Good Escape

Plain Room

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

The Short: Despite the name, Plain Room has it all. Well designed with good puzzles.

Recommended if you like knick knacks, knee socks, Anthropologie

Description:  Plain Room brings back memories of that one friend in college with a confusingly sophisticated dorm room. You know the one who always kept everything tidy and somehow knew where to get expensive-looking string lights? Once in Plain Room, alight from the minimalist, clean graphics into a petite adventure through color coded drawers, hidden wall compartments, and teacups. I found that the difficulty of the puzzles did increase over the course of the game. I got stuck for some time on the penultimate clue before the finale key. So, well done Plain Room! Show these other work-a-day escape rooms how it’s done!

Difficulty: Medium
Elements of Difficulty: esoteric interfaces | readily apparent puzzle arrays | good cascade | tricky ending | no Absurdity

Dark Room

Published by hozdesign. I played this on android.

The Short: Turning on a light switch never felt so satisfying.

Recommended if you like black outs, exposed pipes, and rotating 180 degrees.

Description:
As part of my continued mission to play all games published by hozdesign, I am happy to have encountered Dark Room. Unlike some of the other games offered up by hozdesign, Dark Room is actually fun and reasonable to solve. From a design standpoint, it’s nothing special. I would even add that it’s below average for hozdesign who usually are able to come up with really creative, fun spaces. Despite being called Dark Room you are not playing in any kind of space related to photography. It is literally just a dark room.  Still, Dark Room manages to keep both feet out of Design Netherworld. So that’s good.

Let’s begin. You find yourself in a dark, unlit room. There are back-lit pieces of furniture and tools. Can you find them? Once you figure out how to get the lights on the game gets going. This isn’t a thrilling or highly imaginative gamespace. It has some funny elements (leaning tower of Pisa? Okay) along with some standard-issue tools and features one might find in a basement: pipes, faucets, a circuit box. This game opens up about three quarters of the way through into a second room. So be assured that the blocked-off ladder in the beginning isn’t just for show! The second room has a visual joke that may or may not make you smile. All in all Dark Room is a fine way to spend your time.

Difficulty: Medium
Elements of Difficulty: readily apparent puzzle arrays | invisible puzzle arrays | esoteric interfaces | good cascade | a touch of Absurdity

Mirror

Published by hozdesign. I played this on android.

The Short: A funny twist on escape games and mind bending details. Too bad hozdesign made it and not somebody else. Maybe then I would have had fun.

Recommended if you like potted plants, alternate dimensions, wall decals

Description: Welcome to the MIRROR room. It looks relatively calm at first. Maybe some kind of lobby or waiting area? But just when you think you’re settling in, this game throws you a disorienting curve ball. Absurdity reigns as you conduct trial and error tests on the various puzzle arrays in MIRROR. Cat decals, bath tubs and an authentic bizzarro world (a la Star Trek) await you and your sleuthing abilities. Unfortunately though, this game is probably going to defeat you.

I have a LOT of beef with other hozdesign games so playing MIRROR is part of my ongoing campaign to play every single thing that hozdesign has created. I want to judge them fairly. MIRROR was fun to play for an hour or so but shortly fell into the typical trap that hozdesign always sets. They create puzzles that require heroic leaps of logical inference. The central problem is always the same. They always set up elaborate codices as reference material to solve puzzle arrays. Like a grid that equates numbers to Greek letters. Fine. But then, it turns out, that a single codex will actually apply to more than one puzzle in the game. Annoying. But the most insane thing that they do — and they do it all the time– is creating solutions that involve two or more codices which all simultaneously apply to one puzzle. You are expected to figure out which codex is primary, which ones are secondary and the order in which information must be translated across each system. Trust me on this, it is nightmarish.

I don’t think MIRROR is possible to solve without a walkthrough. So while it gets lots of points for being very clever, I just cannot recommend this game in good faith.

 

Difficulty: Beyond Hard
Difficulty Elements: Absurd | esoteric puzzle arrays | invisible puzzle arrays

Bank Escape

Published by MobiGrow. I played this on android.

The Short: This might be a train wreck but nobody died so. Also, groovy music.

Recommended if you like predictable spy movies, good riffs on bass

Description: This game is pretty terrible but in that way where it is so bad I kind of love it? The graphics were conceived in the heart, nay the hearth, of Design Netherworld. Just picture a giant smoking factory, badly pixelated and glitching around a sprawl of copy/pasted urban scenery. That is the forge from which the entirety of Design Netherworld was conceived and coerced into being. Sorry to get all LoTR about it but Design Netherworld is my one true foe.

So in addition to being from Design Netherworld, Bank Escape has some pretty loony toons logic behind some of its puzzles. It has also got a bad case of the Obvies. For instance, say you find a glass of water. Shortly thereafter there will be some electrical equipment with a big sign that says NO WATER. Hmmm…. I wonder what I should try next? Additionally, a lot of the items you pick up are not easily discernible. Am I holding a rod? A fan part? A lobster cracker? But the best part of Bank Escape is the music. As you sleuth around the maximum-security bank (you are a bank robber, by the way) this dubious bass line just repeats over and over again. And when you do solve a room, you’re rewarded with a gritty little guitar solo that reminds you that, at least in the realm of Bank Escape, you are one bad ass.

Difficulty Level: Easy
Difficulty Elements
: Readily-apparent puzzle arrays | little to no cascade

Fox in a Box: Bank

I played this IN REAL LIFE. This is the Fox in a Box website.   

The Short: Fantastic.

Recommended if you like to believe you would survive a zombie apocalypse.

Description: Occasionally I will try to explain escape games to somebody new and they will ask me, “Wait do you do this in real life?” No, I say. I do this on my phone. Then they ask how that is possible.

That’s how I felt about a real-life escape games. How would I know if I were doing something rightly or wrongly? How would I avoid breaking something? But I’m here to say that I have tried it now and it is FUN.  Though, it seems essential to go with a group.

Fox in a Box runs a tight ship. They have to start your group on the dot and to the minute to ensure that you get your full hour to solve their themed rooms. My group of friends played the Bank room. We were robbers and had to find out how to unlock a hidden safe that contained a valuable diamond. To make things even more thrilling, all the lights were off and we had to use flashlights. I am an easily entertained person and I can tell you that my pulse was quickened! The puzzle arrays were quite difficult but there is a helpful Hint Giver just an intercom away. This room had amazing cascade. The puzzles were a good combination of straightforward and esoteric. Overall, super fun. Fox in a Box did a wonderful job designing this room.

Did we beat the room? No. But we were so close it was painful.

Difficulty: Difficult
Difficulty Elements: Cascade | no Absurdity | readily apparent puzzle arrays | invisible puzzle arrays | esoteric puzzle arrays

Escape the Lighthouse

Published by Big Bad Bros. I played this on android.

The Short: More time was spent making this look cool than making this fun to play.

Recommended if you like sighing, grey scale, the Miyazakis (father or son)

Description: Escape the Lighthouse deserves commendation for creating very cool artwork and sound design. Beyond that though, this wasn’t a great escape game. Very short on cascade and the puzzles themselves were sort of non-diegetic? Let me explain. Usually the puzzles in an escape game are part of a puzzle array. The puzzle itself is literally part of the room. It is the mugs in the kitchen, the desk in the hall, a piece of paper hidden under the couch. You have to engage with the space to solve it. Escape the Lighthouse toggles between actual rooms in the lighthouse and then these disembodied puzzles like you might play in a puzzle book. It’s not as fun.

Difficulty: Medium
Difficulty Elements: 
little to no cascade | no Absurdity | readily apparent puzzle arrays

Escape the Ghost Town [Multiple Iterations]

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: readily-apparent puzzle arrays | low cascade | no Absurdity