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

chotto_fusigi (aka Strange Little Searching)

Published by かもの巣窟 . I played this on android.

The Short: There is a cool central idea here but jeez Louise, that animation is painful.

Recommended if you like making your eyes bleed, magical shoe boxes

Description: Woof. Where to start. I’m not a big fan of chotto stuff to begin with but chotto_fusigi really pushes the envelope. These graphics are bad. Bad, bad, bad! It’s all very two dimensional and suffused with an offensive array of corals and pastels. The furniture is boxy, badly rendered and the zoom effects are jarring and fairly nauseating. In short: Barf.

That being said, I do have a couple of nice things to say about this game. The central mechanic in chotto_fusigi is actually kind of interesting. There is a row of shoe boxes in the middle of this game space. They are magical shoe boxes. As you go around the room, you will collect miniature pieces of furniture and if you place them into the shoe boxes, you will conjure life-sized pieces of furniture. I kind of liked this in theory but they could have done more to capitalize on this premise. All in all, though, stay away from this game.

Difficulty: Easy 
Difficulty Elements:
some cascade | readily apparent puzzle arrays | straightforward & esoteric interfaces | low Absurdity | both typical & unique solves

BalletRoom aka Escape from the ballet classrooms.

Published by Ablues. I played this on android.

The Short: Tonal confusion in addition to an unfixed rotational axis make this game a bizarre jaunt indeed. I mean, if this is supposed to be cute what’s with the crying mannequin?

Recommended if you like uncanny ballet studios, vertigo

Description:  Aesthetically, I have to say, this game is a mess. This ostensibly adorable room feels stiff and overly polished as if everything was covered in a layer of vinyl. The amalgamation of objects in this ballet studio is a little bizarre. In addition to stuff you might expect (ballet bar, walls of mirrors, and a stereo system) there’s also a whale pillow, cryptic runes, and some undecipherable wall hangings that don’t seem to have any purpose.  It doesn’t feel like a cohesive space. But the worst part about this game is the rotational vertigo you experience when trying to navigate around the room. Typically, in an escape room, the game will situate you in the center of the space and allow you to rotate your POV north, west, south, and east with the option to zoom in on certain areas. Not so in Escape from the Ballet classrooms.! In this game  you are flung around from the center of the room, into corners looking back out again and frequently zoomed into surfaces against your will. It’s very disorienting and unpleasant.

The aesthetic problems bleed into the puzzling because it’s easy to become confused with the disorientation. I will say that there is one game mechanic worth praising in Escape from the Ballet classrooms.It has to do with the mirrors and if you don’t want it spoiled, then I suggest you stop reading at this point. As you approach the mirror, it will appear that they depict nothing of interest. But after a few second, images begin to fade into the space which constitute a code that you can tap into the wall panels. It’s a pretty original idea that I have never seen before so I wanted to call it out. Other than that, this game is a big S.K.I.P.

Difficulty: Medium 
Difficulty Elements:
good cascade | readily apparent puzzle arrays | both straightforward & esoteric puzzle arrays| mild Absurdity | both typical & unique solves

NOIR

Published by hozdesign. I played this on android.

The Short: Another highly imaginative space presented by hozdesign. Unique and exciting game mechanics and atmospheric music but with unpolished puzzles that you cannot solve. [Sad face]

Recommended if you like nostalgia, doomed romance, blacks and whites

Description: NOIR is a short-play game featuring some pretty great minimalist graphics, a wonderful sense of mood and, unfortunately, puzzling that falls flat. Hozdesign excels at making inventive game mechanics like alternate dimensions, secret passageways, literal reversals and esoteric visuals that can really engage a player. NOIR is no exception and if you’re looking for a truly new and unique experience NOIR will deliver on that promise. The central problem with hozdesign, as I’ve discussed before, is their failure to design puzzles that are as satisfying as their graphics and game mechanics. The puzzles lack a nub, a crux, that single satisfying idea you grasp suddenly in your mind’s eye and declare “Oh!” or “Aha!” or “Eureka!” as the case may be. I felt a bit cheated by NOIR in particular because in solving one of the last puzzle arrays, I was actually on the right track for several minutes but could not satisfy the game’s definition of the “solve.” Then! Insult of insults, I solved it by accident. I commonly come away from hozdesign feeling frustrated but as of writing this post, I refuse to quit them because so much else about the games are good. I am just waiting for them to get it right.

Difficulty:  Beyond Hard 
Difficulty Elements
good cascade | both readily apparent & invisible puzzle arrays | esoteric puzzle arrays | some Absurdity | unique solves

Cake Cafe

Published by FUNKYLAND. I played this on android.

The Short: Like no other cafe or bakery I have ever seen. A simple set of puzzles to solve.

Recommended if you like pink, PINK or PINK

Description: Cutesy and simplistic, Cake Cafe is not FUNKYLAND’s best work. (Their best work –in my opinion– can be found here) Still it’s a pretty solid puzzle environment chock full of keys, teacups, and plush wingback chairs. Will you be able to open this cherubic riot in time for the customers?

 

Difficulty:  Easy 
Difficulty Elements
little cascade | readily apparent puzzle arrays | straightforward interfaces |no Absurdity |typical 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