Published by hozdesign. I played this on android.
Iterations: Monday thru Sunday
The Short: This madcap adventures of one suave duckling contains both narrative and puzzling success.
Recommended if you like beach houses with secrets, teal, ducks in sunglasses
Description: Mr. 3939 is probably my favorite brand within hozdesign‘s gaming universe. The seven part series, Les Vacances de Mr. 3939, is a great addition to the family. The titular Mr. 3939 never fails to get up to all kinds of stunts and tom foolery in any one of his games. His vacations are no exception. The setting is silly but the puzzles are no joke. You will be challenged by this game. The aesthetic world is a true delight. Is this beach house some kind of retreat for spies? Is it safe to drive this long in an enclosed garage without suffocating? Is Mr. 3939 radio AM or FM? This bizarre series will either entertain you for hours or it will stump you. Either way, you will rue the day you made the acquaintance of Claude, who is a [sic] “lier”.
While I enjoyed this game, I do have some criticisms. They are as follows: The narrative jump between Tuesday and Wednesday was a little strange for me. After spending most of the first episodes exploring a beach house, you are suddenly trapped in the garage. It was sort of jarring and I was glad to return to the more familiar space of the house in Thursday. The house is far more fun and colorful.
The puzzling logic in Saturday starts to get a little less tight compared to the previous days. Instead of locked drawers and curious contraptions with buttons, the items and puzzle arrays start to feel a bit shoehorned into the story. The solves become awkward and lack that “eureka” feeling. I get the sense that the designers were sprinting towards the finish line of this ambitious project. Things turned around on Sunday though. Great, challenging puzzles and a few laugh out loud animation moments. Bravo!
Difficulty Elements: great cascade | both readily apparent & invisible puzzle arrays| both straightforward & esoteric interfaces | mild Absurdity | both typical & unique solves
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