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 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
This post reviews 3 games by nicolet.jp: Apple Cube, Escape Game A, and Tiny Cube
Escape games breed in abundance. There are literally thousands to choose from across genre and across platforms. As a result, I’ve decided to start doing Round Ups organized by Publisher. Nicolet.jp is a cornucopia of good escapes but sometimes there’s not that much to say outside of the fact that they are cute, fun, and well designed. As a result, I’ve created this post of mini reviews (miniviews?) to cover games more efficiently.
Continue reading Nicolet.jp Round Up
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
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
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
Published by hozdesign. I played these on android.
Iterations: Episodes One – Six
The Short: Unhinged adventures with precocious ducklings.
Recommended if you like Wallace and Gromit, primary colors, negative space
Description: I have many gripes about hozdesign products but the Mr. 3939 series is actually really good. Cute ducklings, interesting aesthetic and – my favorite– it’s all a tad mind-bending.
The minimalist roomscapes throughout the Mr. 3939 series all share common tools and decor so as a series everything feels unified. It’s all enhanced by a very restrained and cartoonish soundscape. In terms of difficulty, these games offer up mostly esoteric puzzles interfaces but there’s also plenty of basic codes to be found, keys to be turned and hammers to be hammered. Some of the more unique details include stacked chairs, framed photos of fruit, and dragon-doors are all graced. It’s all served with a healthy dollop of Absurdity. So, in addition to sussing out which doorknobs do what, you may need to take a few logical leaps of faith.
Difficulty Elements: good cascade | both readily apparent & invisible puzzle arrays | both straightforward & esoteric interfaces | some Absurdity | both typical & unique solves