. I want to understand. I try to understand. But I will not understand. Because the solution is nonsensical. How do 5 ink blots in a grid translate into cardinal directions? It’s simple. They don’t.

Hozdesign creates games that baffle me. It’s possible there is some kind of steep cultural rift between myself and these creators but I don’t understand how this can happen on such a consistent basis. I enjoy solving puzzles. I play a ton of these games. I can only conclude that hozdesign does this on purpose: they create arbitrary, meaningless puzzles that have no logical solution. It’s so sad. It makes me feel sad.

If I am wrong,  please, someone — ANYONE — let me know.

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


Published by hozdesign.  I played this on android.

The Short: Why? WHY?

Recommended if you like numbered rocks, magical tables

Description: I thought Table would be the one. I really did. I had hope, confidence, and love for this game. But hozdesign has betrayed me again. If you’re new here and don’t know what I’m talking about, read any of my past posts about this publisher.

This game is fun. It’s weird. It’s creepy and it’s hard. It is everything I like in an escape game. And then, right at the end, Table presents the player with a stupid, unintuitive and — in my opinion — unsolvable puzzle. I am shaking my head. I am sad. Why, hozdesign? Why?

Difficulty: Beyond Hard 
Difficulty Elements:
good cascade | both readily apparent & invisible puzzle arrays | esoteric interfaces | some Absurdity | unique solves

Portal ($) [Multiple Iterations]

Published by Valve Corporation. I played this on Windows. Seal of Goodness

Iterations: Portal,  Portal 2, The Lab (and many other interesting spin off properties)

The Short: The modern classic.

Recommended if you like psychotic robots, teleporting, and cake!

Description: I know, I know. I should get out of here with this reviewPortal is a decade old today (happy birthday!) and it’s been reviewed to death. For good reason of course as it is much beloved and treasured by pretty much everybody even vaguely familiar with gaming. It is the mind-bendiest of the mind-bending, has a completely original tone, and packs a punch with phenomenal puzzlingPortal was an instant classic and remains a canonical addition to the gaming universe.

Now Portal is much more exciting than most of the escape games I talk about on this blog and I wanted to review it for a very important reason. If you read anything about Portal online, be it a synopsis, description or review, nobody will call it an “escape game.” And yet, Portal is the most textbook example of an escape game that I can think of. A series of rooms containing discrete puzzle arrays, where the ultimate goal is to escape all of the rooms and, eventually, the whole facility.  It’s true that Portal transforms into a first person shooter half way through but the puzzling is absolutely foundational even as the adrenaline pumps up. The only reason nobody would call Portal an escape game is because “escape game” has a particular connotation. It is a bad connotation.  But I am here to defend escape games everywhere and declare that they are fun! And cool! And there should be more of them! And Portal is an escape game, dudes! Deal with it!


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Difficulty: Hard
Difficulty Elements:
great cascade | readily apparent puzzle arrays | esoteric interfaces | some Absurdity | unique solves


Published by hozdesign.  I played this on android.

The Short: “I’ll allow it.” – Heben Nigatu

Recommended if you like alleyway furniture, isolation chambers, peeping through keyholes

Description: I’ve noted, ad nauseam, my ambivalent feelings towards hozdesign games. On the one hand, they maintain a very cool aesthetic style across games. The rooms themselves are always off kilter in a fun and challenging way. The puzzle quality, however, can be unpredictable. Blue is right on the line for me between being a technically “good” game versus another disappointment. I, personally, was not able to complete this game without a walk through and when I did watch the walkthrough, I was very irritated to learn that I had arrived at the correct solution but something about the way the room was visually designed confused my ability to execute on that solution. I am willing, this time, to chalk this up to human error and I will not fully penalize the game. I still won’t give this a Seal of Goodness though. After all, what are we without our standards?

Difficulty: Hard
Difficulty Elements:
ok cascade | both readily apparent & invisible puzzle arrays | both straightforward & esoteric interfaces | a touch of Absurdity | typical solves