WappoiESC

Published by mipp. I played this on android.

The Short: A deck of well-deployed text boxes and okay puzzling.

Recommended if you like cornball humor, animal figurines, hobnobbing with demi gods

Description: This is a middling escape game that gets extra points for silliness. Behold:
Screenshot_20170805-152237

Yes, that’s right. God himself greets you at the outset of this game to introduce the premise. Your ancestors have all previously completed these puzzles and escaped from this room. Can you?

The room itself is a design netherworld concoction. Were it not for the helpful text boxes that crop up everywhere in this game, it might be hard to tell objects apart. That being said, the actual content of the text boxes tends to be funny in that kind of “Ah. It’s a joke.” kind of way. Snoop around the traditional Japanese space with screen doors, fan prints, and a mountain replica complete with paper lanterns. Collect all of the keys, “shine” the bamboo, and fulfill your low-key destiny.

Difficulty: Medium
Difficulty Elements:
okay cascade | readily apparent puzzle arrays | straightforward interfaces | no Absurdity | typical solves

BalletRoom aka Escape from the ballet classrooms.

Published by Ablues. I played this on android.

The Short: Tonal confusion in addition to an unfixed rotational axis make this game a bizarre jaunt indeed. I mean, if this is supposed to be cute what’s with the crying mannequin?

Recommended if you like uncanny ballet studios, vertigo

Description:  Aesthetically, I have to say, this game is a mess. This ostensibly adorable room feels stiff and overly polished as if everything was covered in a layer of vinyl. The amalgamation of objects in this ballet studio is a little bizarre. In addition to stuff you might expect (ballet bar, walls of mirrors, and a stereo system) there’s also a whale pillow, cryptic runes, and some undecipherable wall hangings that don’t seem to have any purpose.  It doesn’t feel like a cohesive space. But the worst part about this game is the rotational vertigo you experience when trying to navigate around the room. Typically, in an escape room, the game will situate you in the center of the space and allow you to rotate your POV north, west, south, and east with the option to zoom in on certain areas. Not so in Escape from the Ballet classrooms.! In this game  you are flung around from the center of the room, into corners looking back out again and frequently zoomed into surfaces against your will. It’s very disorienting and unpleasant.

The aesthetic problems bleed into the puzzling because it’s easy to become confused with the disorientation. I will say that there is one game mechanic worth praising in Escape from the Ballet classrooms.It has to do with the mirrors and if you don’t want it spoiled, then I suggest you stop reading at this point. As you approach the mirror, it will appear that they depict nothing of interest. But after a few second, images begin to fade into the space which constitute a code that you can tap into the wall panels. It’s a pretty original idea that I have never seen before so I wanted to call it out. Other than that, this game is a big S.K.I.P.

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

Facility 47 ($)

Published by Inertia Software. I played this on android. Seal of Goodness

The Short: You wake up in an abandoned, ransacked, science facility in the Antarctic and can’t remember who you are or what you’re doing there. Sounds fun, right?

Recommended if you like movies set in abandoned, ransacked science facilities, contamination breaches, reading other people’s mail

Description: This is a fun game with good narrative elements. At some point though, your gameplay is halted until you pay Inertia Software $3.99. I would probably pay up to $2.00 to continue playing this game but I would not judge you if you decided to pay the full $3.99 because as puzzle-adventures go, Facility 47 is a good one.  It starts with a great science fiction premise and commits to the fun and claustrophobic tone.

When it comes to movies and television shows, I admit that I am partial to deserts, those both sweltering and freezing. If something takes place in Arctic or the Sahara, I am hooked. Facility 47 capitalized on its premise. The natural elements and Antarctic equipment are all a big part of solving these puzzles. The puzzles themselves are good and imaginative. It’s not all just inputting codes and turning dials. Instead, break into lockers, repair expensive scientific equipment and get your hands dirty in the bathroom.

The actual look and feel of Facility 47 is very by-the-book but they do a good job with it. Chrome, ice, and darkened hutch-like spaces. But what really makes this game fun are all the small details in the world of this facility. Stray notes, funny images posted on the refrigerator, and a very lived-in living room all add up to a fully realized space that is atmospheric and engaging. In terms of the actual meat of the story, I honestly didn’t care very much about all the different, missing scientists but the letters and emails were easily skimmed and not overly obtrusive to gameplay. If you like that sort of narrative element, these were well done but if you do not like that it is all easy to ignore.

 

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

Escape Game Bears mushrooms

Published by ROBAMIMI. I played this on android.

The Short: Honestly, I thought there would be more bears and mushrooms.

Recommended if you like furnishings of the 1980s, shades of tan

Description: Maybe I had too much coffee the first day I started playing this but something about this game’s graphics made me feel vaguely queasy. While it is true that straightforward escape games tend to have pretty vanilla puzzle types, Bears mushrooms [sic] is particularly reliant on number-based codes as opposed to other puzzles types. In other straightforward games you might find some contraptions like pulleys, weights, levers, or re-arranging objects, Bears mushrooms is mostly about retrieving codes and inputting those codes into various locked drawers and boxes.

From a graphics perspective, I have to say that Bears mushrooms exists in the benign countryside of Design Netherworld. It won’t make your eyes bleed but it’s sort of a drab place to spend your time. Puzzle quality is good. I found this game to be somewhat challenging and there is actually a pretty good trick at the end that made me kick myself.

 

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

Plain Room

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

The Short: Despite the name, Plain Room has it all. Well designed with good puzzles.

Recommended if you like knick knacks, knee socks, Anthropologie

Description:  Plain Room brings back memories of that one friend in college with a confusingly sophisticated dorm room. You know the one who always kept everything tidy and somehow knew where to get expensive-looking string lights? Once in Plain Room, alight from the minimalist, clean graphics into a petite adventure through color coded drawers, hidden wall compartments, and teacups. I found that the difficulty of the puzzles did increase over the course of the game. I got stuck for some time on the penultimate clue before the finale key. So, well done Plain Room! Show these other work-a-day escape rooms how it’s done!

Difficulty: Medium
Difficulty Elements: good cascade | readily apparent puzzle arrays | esoteric interfaces | tricky ending | no Absurdity | typical solves

Dark Room

Published by hozdesign. I played this on android.

The Short: Turning on a light switch never felt so satisfying.

Recommended if you like black outs, exposed pipes, and rotating 180 degrees.

Description:
As part of my continued mission to play all games published by hozdesign, I am happy to have encountered Dark Room. Unlike some of the other games offered up by hozdesign, Dark Room is actually fun and reasonable to solve. From a design standpoint, it’s nothing special. I would even add that it’s below average for hozdesign who usually are able to come up with really creative, fun spaces. Despite being called Dark Room you are not playing in any kind of space related to photography. It is literally just a dark room.  Still, Dark Room manages to keep both feet out of Design Netherworld. So that’s good.

Let’s begin. You find yourself in a dark, unlit room. There are back-lit pieces of furniture and tools. Can you find them? Once you figure out how to get the lights on the game gets going. This isn’t a thrilling or highly imaginative gamespace. It has some funny elements (leaning tower of Pisa? Okay) along with some standard-issue tools and features one might find in a basement: pipes, faucets, a circuit box. This game opens up about three quarters of the way through into a second room. So be assured that the blocked-off ladder in the beginning isn’t just for show! The second room has a visual joke that may or may not make you smile. All in all Dark Room is a fine way to spend your time.

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

Fox in a Box: Bank

I played this IN REAL LIFE. This is the Fox in a Box website.   

The Short: Fantastic.

Recommended if you like to believe you would survive a zombie apocalypse.

Description: Occasionally I will try to explain escape games to somebody new and they will ask me, “Wait do you do this in real life?” No, I say. I do this on my phone. Then they ask how that is possible.

That’s how I felt about a real-life escape games. How would I know if I were doing something rightly or wrongly? How would I avoid breaking something? But I’m here to say that I have tried it now and it is FUN.  Though, it seems essential to go with a group.

Fox in a Box runs a tight ship. They have to start your group on the dot and to the minute to ensure that you get your full hour to solve their themed rooms. My group of friends played the Bank room. We were robbers and had to find out how to unlock a hidden safe that contained a valuable diamond. To make things even more thrilling, all the lights were off and we had to use flashlights. I am an easily entertained person and I can tell you that my pulse was quickened! The puzzle arrays were quite difficult but there is a helpful Hint Giver just an intercom away. This room had amazing cascade. The puzzles were a good combination of straightforward and esoteric. Overall, super fun. Fox in a Box did a wonderful job designing this room.

Did we beat the room? No. But we were so close it was painful.

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