The Short: Is it vaguely creepy that I am snooping around a child’s room? Maybe. Are virtually-rendered teddy bears a genre of terror unto themselves? Almost certainly.
Recommended if you like pajama parties, open containers of snacks, xylophones
Description: This is easily the best thing I have seen by Ablues. FriendRoom is an entertaining set of puzzles in a fully realized environment. I really credit this game for successfully recreating what a girls’ slumber party actually looks like. The puzzles are pretty okay.
Aesthetically, this game has good components and bad ones. I liked the cluttered nature of the room. It felt realistic. There’s lot of detail work of toys, books and wall hangings and the elements of the room go together well (which is a nice change from some of the other creations by this same publisher). Still, FriendRoom had a bit of that weird stiffness that’s quite common to generic escape games, almost like a vinyl gloss that seems to cover everything. Also, I really think teddy bears need to be permanently banned from escape games. They are inevitably creepy.
The puzzle arrays in this game were pretty good. Some were contained in one space while others are scattered around the room which makes them harder to identify and increases the difficulty of the game in a good way. My one big complaint about this game is a design flaw that caused me to get seriously stuck for a long time. There is an item you retrieve very early on in FriendRoom that is slender and black. You don’t use it for a long time. So, if you forget that it is in your inventory, it will literally become invisible to you because it fades very easily into the black background of the inventory blocks. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: A little item labeling goes a long way.
Difficulty Elements: good cascade | both readily-apparent and invisible puzzle arrays | straightforward interfaces | no Absurdity | Typical solves
Recommended if you like psychotic robots, teleporting, and cake!
Description: I know, I know. I should get out of here with this review. Portal 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 puzzling. Portal 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, Portalis 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!
Difficulty Elements: greatcascade | readily apparent puzzle arrays | esoteric interfaces | some Absurdity | unique solves
The Short: I think this is actually a veterinarian’s office?
Recommended if you like epic fails, situational comedy, drawing blood
Description: I love a good translation error. Misspellings and grammatical mistakes are both charming and unavoidable when navigating between earth languages. Still, I think it’s important to remember that while the latest listicle featuring silly Engrish is hilarious, it’s good to stay humble and remember that people everywhere are doing their best.
That being said, Escape from Doctor’s Office is a translation error on a whole new level. The English itself in this game is actually fine, so kudos to the writers who worked on that. Instead, the translation error seems to have occurred in the text-mapping stage of this game’s development. All of the “helpful messaging” seems to have been beamed over from a totally different puzzle paradigm. The result is a hilarious dadaist excursion that I can only communicate in pictures:
There are other things wrong with this game at the level of play but I think I’ve been critical enough for one day. Now I would like to end this post with a quotation from an author I really enjoy named Kakuzo Okakura who himself was bilingual in Japanese and English.
“Translation is always a treason, and as a Ming author observes, can at its best be only the reverse side of a brocade,–all the threads are there, but not the subtlety of colour or design.” – The Book of Tea
Mr. Okakura, if only you could see what has happened in this crazy age of computers.
Difficulty Elements: okay cascade | both readily apparent & invisible puzzle arrays | both straightforward & esoteric interfaces | some Absurdity | both typical & unique solves
Published by Factory.112. I played this on android.
The Short: Intriguing, if short, escape from a bunker.
Recommended if you like rooms with no windows, creepy closed circuit television
Description: This game gets a big thumbs up. In addition to being a good, base-line game, I think something a bit more sophisticated is actually going on here. Perhaps I’ve been in the desert too long but unreal: birth feels to me like a better realized vision of an escape game than most items available in the Google Play store.
Aesthetically, unreal: birth is right on the line between realistically textured and simplistic. It’s nothing special but it’s definitely good enough to suspend one’s disbelief and the animation doesn’t have that glitchy sense of stiffness that is common in too many of these games. But the puzzles are what really makes this game interesting. It all gels nicely in a way that implies some kind of overarching narrative. The technology and machinery in the game all feel related, as opposed to scrambled or conveniently fantastical. Based on the name, I wonder if unreal: birth is the beginning of a larger series but I haven’t been able to discover any more iterations, at least not in the Google Play store. If you liked this and want more like it, I recommend Spotlight.
Difficulty Elements: good cascade | both readily apparent & invisible puzzle arrays | both esoteric & straightforward interfaces | no Absurdity | typical solves
The Short: A pleasant room with several locked boxes. Mostly your average escape game but not without its challenges.
Recommended if you like scales, perfume bottles, snooping after hours
Description: As a college undergraduate, I was a history major. It’s a reading-heavy discipline and has somehow gained a reputation of being dull or pedantic. I always wonder how that can be since historians are some of the most gossipy, catty people, snickering both up their sleeves and inside the margins. In history, there’s always a crude detail or a sloppy mistake when you’re combing through material in the archives.
A mistake — especially in a primary source document — is a special and intimate thing. Whether you’re discovering it yourself or just reading about it in a more accomplished researcher’s publication, it’s these little human touches that suddenly make history feel alive.
So when I came across a game literally called UntitledESC2, I was very excited. Who failed to name this creation!? Where is UntitledESC1?! What a precious, tiny catastrophe.
This is a completely decent game with a few challenging moments. Pivot around a living room in neutral tones, read between the lines, collect some multicolored cubes and balance the scale. This game is good.
Difficulty Elements: ok cascade | readily apparent puzzle arrays | both straightforward & esoteric interfaces | no Absurdity | typical solves
Fireproof Games has announced a fourth game in their popular series, The Room. The release date is a bit vague, although imminent, “fourth quarter of 2017.” Fireproof plans to release the game on ios first and a bit later on android so us little green robots may be waiting until after Christmas to get our mitts on this. In the meantime, there’s a fun freebie from the publisher: a downloadable tarot card deck that mimics the set found in The Room 2.
In an interview with one of designers, Barry Meade noted that Old Sins is something of a brand new story line with new characters. Still it’s all situated in the same mythological world as the previous three. Here’s a brief premise overview from their website:
“The sudden disappearance of an ambitious engineer and his high-society wife provokes the hunt for a precious artefact. The trail leads to the attic of their deserted home, and the discovery of an old, peculiar dollhouse…Experience The Room: Old Sins and explore unsettling locations, follow obscure clues and manipulate bizarre artefacts on a journey into the world behind the veil.”
The Short: Exactly what you would expect but just a little different.
Recommended if you like polished floors, odd souvenirs, time bombs
Description: The Room Escape [Secret Code]series is quite good! There’s nothing magical or bizarre going on in these rooms. It’s just good puzzling. Poke around a stranger’s straightened-up living room to discover hidden codes, keys, and secret compartments. But this game also features plenty of Unique Solves that keeps things interesting, everything from toy trains to projectors so it’s a step above most other room escapes. There’s some funny art and a few tasteful pieces of furniture that might make your inner Sim go “Ahh. Mmm!” and gently applaud. One thing that separates this game from more straightforward escape games is the presence of a timed, finale challenge. Behind each finale door is a ticking time bomb. You’ve got 20 minutes though so it’s not as rude a shock as it could be.