Published by EXITs. I played this on android.
Iterations: EXITs 1 – EXITs 4
The Short: This series is turning into a dynasty.
Recommended if you like air plants, light fixtures, the word “tableaux”
Description: EXITs is one of my favorite series. These puzzles are always on point, as are these snazzy, jazzy rooms. If you’ve ever wondered what it might be like to try and escape from an Urban Outfitters, look no further than this series. Each room is a soothing blend of trendy rugs, slick furniture, and the occasional metallic ornament that would make even Miranda Priestly nod approvingly.
One notable misstep in this series is the penultimate level in the castle-like parlor room. The music is absolutely atrocious, like a group of bassoonists inhaled too much helium and were forced to play the songs designed for music boxes. Weird.
Difficulty Elements: good cascade | readily apparent & invisible puzzle arrays | straightforward interfaces | no Absurdity | typical solves
Published by nicolet.jp. I played this on android.
The Short: Nicolet.jp really is an oasis in the desert.
Recommended if you like baby saguaros
Description: Grains of sand can be as varied and beautiful as snowflakes. So too is the variety of games Nicolet.jp manages to churn out on a consistent basis. You can boop and bonk your way around this twee, succulent infused room, solve some interesting puzzles and bask in a sense of accomplishment once you’ve finished. This is a well made game that will stimulate your brain and please your senses.
Difficulty Elements: good cascade | readily-apparent puzzle arrays | straightforward interfaces | no Absurdity | typical & unique solves
Published by hozdesign. I played this on android.
Iterations: Monday thru Sunday
The Short: This madcap adventures of one suave duckling contains both narrative and puzzling success.
Recommended if you like beach houses with secrets, teal, ducks in sunglasses
Description: Mr. 3939 is probably my favorite brand within hozdesign‘s gaming universe. The seven part series, Les Vacances de Mr. 3939, is a great addition to the family. The titular Mr. 3939 never fails to get up to all kinds of stunts and tom foolery in any one of his games. His vacations are no exception. The setting is silly but the puzzles are no joke. You will be challenged by this game. The aesthetic world is a true delight. Is this beach house some kind of retreat for spies? Is it safe to drive this long in an enclosed garage without suffocating? Is Mr. 3939 radio AM or FM? This bizarre series will either entertain you for hours or it will stump you. Either way, you will rue the day you made the acquaintance of Claude, who is a [sic] “lier”.
While I enjoyed this game, I do have some criticisms. They are as follows: The narrative jump between Tuesday and Wednesday was a little strange for me. After spending most of the first episodes exploring a beach house, you are suddenly trapped in the garage. It was sort of jarring and I was glad to return to the more familiar space of the house in Thursday. The house is far more fun and colorful.
The puzzling logic in Saturday starts to get a little less tight compared to the previous days. Instead of locked drawers and curious contraptions with buttons, the items and puzzle arrays start to feel a bit shoehorned into the story. The solves become awkward and lack that “eureka” feeling. I get the sense that the designers were sprinting towards the finish line of this ambitious project. Things turned around on Sunday though. Great, challenging puzzles and a few laugh out loud animation moments. Bravo!
Difficulty Elements: great cascade | both readily apparent & invisible puzzle arrays| both straightforward & esoteric interfaces | mild Absurdity | both typical & unique solves
Published by ArtDigic. I played this on android.
The Short: A feisty little game!
Recommended if you like snooty art, French doors, frou frou floor tiling
Description: This game really impressed me. Both the design and the game play were well above average. Let’s start with the room: talk about nice digs! This room has personality. Unlike a thousand other games I’ve reviewed, Nordic2 is actually a unique space, complete with art, furniture and decorations that were purposefully married together by a human creator. It adds so much character and depth when these games go the extra mile to truly imagine a fun, weird room to escape from. I mean — for god’s sake — why do I need to escape from the same drywall, IKEA style studio apartment day in and day out? Aren’t we designing games in cyber space? I mean, I could escape from the inside of a fish if the designer so decreed so why not?
In terms of the puzzling, Nordic2 wins again. This game features an expanding universe, with multiple rooms and puzzle arrays that spread across several areas. The puzzles here will taunt you a bit and I think the snooty atmosphere makes it that much more antagonistic to play. This game strongly reminded me of a few of my other favorites: Nordic Cottage, and everything done by the EXITs team.
Difficulty Elements: good cascade | both readily apparent and invisible puzzle arrays |straightforward interfaces | no Absurdity | both typical and unique solves
Published by Appliss inc. I played this on android.
The Short: Fresher than most but nothing terribly new.
Recommended if you like diamond heists, swiping right
Description: There’s a growing population of escape games that are trying to incorporate more intuitive controls. Instead of arrows and classic point-and-click style commands, these game employ swipe and hold controls (Other examples include JacksOffice, XON, and The Room) Some games program this beautifully. Others are more awkward. CUBICROOM is in the awkward category. It may take you a full minute or two just to get the hang of moving around and zooming in and out of things.
Controls aside, the graphics in this game are really fun! Clean lines, bright space, a definite vibe of a museum or art gallery. There are a couple of cute surprises in CUBICROOM and you should definitely keep your wits about you because this game contains a light sprinkling of trickery.
This game took a long time to download. At first I thought it was because there would be many chapters of game play. Not so. There are only two chapters. In fact, the second chapter is incredibly short. I’m not mad or anything but that was definitely confusing. I mean why bother to split the game into chapters if the second is barely a tenth as long as the first? Just to throw in a lousy commercial? Oh well. I guess ya’ll just need to pay the bills over at Apliss. No worries, dudes.
Difficulty Elements: ok cascade |readily apparent puzzle arrays |straightforward interfaces | no Absurdity |both typical & unique solves
Published by 5minLab. I played this on android.
The Short: A small treasure.
Recommended if you like prisms, rotating around a fixed axis, the Wes Anderson aesthetic
Description: Brickscape is not technically an escape game. It is purely a geometric puzzle environment complete with a seemingly infinite number of levels and soothing, cool music. This game only features puzzling related to unlocking prisms in a closed system. This is a fairly typical puzzling variety. You can find brick puzzles in many other, full fledged escape games. It will usually be included as a small obstacle to unlocking a door or a box in order to move on to the next level. So if you feel like you need some practice with brick puzzles in general, Brickscape is a very rewarding place to start.
On an aesthetic level, Brickscape is a perfect game. The interface is nothing short of lovely. It’s smooth, intuitive and elegantly simple. The blocks themselves are pretty and the scoring system is streamlined. This game strongly reminded me of other well-made, purely puzzling worlds like Mekorama, Cryptica, and What’s Inside the Box?. I did miss a sense of narrative or storytelling but that’s not really a complaint. I highly recommend this game.
Difficulty: Easy to start. Progressively harder.
Difficulty Elements: ok cascade | readily apparent puzzle arrays | straightforward interfaces | no Absurdity | typical solves
Published by Valve Corporation. I played this on Windows.
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 review. Portal 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 puzzling. Portal 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!
Difficulty Elements: great cascade | readily apparent puzzle arrays | esoteric interfaces | some Absurdity | unique solves