Portal ($) [Multiple Iterations]

Published by Valve Corporation. I played this on Windows. Seal of Goodness

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 reviewPortal 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 puzzlingPortal 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!

 

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Difficulty: Hard
Difficulty Elements:
great cascade | readily apparent puzzle arrays | esoteric interfaces | some Absurdity | unique solves

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Colors

Published by Brazen Cat.  I played this on android.

The Short: Fun with colors! Fun with puzzles! Three cheers for Brazen Cat!

Recommended if you like primary colors, protruding podiums, running to and fro

Description: Brazen Cat wins. Every single game I’ve played by them has knocked it out of the park. Colors is a great game, though it does feel aesthetically different from its sisters Cylinders and CubesUnlike those two games, Colors is a little less sterile and maybe even less sophisticated in style overall. Still, Colors  is just as fun and also it is a much bigger game, with four rooms to run around between, in search of color codes.

The puzzles in this game are all very different which keeps it fun and challenging. In terms of difficulty, it’s a healthy medium. Most everything is straightforward enough but there are definitely a few stumpers in this game that took me a while to get over before I could keep hurdling towards the end. Framed pictures on the walls will give you all the guidance you need to get the wiring hooked up in these four rooms. Collect some gems, mix a color wheel, and unlock the various circuit breakers.

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

SOHO

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

The Short: Another day, another factory standard studio apartment to escape from.

Recommended if you like low lighting, spotless surfaces, Beethoven

Description: I feel like I have already escaped from this room many, many, times. A couch, a desk, hardwood flooring, and unadorned drywall. It’s not fair to criticize SOHO in particular because I play these games in a somewhat random order. Who’s to say that SOHO wasn’t the first game to devise this ordinary style of adventure? And yet, I’m pretty sure they weren’t.

This game is perfectly fine. The graphics are better than average. The puzzling quality is good. Aside from the fact my deja vu has deja vu, I can’t say this game is bad.

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

unreal: birth

Published by Factory.112.  I played this on android. Seal of Goodness

The Short: Intriguing, if short, escape from a bunker.

Recommended if you like rooms with no windowscreepy closed circuit television

Description: This game gets a big thumbs up. In addition to being a good, base-line game, I think something a bit more sophisticated is actually going on here.  Perhaps I’ve been in the desert too long but unreal: birth feels to me like a better realized vision of an escape game than most items available in the Google Play store.

Aesthetically, unreal: birth is right on the line between realistically textured and simplistic. It’s nothing special but it’s definitely good enough to suspend one’s disbelief and the animation doesn’t have that glitchy sense of stiffness that is common in too many of these games. But the puzzles are what really makes this game interesting. It all gels nicely in a way that implies some kind of overarching narrative. The technology and machinery in the game all feel related, as opposed to scrambled or conveniently fantastical.

Based on the name, I wonder if unreal: birth is  the beginning of a larger series but I haven’t been able to discover any more iterations, at least not in the Google Play store. If you liked this and want more like it, I recommend Spotlight

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

Beard

Published by Atami-Lab.  I played this on android. Seal of Goodness

The Short: Beards figure prominently in this manly excursion.

Recommended if you like tilted frames, Dexter’s Laboratory, hair pomade

Description:  At this point, friends, I have played too many escape games. Lately, it’s hard for me to find a fresh, interesting escape to spend my time on. Visits to the Google Play store are monotonous swipe sessions of games I have already played (or skipped). Given that background, Beard was welcome nectar in a drought!

Beard is a stellar game. It has good puzzle quality and really fun, special artwork. You are situated in a house replete with manly statues, portraits and curious contraptions. Decode the many references in this jocular home to unlock the secret of the beards. The difficulty hovers between Easy and Medium. I would argue that the funny little machines add a degree of difficulty because they have esoteric interfaces. Besides that fact, though, this game is breezy.  There’s even a few translation goof ups (“pictures flames“?) to make it all that much more charming.

I have one small complaint about though. There is no item labeling in Beard and I do think some was in order. In a few cases, the hyper stylized artwork obscured some of the objects’ meanings.

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

Coming soon! Rusty Lake Paradise ($)

The Short: Rejoice! Another surreal piece of storytelling is coming your way, courtesy of a very bizarre Dutch studio.  

Description: Few can resist the hypnotic pull of Cube Escape, the celebrated art horror series created by publisher Rusty Lake. Both frightening and comical, beautiful and strange, Rusty Lake never shies away from making memorable experiences. Their newest game, Paradise promises to be a superb addition to this awesome collection of escape games. The premise, as quoted from their launch announcement page:

“Rusty Lake Paradise is set on a small remote island in the 18th Century. After your mother passed away the island seems to be cursed with the 10 plagues. It’s your job to go around the island, interact with your family and help them vanquish the plague. The game offers ominous situations and bizarre rituals. Paradise builds upon the distinctive atmosphere and excitement from the Rusty Lake series. For the background graphics we collaborated with a well-known Dutch artist, Johan Scherft.”

The game is expected to be released in Q4 of 2017. So, any day now!

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Fish

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

The Short: Simple, babyish, and nice overall.

Recommended if you like cute blobs, Nick Jr., teal

Description: Fish might be overselling its aquatic nature with the name but this is a solid, easy game in an aesthetically pleasing little room. Giant, bloated fish statues (or are they plushies?), a grid full of colorful shells, and life savers all serve as puzzle arrays. There are plenty of boxes to unlock, a secret room or two, and a small case of room destruction. Fun, short, recommended.

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