Faraway Puzzle Escape ($)

Published by snapbreak. I played this on android. Seal of Goodness

The Short: Despite their age, mysterious ruins never get old.

Recommended if you like counter shading, sandstone, alone time

Description: What an awesome game. Faraway really nails it with fantastic artwork and a great soundscape. Swivel and glide through an a-cultural clutch of ruins to collect various brass implements, handwritten notes, and magic tiles. After the first 7 levels you will be invited to spend an additional $2.99 to keep playing and I wouldn’t be surprised if you wanted to pony up because this is a great puzzle world.

In terms of difficulty, Faraway does a great job of escalating things through the levels and introducing new game mechanics. Complete with cool contraptions Faraway includes an ancient system of electrical( or is pneumatic?) wiring to work with and also some laser satellites of antiquity. This is the type of game where you can re-play levels to improve your score by collecting all 3 of the handwritten notes from your unseen friend instead of merely 1 or 2 of them. I did not bother to do that but it is a nice dimension to keep the game engaging even after you’ve played through. And, if you’re into that #desertlife, I highly recommend Sphinx.

For the sake of transparency, I should tell you that this game made me sort of motion sick. The viewer does not give you 360 degree rotation so some rooms feel kind of stuck and weird. That’s really my only complaint though.

 

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

G.R.E.E.N.

Published by hozdesign. I played this on android. Seal of Goodness

The Short: Dungeon-esque geometry for the puzzling insane. A unique and challenging experience.

Recommended if you like maddening mazes, granite, Inception  

Description: At last! At last! A game by hozdesign that I can wholeheartedly recommend. This game is fantastic. It has all the usual hallmarks of a hozdesign game minus the drawbacks. First, let’s talk about the aesthetic. It’s moody, atmospheric, and mysterious. You are forced to wander through a curious set of rooms that do not seem to operate according to any natural laws of man. Doors close behind you, one-way windows taunt your sense of direction. I really liked the music for this game as well. Also, if you’re into trees that grow through stone, have they got a room for you!

But what’ really special about this game are the esoteric, challenging puzzles. There are giant spheres, cubes and cones to collect but can you determine where they truly belong? No codes, no keys, no matches, or any run of the mill items in this game. This is a really unique puzzle environment and definitely takes some out of the box thinking. Bravo! Bravo!

Difficulty: Hard 
Difficulty Elements
good cascade | invisible puzzle arrays | esoteric interfaces | Absurdity | unique 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

NOIR

Published by hozdesign. I played this on android.

The Short: Another highly imaginative space presented by hozdesign. Unique and exciting game mechanics and atmospheric music but with unpolished puzzles that you cannot solve. [Sad face]

Recommended if you like nostalgia, doomed romance, blacks and whites

Description: NOIR is a short-play game featuring some pretty great minimalist graphics, a wonderful sense of mood and, unfortunately, puzzling that falls flat. Hozdesign excels at making inventive game mechanics like alternate dimensions, secret passageways, literal reversals and esoteric visuals that can really engage a player. NOIR is no exception and if you’re looking for a truly new and unique experience NOIR will deliver on that promise. The central problem with hozdesign, as I’ve discussed before, is their failure to design puzzles that are as satisfying as their graphics and game mechanics. The puzzles lack a nub, a crux, that single satisfying idea you grasp suddenly in your mind’s eye and declare “Oh!” or “Aha!” or “Eureka!” as the case may be. I felt a bit cheated by NOIR in particular because in solving one of the last puzzle arrays, I was actually on the right track for several minutes but could not satisfy the game’s definition of the “solve.” Then! Insult of insults, I solved it by accident. I commonly come away from hozdesign feeling frustrated but as of writing this post, I refuse to quit them because so much else about the games are good. I am just waiting for them to get it right.

Difficulty:  Beyond Hard 
Difficulty Elements
good cascade | both readily apparent & invisible puzzle arrays | esoteric puzzle arrays | some Absurdity | unique solves

Escape the Lighthouse

Published by Big Bad Bros. I played this on android.

The Short: More time was spent making this look cool than making this fun to play.

Recommended if you like sighing, grey scale, the Miyazakis (father or son)

Description: Escape the Lighthouse deserves commendation for creating very cool artwork and sound design. Beyond that though, this wasn’t a great escape game. Very short on cascade and the puzzles themselves were sort of non-diegetic? Let me explain. Usually the puzzles in an escape game are part of a puzzle array. The puzzle itself is literally part of the room. It is the mugs in the kitchen, the desk in the hall, a piece of paper hidden under the couch. You have to engage with the space to solve it. Escape the Lighthouse toggles between actual rooms in the lighthouse and then these disembodied puzzles like you might play in a puzzle book. It’s not as fun.

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

Escape the Ghost Town [Multiple Iterations]

Published by A-S-G. I played these on android.

Iterations: one through four

The Short: Simplistic game series with great atmosphere. In certain version you can actually “Skip” the puzzles if you find them too challenging. I find that hilarious. I mean, why are you even playing?

Recommended if you like pensive fog, the spirit world, velvet chokers

Description: This is an updated review. I already played and talked about the first Escape the Ghost Town before I knew there were three additional games.

Escape the Ghost Town has an interesting aesthetic. At first, I was tempted to situate this game within Design Netherworld but then I checked myself. At the very least, Escape the Ghost Town is not making its digs in downtown, south central Netherworld. If anything, it’s more out in the Netherworld’s most respected suburbs. This game features standard issue haunted houses with spooky garden grounds, weird marble statues, sheds full of saws, and heavily carpeted indoor spaces that strongly imply musk and dampness. The music is actually quite nice. The overall effect is a cohesive game space that usually trades in “passable” but occasionally creates a somewhat interesting room or sequestered garden area.

Escape the Ghost Town is a perfectly nice set of games. They’re fairly easy.

Difficulty Level: Easy
Difficulty Elements: low cascade | readily-apparent puzzle arrays |no Absurdity | typical solves

Sphinx

Published by Kotorinosu. I played this on android.

The Short: Who doesn’t love a good old puzzle-jaunt through an ancient pyramid? 

Recommended if you like Ancient Egypt, the sound of your own footsteps

Description: Sphinx rocks! Really nice design aesthetic with both visuals and sound. I also really dug the Items design. The aesthetic here reminds me of a lot of flash animation. Well textured and cartoon-y, Sphinx contains hidden chambers, bizarre contraptions and plenty of golden statues to stare at you as you proceed through the game. Items are non-static even in your inventory and you can combine/deconstruct items to create new implements. Item crafting is always a really awesome aspect to an escape game because it expands the potential solutions at your disposal and makes the game more dynamic overall. Sphinx also “opens up” as the game proceeds and I would argue that this game actually increases in difficulty through the levels. If you enjoy this one, you might like Faraway.

Difficulty Level: Medium
Difficulty Elementsgreat cascade | readily apparent puzzle arrays | both straightforward & esoteric interfaces | no Absurdity | both typical & unique solves | item crafting