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

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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

editorial: where am I?

When I am escaping from rooms, I sometimes stop and wonder, “Who’s room is this anyway?”  Who am “I” in this game and who does this room belong to? Am I an intruder? Is this my own room but I need to escape for some reason?

Continue reading editorial: where am I?

Wall

Published by hozdesign .  I played this on android.

The Short: Infuriating.

Recommended if you like unlit basements, bricks, tearing your hair out

Description: I’ve said it before but I will say it again. Hozdesign, you have a lot to answer for. I do not understand who is solving these puzzles without walkthroughs. This blog is fast approaching its 100th post. I am not a novice player here. I have encountered my fair share of stumps and brain farts, only to watch a walkthrough and go “Oh! Of course! Silly me.” Not so with hozdesign. It’s a veritable vipers nest of unsolvable games. Too often have I felt cheated by these solutions.

Wall is a great concept. It’s challenging, imaginative, and well-designed in terms of the aesthetics. But these puzzles are just too damn hard. There are too many canyon-sized leaps of inference asked of the player. The codices and reference objects are difficult to understand. It’s not a game. It feels more like a punishing mental exercise conducted by your cruel, pipe-smoking, Sensei.

Note: I believe these games by hozdesign are good:  Mr. 3939, G.R.E.E.N., and Chairs.

Difficulty: Beyond Hard
Difficulty Elements:
 cascade |both straightforward & invisible puzzle arrays | esoteric interfaces | no Absurdity | unique solves

UNTITLEDESC2

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

The Short: A pleasant room with several locked boxes. Mostly your average escape game but not without its challenges.

Recommended if you like scales, perfume bottles, snooping after hours

Description: As a college undergraduate, I was a history major. It’s a reading-heavy discipline and has somehow gained a reputation of being dull or pedantic. I always wonder how that can be since historians are some of the most gossipy, catty people, snickering both up their sleeves and inside the margins. In history, there’s always a crude detail or a sloppy mistake when you’re combing through material in the archives.

A mistake — especially in a primary source document — is a special and intimate thing. Whether you’re discovering it yourself or just reading about it in a more accomplished researcher’s publication, it’s these little human touches that suddenly make history feel alive.

So when I came across a game literally called UntitledESC2, I was very excited. Who failed to name this creation!? Where is UntitledESC1?! What a precious, tiny catastrophe.

This is a completely decent game with a few challenging moments. Pivot around a living room in neutral tones, read between the lines, collect some multicolored cubes and balance the scale. This game is good.

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