Aesthetic, Challenging, fantastical, Genre, many many, Seal of Goodness, Special Qualities, straightforward

Cryptica

Published by Pixibots. I played this on android.

The Short:  Fun with hieroglyphics minus the worry of raising the dead.

Recommended if you like runes, grids, neutral tones

Description: Cryptica is not an escape game. It’s a spatial reasoning puzzle game with sort of an Aztec-y aesthetic. In each level, you are presented with a grid. The grid contains at least one Active Stone and that Active Stone’s match-spot. You must move the Active Stone or Stones to their respective match spots to win. The trick in this game comes when you get multiple Active Stones. All Active Stones move in unison so when you move an individual stone once to the left, you move all of the Active Stones once to the left. The game is further complicated by Inactive Stones that work to block the Active Stones.

I love the shit out of this game. It has a really intuitive interface, great audio accompaniment to game play, and it’s challenging in just the right way. This is also a game where you can really get “in the zone” by playing multiple levels in a row, your brain really starts to think along the grid. The next time you’re meeting someone for coffee, especially your one friend who is always 15 minutes late, download Cryptica and feel the time fly by.

Difficulty Level: Medium
Difficulty Elements: readily-apparent puzzles

Aesthetic, Bad, Challenging, Genre, paranoid, realistic, Special Qualities, straightforward

RED

Published by hozdesign. I played this on android.

The Short: More RED flags, courtesy of hozdesign

Recommended if you like dark alleyways, tomatoes

Description: Let’s begin with what is good about this game. Aesthetically, RED is cool. A nighttime puzzle complete with eerie lighting and harmonious cricket noises. RED follows a typical escape game trope of presenting a weird and spooky vibe while never actually delivering any horror elements. It’s like a zen garden of creepy, after-dark hangouts. I like it.

What I didn’t like about RED is the extreme difficulty.  I was very suspicious of this game because I had a really terrible experience playing ESC which is another game by hozdesign. RED turned out to be eminently more solvable but still, the finale puzzle of this game was beyond hard. It was actually just straight up sadistic. Even after a concerted effort to solve it (and I really thought I was on the right track), I finally succumbed to watching a walk through. I had to read and re-read this solution three times to make sure I grasped what it was telling me. Hozdesign really fails at creating puzzles that have one, understandable solution that truly contains a “eureka” moment regardless if you solve it or have it shown to you. Instead, they tend to offer up puzzles so complex and multi-faceted that it’s fairly impossible to know you’re on the right track even when you’re halfway through.

Games are no fun when the creators don’t play fair. Sorry, RED but I’m just not a fan.

Difficulty Level: Beyond Hard
Difficulty Elements: esoteric puzzle arrays | cascade

Aesthetic, Genre, many many, Seal of Goodness, Special Qualities, straightforward, vacation

Can You Escape?

Published by MobiGrow. I played this on android.

In Short: Gold standard escape game.

Recommended if you like tranquil living rooms, low key music, and being safe in the knowledge that winning is its own reward.

Description: Can You Escape? has the most basic format I know of for escape games: There are multiple rooms to escape from. Each room is different and unrelated from the others. There is no over-arching story but there are plenty of keys, matches, and codes to look for and some relaxing lounge music for your listening pleasure. Can You Escape? is a totally decent game.  I like the room designs. They’re all a bit different and there’s definitely some tongue-and-cheek decorating choices. So the question is, can you escape Can You Escape? ? There’s only one way to find out.

Difficulty Level: Easy
Difficulty Elements: low cascade | readily-apparent puzzle arrays

Aesthetic, cartoonish, cascade, cute, Genre, Seal of Goodness, Special Qualities, straightforward

Matryoshka

Published by Kotorinosu. I played this on android

The Short: Fantastic game. Do I detect a bit of humor at my expense?

Recommended if you like tranquil blues and Russian nesting dolls

Description: It has been a little while since I actually played this game but I wanted to get this post out of my draft queue so I’m going to do this purely from memory.

This game is medium hard. Kotorinsosu really succeeds at making games with good cascade.  Matryoshaka is no exception. Puzzle areas and tools tend to get re-used which expands the potentials in the game and makes gameplay a more dynamic experience.

Something else I really like about Matryoshka is the vague sense of cheekiness about how all of the different puzzles work together. I credit this as a design success. So much of what’s enjoyable about an escape game is learning the “rules” of the tiny space you’re invading. Really good creators know how to include a certain self-contained attitude or tone within the gamescape such that when you successfully solve something you can also roll your eyes a little, as if a good friend has done something that is just “so them.”

Difficulty Level: Medium
Difficulty Elements: cascade| esoteric puzzle arrays

Aesthetic, cartoonish, cascade, fantasy, Genre, Seal of Goodness, Special Qualities, straightforward

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.

Difficulty Level: Medium
Difficulty Elements: esoteric puzzle arrays | cascade | item construction/deconstruction

 

Aesthetic, cascade, Challenging, Genre, minimalist, Seal of Goodness, Special Qualities, straightforward

Escape Game – Cubes

Published by Brazen Cat. I played this on android.

The Short: Fun and hard and rainbows!!

Recommended if you like Rubik’s cubes, spatial reasoning, Bauhaus

Description: This game was hard! I loved it though. Escape Game – Cubes is an anonymous white room with rainbow cubes that create a very abstract and brainy puzzle experience. There’s no sense of story to this game but makes up for it in spades with the super cool design and fantastic puzzle cascade.

One of my favorite things in an escape game is when you unlock a new area of the puzzle and get to explore a new space/puzzle array. Escape Room – Cubes provides a fun little revelation about half-way through and it was a genuine small delight. I wouldn’t recommend this game for a beginner just because the puzzles are quite hard but it’s a fairly straight forward game universe as opposed to something zany-balls like Escape from Escape Room  so if you’re green but feeling plucky, give it a spin.

Difficulty Level: Hard
Difficulty Elements: esoteric puzzle arrays | invisible puzzle arrays | good cascade | some Absurdity

Aesthetic, beautiful, cascade, Challenging, fantastical, fantasy, Genre, many many, realistic, science fiction, Seal of Goodness, Special Qualities

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.

Difficulty Level: Hard
Difficulty Elements:  lots of cascade| invisible puzzle arrays | esoteric puzzle arrays | some Absurdity

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:

Continue reading “The Room (Multiple Iterations) ($)”