Chairs

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

The Short: You wake up in a blank room with four, color coded chairs. If you can figure out what the heck is going on, you’re in for a real treat.

Recommended if you like feeling taunted by pedestrian objects, stewing in time out

Description: I have had a lot to say about hozdesign over this past year. Most of their games really disappoint me. But now I can say that in addition to G.R.E.E.N., I also really like Chairs. 

Hozdesign has a talent for creating uncanny spaces. They populate their worlds with very common objects but subvert the meaning of those objects by expecting you to use them in bizarre and unexpected ways. They also create very streamlined spaces that are simplistic but in a cheeky way as if to say — while jabbing you in the rib cage — “The solution is so simple. Haven’t you figured it out by now?”

Chairs contains many difficult puzzles but manages to avoid becoming “Beyond Hard” by constraining the number of codices the player is expected to keep in their mind’s eye. I will say that in my version, I encountered a pretty ridiculous glitch that forced me to start over. I kept collecting colored tiles and they kept disappearing. For a long time I thought this was part of the game but it wasn’t. It was a total glitch. Starting over once fixed it 100%.

Difficulty: Hard
Difficulty Elements
great cascade | both readily apparent & invisible puzzle arrays | esoteric interfaces | some Absurdity | unique solves | tricky ending

Cylinders

Published by Brazen Cat. I played this on android.  Seal of Goodness

The Short: A small topsy turvey adventure and fun with cylindrical pedestals.

Recommended if you like RJD2, tube shaped things

Description: Cylinders is nowhere near as hard as its sister Escape Game – Cubes (which should not be confused with the legendary Cube Escape franchise). Still, this is a fun game with unique puzzles and a bit of loopy logic to boot. If you’re a fan of white, anonymous rooms you will feel right at home in Cylinders. Spend some time matching up codes, colors and shapes to various lock boxes around the room. This game is well designed, intriguing, and shouldn’t take you very long to finish.

Difficulty: Medium 
Difficulty Elements:
ok cascade | readily apparent puzzle arrays | esoteric interfaces | mild Absurdity | both typical & unique solves solves

WappoiESC

Published by mipp. I played this on android.

The Short: A deck of well-deployed text boxes and okay puzzling.

Recommended if you like cornball humor, animal figurines, hobnobbing with demi gods

Description: This is a middling escape game that gets extra points for silliness. Behold:
Screenshot_20170805-152237

Yes, that’s right. God himself greets you at the outset of this game to introduce the premise. Your ancestors have all previously completed these puzzles and escaped from this room. Can you?

The room itself is a design netherworld concoction. Were it not for the helpful text boxes that crop up everywhere in this game, it might be hard to tell objects apart. That being said, the actual content of the text boxes tends to be funny in that kind of “Ah. It’s a joke.” kind of way. Snoop around the traditional Japanese space with screen doors, fan prints, and a mountain replica complete with paper lanterns. Collect all of the keys, “shine” the bamboo, and fulfill your low-key destiny.

Difficulty: Medium
Difficulty Elements:
okay cascade | readily apparent 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

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

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

Nordic Cottage

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

The Short: Turns out escape games and hygge are a couple of cozy housemates.

Recommended if you like Danish culture, clashing pattern prints, moose

Description: I was surprised how much I liked this game. At first, I thought it was an overly elaborated game space with too many weird nooks and crannies but the game really justified itself. First off, Nordic Cottage was harder than I expected. Not that this was a particularly challenging game but it had a lot of cascade and I felt I got a solid puzzling experience out of it. FUNKYLAND usually creates more simplistic, awkward-looking games so Nordic Cottage is really a step up for them. RAD, DUDES!

Drown yourself in the Danish decor as you poke around this bombastic cottage full of mismatched rugs, wallpapering, and ceramics. The whole thing feels very homespun, as if Aunt Inga herself knitted the entire interior of the place. And because it’s possible you will never play this game, I felt obligated to share this image of the Finale Key because when it comes to Finale Keys in general it does not get better than this!

nordic finale key

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