FriendRoom

Published by Ablues.  I played this on android.

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: Medium
Difficulty Elements:
good cascade | both readily-apparent and invisible puzzle arrays | straightforward interfaces | no Absurdity | Typical solves

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Igloo Escape

Published by Ablues.  I played this on android.

The Short: A dinky game with a strong concept.

Recommended if you like igloos, penguins, polar bears

Description: Welp. This was better than Escape from the ballet classrooms. Still, Ablues is not shaping up to be my favorite publisher. This game is a bit rickety in its logic. I tend to discredit games when the puzzling is more focused on finding objects which are lost in a heap of other objects. A better quality game will efficiently present you with several key instruments and let you work out what the puzzle calls for. Igloo spoon feeds the player with lots of hints and glaringly obvious puzzle arrays.

Igloo Escape is an easy game so at least you won’t be stuck inside of its mixed-up aesthetic for long. Plushie animals, a sled, and a pile of grocery store items will keep you company as you scoot around in the snow. I won’t go so far as to call this game bad but I don’t recommend it either.

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

Beard

Published by Atami-Lab.  I played this on android. Seal of Goodness

The Short: Beards figure prominently in this manly excursion.

Recommended if you like tilted frames, Dexter’s Laboratory, hair pomade

Description:  At this point, friends, I have played too many escape games. Lately, it’s hard for me to find a fresh, interesting escape to spend my time on. Visits to the Google Play store are monotonous swipe sessions of games I have already played (or skipped). Given that background, Beard was welcome nectar in a drought!

Beard is a stellar game. It has good puzzle quality and really fun, special artwork. You are situated in a house replete with manly statues, portraits and curious contraptions. Decode the many references in this jocular home to unlock the secret of the beards. The difficulty hovers between Easy and Medium. I would argue that the funny little machines add a degree of difficulty because they have esoteric interfaces. Besides that fact, though, this game is breezy.  There’s even a few translation goof ups (“pictures flames“?) to make it all that much more charming.

I have one small complaint about though. There is no item labeling in Beard and I do think some was in order. In a few cases, the hyper stylized artwork obscured some of the objects’ meanings.

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

Fish

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

The Short: Simple, babyish, and nice overall.

Recommended if you like cute blobs, Nick Jr., teal

Description: Fish might be overselling its aquatic nature with the name but this is a solid, easy game in an aesthetically pleasing little room. Giant, bloated fish statues (or are they plushies?), a grid full of colorful shells, and life savers all serve as puzzle arrays. There are plenty of boxes to unlock, a secret room or two, and a small case of room destruction. Fun, short, recommended.

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

Toys

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

The Short: Another home-run from nicolet.jp.

Recommended if you like toy trains, bunk beds, cleaning your room

Description: Newton’s Third Law states that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Maybe there’s more to it than that but I’m into escape games, not physics so that is the extent of my understanding. Still, this Law provokes an alluring philosophical idea. Does every evil in the world conjure a virtuous countermand? Could it be that for every bad, ugly escape game, there is an equally good and attractive one?

Toys is a good game. There’s not much to say beyond that but I don’t want my lack of description to give you an impoverished sense of the game’s quality. You will like it. It’s cute and somewhat challenging. Sometimes it’s hard to find the words to communicate just how serene a good escape game can be. Perhaps it is telling that the language of English does not have much vocabulary or intellectual gestalt to discuss the virtuous absence of flaw. Instead, as a language, it is lousy with hyperbolic praise and mandatory assertion. Toys is good. I recommend it. I don’t know what else to say.

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

Yellow Room (Reboot)

Published by hozdesign. I played this on android.

The Short: A nearly good game.

Recommended if you like wildlife dioramas, arabesque archways

Description: A near miss really sucks. Yellow Room (Reboot) came very close to being a good game but committed a small sin. But as many Catholics may tell you, a sin is a sin no matter how small. At least I think that’s what the bible says?

Let’s start with what’s good. Yellow Room (Reboot) takes after its siblings in the hozdesign family. Aesthetically, it’s a great minimalist design with some cool arched ceilings, an expanding gamespace, and has some signature funny elements that hozdesign always likes to throw your way. The soundscape is good too.

In the puzzling realm, Yellow Room (Reboot) has some mad tricks up its sleeves. Overall, the puzzle diversity in this game is really great and there’s plenty of unique solves to explore. But the designers got too clever for their own good on one particular puzzle array. Spoiler Alert, I am going to tell you about it here in detail. There is a moment in the game where you have a transparent sheet with markings on it. It fits perfectly over a painting on the wall which also has markings on it. One would think that a code would be visible once the transparent was laid over the painting. It isn’t. You cannot read what’s there. It is illegible. I was convinced that I needed a second transparent to read the code and spent a lot of time doing nothing in this game trying to find the second transparent. Finally, after watching a walk through, I discovered that hozdesign believes you can read the code that’s already there. You can’t. It’s too garbled. I was disappointed, yet again, by hozdesign. And it really really sucks because literally everything else in this game was fun. SIGH.

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

Cake Cafe

Published by FUNKYLAND. I played this on android.

The Short: Like no other cafe or bakery I have ever seen. A simple set of puzzles to solve.

Recommended if you like pink, PINK or PINK

Description: Cutesy and simplistic, Cake Cafe is not FUNKYLAND’s best work. (Their best work –in my opinion– can be found here) Still it’s a pretty solid puzzle environment chock full of keys, teacups, and plush wingback chairs. Will you be able to open this cherubic riot in time for the customers?

 

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