chotto_fusigi (aka Strange Little Searching)

Published by かもの巣窟 . I played this on android.

The Short: There is a cool central idea here but jeez Louise, that animation is painful.

Recommended if you like making your eyes bleed, magical shoe boxes

Description: Woof. Where to start. I’m not a big fan of chotto stuff to begin with but chotto_fusigi really pushes the envelope. These graphics are bad. Bad, bad, bad! It’s all very two dimensional and suffused with an offensive array of corals and pastels. The furniture is boxy, badly rendered and the zoom effects are jarring and fairly nauseating. In short: Barf.

That being said, I do have a couple of nice things to say about this game. The central mechanic in chotto_fusigi is actually kind of interesting. There is a row of shoe boxes in the middle of this game space. They are magical shoe boxes. As you go around the room, you will collect miniature pieces of furniture and if you place them into the shoe boxes, you will conjure life-sized pieces of furniture. I kind of liked this in theory but they could have done more to capitalize on this premise. All in all, though, stay away from this game.

Difficulty: Easy 
Difficulty Elements:
some cascade | readily apparent puzzle arrays | straightforward & esoteric interfaces | low Absurdity | both typical & unique 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

Sakura Washitsu

Published by Neat Escape. I played this on android.

The Short: Oh, Neat Escape. You scamp.

Recommended if you like slow clapping

Description: I have previously posted my feeling towards Neat Escape but to summarize, let me put it this way: Have you ever loved someone who was inordinately fond of puns? And who loved to trot out said puns at any time and in any place, regardless of audience? But you love this person. That’s the point here. I love Neat Escape. I really do.

That’s why I wanted to highlight a game they published that I just played called Sakura Washitsu. The game itself is fine in a mediocre way. What I really wanted to showcase though is the premise of the game, as articulated here, by this title card and introductory text:

sakura-washitsu-e1500946531878.png

That’s right. You have gone over to a friend’s house to watch the cherry blossoms. Then, without warning, your friend locks you into their living room and you must escape. Along the way, you will encounter secret compartments in their closets, messages in the drapes, and all manner of signs that YOUR FRIEND IS A PSYCHOPATH. Needless to say that once you do solve Sakura Washitsu your friend has been waiting for you this entire time and has already prepared tea and cookies.

Anyway, I just wanted to share this moment because Neat Escape is my weird, personal favorite and that’s what this blog is all about.

Mirror

Published by hozdesign. I played this on android.

The Short: A funny twist on escape games and mind bending details. Too bad hozdesign made it and not somebody else. Maybe then I would have had fun.

Recommended if you like potted plants, alternate dimensions, wall decals

Description: Welcome to the MIRROR room. It looks relatively calm at first. Maybe some kind of lobby or waiting area? But just when you think you’re settling in, this game throws you a disorienting curve ball. Absurdity reigns as you conduct trial and error tests on the various puzzle arrays in MIRROR. Cat decals, bath tubs and an authentic bizzarro world (a la Star Trek) await you and your sleuthing abilities. Unfortunately though, this game is probably going to defeat you.

I have a LOT of beef with other hozdesign games so playing MIRROR is part of my ongoing campaign to play every single thing that hozdesign has created. I want to judge them fairly. MIRROR was fun to play for an hour or so but shortly fell into the typical trap that hozdesign always sets. They create puzzles that require heroic leaps of logical inference.

They like to set up elaborate codices as reference material to solve puzzle arrays. For example, a grid that equates numbers to Greek letters. Fine. But then that single codex will actually apply to more than one puzzle which is difficult for a player to discern in the moment. But the most insane thing that they do — and they do it all the time– is creating solutions that involve two or more codices which all simultaneously apply to one puzzle. You are expected to figure out which codex is primary, which ones are secondary and the order in which information must be translated across each system. The sensation is literally nightmarish.

I don’t think MIRROR is possible to solve without a walkthrough. So while it gets lots of points for being very clever, I just cannot recommend this game in good faith.

 

Difficulty: Beyond Hard
Difficulty Elements:  a lot of cascade | both readily apparent & invisible puzzle arrays | esoteric interfaces | a lot of Absurdity | unique solves

Bank Escape

Published by MobiGrow. I played this on android.

The Short: This might be a train wreck but nobody died so. Also, groovy music.

Recommended if you like predictable spy movies, good riffs on bass

Description: This game is pretty terrible but in that way where it is so bad I kind of love it? The graphics were conceived in the hearth, of Design Netherworld. Just picture a giant smoking factory, badly pixelated and glitching around a sprawl of copy/pasted urban scenery. That is the forge from which Design Netherworld belches forth. Sorry to get all LoTR about it but Design Netherworld is my one true foe.

So in addition to being from Design Netherworld, Bank Escape has some pretty loony toons logic behind some of its puzzles. It has also got a bad case of the Obvies. For instance, say you find a glass of water. Shortly thereafter there will be some electrical equipment with a big sign that says NO WATER. Hmmm…. I wonder what I should try next? Additionally, a lot of the items you pick up are not easily discernible. Am I holding a rod? A fan part? A lobster cracker? But the best part of Bank Escape is the music. As you sleuth around the maximum-security bank (you are a bank robber, by the way) this dubious bass line just repeats over and over again. And when you do solve a room, you’re rewarded with a gritty little guitar solo that reminds you that, at least in the realm of Bank Escape, you are one bad ass.

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

RED

Published by hozdesign. I played this on android.

The Short: More RED flags, courtesy of hozdesign

Recommended if you like dark alleyways, tomatoes

Description: Let’s begin with what is good about this game. Aesthetically, RED is cool. A nighttime puzzle complete with eerie lighting and harmonious cricket noises. RED follows a typical escape game trope of presenting a weird and spooky vibe while never actually delivering any horror elements. It’s like a zen garden of creepy, after-dark hangouts. I like it.

What I didn’t like about RED is the extreme difficulty.  I was very suspicious of this game because I had a really terrible experience playing ESC which is another game by hozdesign. RED turned out to be eminently more solvable but still, the finale puzzle of this game was beyond hard. It was actually just straight up sadistic. Even after a concerted effort to solve it (and I really thought I was on the right track), I finally succumbed to watching a walk through. I had to read and re-read this solution three times to make sure I grasped what it was telling me. Hozdesign really fails at creating puzzles that have one, understandable solution that truly contains a “eureka” moment regardless if you solve it or have it shown to you. Instead, they tend to offer up puzzles so complex and multi-faceted that it’s fairly impossible to know you’re on the right track even when you’re halfway through.

Games are no fun when the creators don’t play fair. Sorry, RED but I’m just not a fan.

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

Escape Game “ESC”

Published by hozdesign. I played this on android.

The Short: Betrayal.

Recommended if you like true disappointments. Not the easy kind. The real kind.

Description: Okay. I am going to majorly ding on this game but I don’t want to do so frivolously.  Let me start at the beginning with ESC.

Continue reading Escape Game “ESC”