Aesthetic, Challenging, fantastical, Genre, many many, Seal of Goodness, Special Qualities, straightforward

Cryptica

Published by Pixibots. I played this on android.

The Short:  Fun with hieroglyphics minus the worry of raising the dead.

Recommended if you like runes, grids, neutral tones

Description: Cryptica is not an escape game. It’s a spatial reasoning puzzle game with sort of an Aztec-y aesthetic. In each level, you are presented with a grid. The grid contains at least one Active Stone and that Active Stone’s match-spot. You must move the Active Stone or Stones to their respective match spots to win. The trick in this game comes when you get multiple Active Stones. All Active Stones move in unison so when you move an individual stone once to the left, you move all of the Active Stones once to the left. The game is further complicated by Inactive Stones that work to block the Active Stones.

I love the shit out of this game. It has a really intuitive interface, great audio accompaniment to game play, and it’s challenging in just the right way. This is also a game where you can really get “in the zone” by playing multiple levels in a row, your brain really starts to think along the grid. The next time you’re meeting someone for coffee, especially your one friend who is always 15 minutes late, download Cryptica and feel the time fly by.

Difficulty Level: Medium
Difficulty Elements: readily-apparent puzzles

Aesthetic, Bad, Challenging, Genre, paranoid, realistic, Special Qualities, straightforward

RED

Published by hozdesign. I played this on android.

The Short: More RED flags, courtesy of hozdesign

Recommended if you like dark alleyways, tomatoes

Description: Let’s begin with what is good about this game. Aesthetically, RED is cool. A nighttime puzzle complete with eerie lighting and harmonious cricket noises. RED follows a typical escape game trope of presenting a weird and spooky vibe while never actually delivering any horror elements. It’s like a zen garden of creepy, after-dark hangouts. I like it.

What I didn’t like about RED is the extreme difficulty.  I was very suspicious of this game because I had a really terrible experience playing ESC which is another game by hozdesign. RED turned out to be eminently more solvable but still, the finale puzzle of this game was beyond hard. It was actually just straight up sadistic. Even after a concerted effort to solve it (and I really thought I was on the right track), I finally succumbed to watching a walk through. I had to read and re-read this solution three times to make sure I grasped what it was telling me. Hozdesign really fails at creating puzzles that have one, understandable solution that truly contains a “eureka” moment regardless if you solve it or have it shown to you. Instead, they tend to offer up puzzles so complex and multi-faceted that it’s fairly impossible to know you’re on the right track even when you’re halfway through.

Games are no fun when the creators don’t play fair. Sorry, RED but I’m just not a fan.

Difficulty Level: Beyond Hard
Difficulty Elements: esoteric puzzle arrays | cascade

Aesthetic, cartoonish, cascade, cute, Genre, Seal of Goodness, Special Qualities, straightforward

Matryoshka

Published by Kotorinosu. I played this on android

The Short: Fantastic game. Do I detect a bit of humor at my expense?

Recommended if you like tranquil blues and Russian nesting dolls

Description: It has been a little while since I actually played this game but I wanted to get this post out of my draft queue so I’m going to do this purely from memory.

This game is medium hard. Kotorinsosu really succeeds at making games with good cascade.  Matryoshaka is no exception. Puzzle areas and tools tend to get re-used which expands the potentials in the game and makes gameplay a more dynamic experience.

Something else I really like about Matryoshka is the vague sense of cheekiness about how all of the different puzzles work together. I credit this as a design success. So much of what’s enjoyable about an escape game is learning the “rules” of the tiny space you’re invading. Really good creators know how to include a certain self-contained attitude or tone within the gamescape such that when you successfully solve something you can also roll your eyes a little, as if a good friend has done something that is just “so them.”

Difficulty Level: Medium
Difficulty Elements: cascade| esoteric puzzle arrays

Aesthetic, Genre, realistic, straightforward

One Room Escape

Published by ToiGames. I played this on android.

The Short: Turns out that “standard issue” and “snooze fest” are flip sides of the same coin.

Recommended if you like sensible living room design

Description: One Room Escape is fine. I’m being rude by implying that this game is boring because there’s really nothing wrong with it. And yet, I struggled to find anything noteworthy to write about here. One Room Escape has good puzzle difficulty. Explore a bookcase, a desk, and some hilariously bland decorative objects to find your keys and codes. This game is somewhat challenging so it gets point for that. From a design standpoint, this is a pretty well-rendered version of your one successful friend’s super nice living room. It’s a straight up regular, vacation escape game.

Difficulty Level: Easy – Medium
Difficulty Elements: tricky ending | readily-apparent puzzle arrays | low cascade

Aesthetic, cartoonish, cute, Genre, minimalist, straightforward

ROOM Δ / ROOM Γ

Published by Kotorinosu. I played this on android.

The Short: I wanted to like these games. I like other games by this Publisher. But both of these games required some pretty enormous leaps of inference.

Recommended if you like beanbag chairs, Debussy, tidy work spaces

Description:
There is no denying it. Kotorinosu has swell graphics. ROOM Δ and ROOM Γ are no exceptions. They are minimalist and cute. I would call the difficulty level high on both game. Even bearing that in mind, I felt cheated by ROOM Δ and ROOM Γ  two specific times: Without spoiling anything (because maybe you’d rather see for yourself) I will describe:  Continue reading “ROOM Δ / ROOM Γ”

Aesthetic, cartoonish, fantasy, Genre, straightforward

Kalaquli R

Published by 58 Works. I played this on android.

The Short: Kalaquli is a better escape game than most but it’s missing a crucial ingredient: cascade.

Recommended if you like tea houses under siege

Description: I like all of the following things about Kalaquli R: First, the aesthetics are good. Set in a Japanese(?) tea house that’s beset by dart-blowing ninjas, Kalaquili R features cool sliding doors, secret compartments and samurai artwork. As with the visuals, the sound in Kalaquli R succeeds at creating a cohesive place and mood. Second, I really love it when games “open up” as the game proceeds. Kalaquli R has multiple tiers as you move through the game though I can’t say that they get harder or anything. The world merely expands. Puzzle quality was decent though definitely on the medium-easy side.

What’s missing from Kalaqui R is a sense that the puzzles interlock and relate to each other. Instead, it’s more of a fixed set of different puzzle areas that you extinguish, one at a time. A perfect example of this is the courtyard in this game. It’s an entire “room” and yet only 2 puzzles derive from it. Many escape games suffer from lack of cascade but Kalaqui R was a surprising one to fall into this trap because everything else about it was above average.

Difficulty Level: Medium
Difficulty Elements:  invisible puzzle arrays | readily-apparent puzzle arrays | low cascade | no Absurdity

Aesthetic, Genre, horror, realistic, straightforward

Haunted Room

Published by noprops. I played this on android.

The Short: I’m going to say some mean things about this game but really it was okay.

Recommended if you like studio apartments, poorly rendered ghosts

Description: Noprops can be really hit or miss. They made this one game that I think is absolutely ingenious called Escape from Escape Room  but so far everything else I’ve seen by them has been on the worse side of fine. Haunted Room has the advantage of being so poorly animated that it’s actually funny. This game definitely makes its digs in Design Netherworld.

In terms of difficulty, this game is better than most in its class. The ending has a trick which I enjoyed solving and along the way there were one or two surprises. Ho-hum, it didn’t ruin my day.

Difficulty Level: Medium
Difficulty Elements:  esoteric puzzle arrays | trick ending | low cascade | no Absurdity