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


Concrete Room II

Published by ManiManiWorks.  I played this on android.

The Short: A lesser game.

Recommended if you like large geometric objects, graininess

Description: Theoretically, this game could rise to the occasion of being described as “fine” or “okay.” And yet, it does not deliver. The room itself is meant to be some kind of art exhibit with large geometric objects, curious installation pieces, and a few paintings. The puzzle arrays are embedded within the art and cross-communicate among themselves.

This game had a few tricky clues but overall the graphics were quite bad. At some point a clue was not translated into English, rendering the rest of the game impossible without a walkthrough. I found neither the energy nor the desire to bother with a walkthrough. I have played many dull, bad escape games but usually those are rendered with a little more artistic care.

Difficulty: Medium 
Difficulty Elements:
ok cascade | readily apparent puzzle arrays | both straightforward and esoteric interfaces | no Absurdity | both typical and unique solves

Escape from Doctor’s Office

Published by Gamekb.  I played this on android.

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 high fives 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: Medium
Difficulty Elements: 
okay 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: Infuriating.

Recommended if you like unlit basements, bricks, tearing your hair out

Description: I’ve said it before but I will say it again. Hozdesign, you have a lot to answer for. I do not understand who is solving these puzzles without walkthroughs. This blog is fast approaching its 100th post. I am not a novice player here. I have encountered my fair share of stumps and brain farts, only to watch a walkthrough and go “Oh! Of course! Silly me.” Not so with hozdesign. It’s a veritable vipers nest of unsolvable games. Too often have I felt cheated by these solutions.

Wall is a great concept. It’s challenging, imaginative, and well-designed in terms of the aesthetics. But these puzzles are just too damn hard. There are too many canyon-sized leaps of inference asked of the player. The codices and reference objects are difficult to understand. It’s not a game. It feels more like a punishing mental exercise conducted by your cruel, pipe-smoking, Sensei.

Note: I believe these games by hozdesign are good:  Mr. 3939, G.R.E.E.N., and Chairs.

Difficulty: Beyond Hard
Difficulty Elements:
 cascade |both straightforward & invisible puzzle arrays | esoteric interfaces | no Absurdity | unique solves


Can you Escape the 100 room I

Published by FunnyTimeDay. I played this on android.

The Short: Quite awful.

Recommended if you like blue haired maidens, shadowy cellars, air vents

Description: I don’t even want to review this game. It’s essentially a Doors Galore but with a few extra steps. Bad, undifferentiated graphics with low cascade puzzles make Can you Escape the 100 room a chore to complete. Belched straight out of Design Netherworld, this game seeks to combine some kind of medieval aesthetic with a  regular old Ohio basement. Tragic.

As long as we’re on the subject though, let me tell you about a certain bee in my bonnet. I have become quite hardened to the entire aesthetic world of medieval-esque creations. Just the sight of jerkins, wizards, or gilded chests tends to put me in a bad mood. Are there no other periods of human history worthy of recreating? Do people understand the nuanced differences between the Dark Ages, Middle Ages, High Middle Ages and Renaissance? They’re all completely distinct and, what’s more, wholly different depending on what country you’re in. I mean for god’s sake, read a book! Jesus.

Difficulty: Easy 
Difficulty Elements
low cascade | readily apparent puzzle arrays | straightforward interfaces | no Absurdity | typical solves


Cats in Italy

Published by Garusoft Development.  I played this on android.

Iterations: Cats in Italy, Sweetshop, Hotel the Cat 

The Short: Come si dici “hot mess?”

Recommended if you like nasal saxophones, short animations of cats

Description: I was really looking forward to this game series because I am a cat person and the idea of escaping rooms in a posh Italian setting really suited me. Alas, this game is quite excruciating. Terrible, awkward graphics paired with music from the depths of midi file hell conspire to invoke a bizarro and clownish “Italian” atmosphere.

I only solved a few puzzle arrays before quitting this game so my understanding of the difficulty and style might be lacking. Still, this seemed like a pretty straightforward puzzle series. Decode clocks, re-arrange colored objects, discover keys, and feed the hungry cat at the window sill. If you can stand it all and beat this game then congrats to you and veni vidi vici.

Difficulty: Unknown 
Difficulty Elements:
 cascade | readily apparent puzzle arrays | straightforward interfaces | — Absurdity | typical solves


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