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

Faraway Puzzle Escape ($)

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

The Short: Despite their age, mysterious ruins never get old.

Recommended if you like counter shading, sandstone, alone time

Description: What an awesome game. Faraway really nails it with fantastic artwork and a great soundscape. Swivel and glide through an a-cultural clutch of ruins to collect various brass implements, handwritten notes, and magic tiles. After the first 7 levels you will be invited to spend an additional $2.99 to keep playing and I wouldn’t be surprised if you wanted to pony up because this is a great puzzle world.

In terms of difficulty, Faraway does a great job of escalating things through the levels and introducing new game mechanics. Complete with cool contraptions Faraway includes an ancient system of electrical( or is pneumatic?) wiring to work with and also some laser satellites of antiquity. This is the type of game where you can re-play levels to improve your score by collecting all 3 of the handwritten notes from your unseen friend instead of merely 1 or 2 of them. I did not bother to do that but it is a nice dimension to keep the game engaging even after you’ve played through. And, if you’re into that #desertlife, I highly recommend Sphinx.

For the sake of transparency, I should tell you that this game made me sort of motion sick. The viewer does not give you 360 degree rotation so some rooms feel kind of stuck and weird. That’s really my only complaint though.

 

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Difficulty: Medium
Difficulty Elements:  
great cascade | both readily apparent and invisible puzzle arrays | esoteric interfaces | no Absurdity | both typical and unique solves

Toys

Published by nicolet.jp. I played this on android. Seal of Goodness

The Short: Another home-run from nicolet.jp.

Recommended if you like toy trains, bunk beds, cleaning your room

Description: Newton’s Third Law states that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Maybe there’s more to it than that but I’m into escape games, not physics so that is the extent of my understanding. Still, this Law provokes an alluring philosophical idea. Does every evil in the world conjure a virtuous countermand? Could it be that for every bad, ugly escape game, there is an equally good and attractive one?

Toys is a good game. There’s not much to say beyond that but I don’t want my lack of description to give you an impoverished sense of the game’s quality. You will like it. It’s cute and somewhat challenging. Sometimes it’s hard to find the words to communicate just how serene a good escape game can be. Perhaps it is telling that the language of English does not have much vocabulary or intellectual gestalt to discuss the virtuous absence of flaw. Instead, as a language, it is lousy with hyperbolic praise and mandatory assertion. Toys is good. I recommend it. I don’t know what else to say.

Difficulty: Medium 
Difficulty Elements:
good cascade | both readily apparent & invisible puzzle arrays | straightforward  interfaces | no Absurdity | typical solves

G.R.E.E.N.

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

The Short: Dungeon-esque geometry for the puzzling insane. A unique and challenging experience.

Recommended if you like maddening mazes, granite, Inception  

Description: At last! At last! A game by hozdesign that I can wholeheartedly recommend. This game is fantastic. It has all the usual hallmarks of a hozdesign game minus the drawbacks. First, let’s talk about the aesthetic. It’s moody, atmospheric, and mysterious. You are forced to wander through a curious set of rooms that do not seem to operate according to any natural laws of man. Doors close behind you, one-way windows taunt your sense of direction. I really liked the music for this game as well. Also, if you’re into trees that grow through stone, have they got a room for you!

But what’ really special about this game are the esoteric, challenging puzzles. There are giant spheres, cubes and cones to collect but can you determine where they truly belong? No codes, no keys, no matches, or any run of the mill items in this game. This is a really unique puzzle environment and definitely takes some out of the box thinking. Bravo! Bravo!

Difficulty: Hard 
Difficulty Elements
good cascade | invisible puzzle arrays | esoteric interfaces | Absurdity | unique solves

Egg Cube

Published by nicolet.jp. I played this on android. Seal of Goodness

The Short: A good egg.

Recommended if you like pastels, gold stars, smooth surfaces

Description: I am very excited about this publisher nicolet.jp. They are new to me but that doesn’t mean they haven’t been around forever. Regardless, Egg Cube is a great game with a distinctive, cutesy style. The puzzling itself is sort of a low-grade medium. I was tempted to call it easy but there is a good deal of cascade here to it gets a bump up for that.

Unlike other games that trade is adorableness, Egg Cube manages to steer clear of unintentional creepiness or bizarro babysitter vibes. The decor is childlike but in a dreamy sort of way. Plus there is a king egg who looks he could be some distant ancestor of the Kirby tribe?

Difficulty: Medium
Difficulty Elementsgood cascade | readily-apparent puzzle arrays | straightforward interfaces | no 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