Portal ($) [Multiple Iterations]

Published by Valve Corporation. I played this on Windows. Seal of Goodness

Iterations: Portal,  Portal 2, The Lab (and many other interesting spin off properties)

The Short: The modern classic.

Recommended if you like psychotic robots, teleporting, and cake!

Description: I know, I know. I should get out of here with this reviewPortal is a decade old today (happy birthday!) and it’s been reviewed to death. For good reason of course as it is much beloved and treasured by pretty much everybody even vaguely familiar with gaming. It is the mind-bendiest of the mind-bending, has a completely original tone, and packs a punch with phenomenal puzzlingPortal was an instant classic and remains a canonical addition to the gaming universe.

Now Portal is much more exciting than most of the escape games I talk about on this blog and I wanted to review it for a very important reason. If you read anything about Portal online, be it a synopsis, description or review, nobody will call it an “escape game.” And yet, Portal is the most textbook example of an escape game that I can think of. A series of rooms containing discrete puzzle arrays, where the ultimate goal is to escape all of the rooms and, eventually, the whole facility.  It’s true that Portal transforms into a first person shooter half way through but the puzzling is absolutely foundational even as the adrenaline pumps up. The only reason nobody would call Portal an escape game is because “escape game” has a particular connotation. It is a bad connotation.  But I am here to defend escape games everywhere and declare that they are fun! And cool! And there should be more of them! And Portal is an escape game, dudes! Deal with it!

 

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Difficulty: Hard
Difficulty Elements:
great cascade | readily apparent puzzle arrays | esoteric interfaces | some Absurdity | unique solves

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Coming Soon! The Room 4: Old Sins

Published by Fireproof games.  Not yet released!

The Short: !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Fireproof Games has announced a fourth game in their popular series, The Room. The release date is a bit vague, although imminent, “fourth quarter of 2017.” Fireproof plans to release the game on ios first and a bit later on android so us little green robots may be waiting until after Christmas to get our mitts on this. In the meantime, there’s a fun freebie from the publisher: a downloadable tarot card deck that mimics the set found in The Room 2. 

In an interview with one of designers, Barry Meade noted that Old Sins is something of a brand new story line with new characters. Still it’s all situated in the same mythological world as the previous three. Here’s a brief premise overview from their website:

The sudden disappearance of an ambitious engineer and his high-society wife provokes the hunt for a precious artefact. The trail leads to the attic of their deserted home, and the discovery of an old, peculiar dollhouse…Experience The Room: Old Sins and explore unsettling locations, follow obscure clues and manipulate bizarre artefacts on a journey into the world behind the veil.”

I’ve got two photos and this teaser video from the Rezzed gaming conference back in April. That’s all for now, folks!

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Monster LaboEscape

Published by mipp.  I played this on android.

The Short: A little rough around the edges but charming overall.

Recommended if you like sterile work environments, Monsters Inc.

Description: Mipp seems to be a good company. I really enjoy most of their game offerings even though LaboEscape is a little on the dopey side. Fade in on a sterile laboratory where you, presumably, have just come out of stasis. Scare up some standard tools like screw drivers, jump drives and employee directories to facilitate your escape from your unseen captors. The high note of this game is the adorable “scare” about half way through. Monsters get loose in the lab. They’re hella cute.

Puzzling quality is pretty average or maybe even slightly below average in this game. There’s very little cascade and most of the objects you retrieve will strongly indicate what you need to do to solve puzzles. There’s very little left to mystery in this jumpy, boxy game and, in terms of aesthetics, Design Netherworld just about covers it. You could definitely do worse than Monster LaboEscape but, for your sake, I hope you want to do better.

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

The Room (Multiple Iterations) ($)

Published by Fireproof Studios. I played on both android and Microsoft Windows.

($) Iterations: One, Two and Three

The Short: My fucking favorite.

Recommended if you like pocket watches, Gothic literature, pivoting around a fixed axis
Description:  The Room is challenging, beautiful, memorable, and fun. The interface alone is enough to fangirl over. Really smooth game play, streamlined tutorial process, and an intuitive goal: open the box! I recommend  playing these games in chronological order. Also, strongly recommend playing this with a device that offers touchscreen.

These puzzles are hard! Despite the difficulty, I never felt cheated by this game. Every solution was a eureka! moment and never a let down. The mythology is kind of kooky but the overall vibe created by both the visuals and the music was truly unique if not enchanting. The theme music reminded me of the Harry Potter franchise which I think is pretty cool even though I’m not really into Harry Potter stuff. A little bit creepy, a whole lot of antiques, discover the power of ‘the null’ for yourself. I preferred The Room One and Three over Two but I have been debated on this point by others. More photos of the incredible design below:

 

Difficulty Level: Hard
Difficulty Elements:  lots of cascade| both readily apparent & invisible puzzle arrays | both straightforward & esoteric interfaces | some Absurdity | both typical & unique solves

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Myst (Multiple Iterations) ($)

Published by Cyan/Broderbund. I played this on Microsoft Windows.

$ Iterations: Myst, Riven, Myst III: Exile, Uru: Ages Beyond Myst, Myst IV: Revelation, Myst V: End of Ages

The Short: Before there was Lost we had Myst. The irony is, the fans of each rarely overlap.

Recommended if you like mysterious islands, time travel, math

Description:
If you’re into escape games, or video games at all, it’s hard to imagine you’ve never heard of Myst. As a result, this review is merely a formality. I’m not here to describe Myst. I’m just here to tell you how I feel about it.

Continue reading Myst (Multiple Iterations) ($)

Forgotten Hill

Published by FM-Studio. I played this on android.

Iterations: 
Fall, Surgery, Puppeteer

The Short: Need a good skin crawl? Forgotten Hill can help you out. Outstanding series, especially considering that it’s free.

Recommended if you like bugs, circus freaks, noise bands

Description: 

Creeps galore and fantastic, unique artwork. The soundscape is messed up and haunting as well. Fall lagged a bit behind the other two aesthetically but I think it was the first. Overall this entire series has great puzzles and tons of cascade. Be prepared for jump scares and disgusting imagery. I was genuinely freaked in certain parts. My favorite iteration is probably Surgery. Mostly because I am really into body parts suspended in fluid.

Forgotten Hill also has an interesting mythology that is present throughout all the games but never intrudes on game play. Two monstrous brothers(?) and their weird extended family who seem to be over 100 years old. Fabs. I’m so into it. The best part is it’s all kept wonderfully vague so it’s easy to see the connective tissue but you don’t have to figure anything out to solve the puzzles. My one complaint about Forgotten Hill is that each game begins with a stupid amount of exposition, telling you how you came across these strange institutions in the first place. I just tapped past it all. I don’t need to know why I’m in a dripping insane asylum. I’m just excited to be here!

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Difficulty:  
Medium
Difficulty Elementsgreat cascade | readily apparent puzzles | invisible puzzles | straightforward & esoteric puzzles | unique & typical solves | good Absurdity