Published by Valve Corporation. I played this on Windows.
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 review. Portal 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 puzzling. Portal 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!
Difficulty Elements: great cascade | readily apparent puzzle arrays | esoteric interfaces | some Absurdity | unique solves
Published by hozdesign. I played this on android.
The Short: “I’ll allow it.” – Heben Nigatu
Recommended if you like alleyway furniture, isolation chambers, peeping through keyholes
Description: I’ve noted, ad nauseam, my ambivalent feelings towards hozdesign games. On the one hand, they maintain a very cool aesthetic style across games. The rooms themselves are always off kilter in a fun and challenging way. The puzzle quality, however, can be unpredictable. Blue is right on the line for me between being a technically “good” game versus another disappointment. I, personally, was not able to complete this game without a walk through and when I did watch the walkthrough, I was very irritated to learn that I had arrived at the correct solution but something about the way the room was visually designed confused my ability to execute on that solution. I am willing, this time, to chalk this up to human error and I will not fully penalize the game. I still won’t give this a Seal of Goodness though. After all, what are we without our standards?
Difficulty Elements: ok cascade | both readily apparent & invisible puzzle arrays | both straightforward & esoteric interfaces | a touch of Absurdity | typical solves
Published by ArtDigic. I played this on android.
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 Elements: good cascade |readily apparent puzzle arrays | straightforward interfaces | no Absurdity | typical solves
Published by nicolet.jp. I played this on android.
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 Elements: good cascade | readily apparent puzzle arrays | both straightforward & esoteric interfaces | no Absurdity | typical solves
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?
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
Published by mipp. I played this on android.
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 Elements: ok cascade | readily apparent puzzle arrays | both straightforward & esoteric interfaces | no Absurdity | typical solves