So here’s a bit of a life update for everyone who didn’t ask for it – in 2020 I transitioned away from working in the escape room industry into the video game industry. Does this mean this blog is now about videogames? Nahhh. Far from it. All it means is that my horizons have been broadened- no, that’s not right… More like they’ve been totally blown open with all the amazing ‘escape room’ video games I’ve been exposed to lately.
One thing I’m extra excited to talk about on The Escape Roomer is the Steam Game Festival. Why? It is absolutely PACKED with escape room games this year. The best part? Since this festival is the developer’s chance to put their best foot forward and showcase their games, you can play most of them for free.
The Steam Game Festival runs from the 3rd – 9th February and showcases a whole range of games from different genres (my company’s own game is there under ‘Racing’ – keep an eye out for Drive Buy!) If you spot any games you like the look of, you’ll be able to watch live streams with the creators, add to your wishlist for news, and in most cases – download a demo version of the game! Pretty much all you need to play them is a PC, and not even a particularly good one at that.
So without further adieu, here are my top 10 picks of Game Festival games for the escape room connoisseur:
Tested on Humans: Escape Room | mc2Games
You are the test subject. In this escape room with a dark setting, you will have to escape from the research center where you are trapped, by solving different puzzles. Will you be able to discover how did you get there and escape?
This game is a total classic in every sense of the world. A mysterious research center… Weird and wonderful puzzles… A chilling back story? Yep, it’s got pretty much everything you could possibly want from an escape room game. From just moments into the trailer I can already spot a whole host of tantalising puzzles. Are those secret button panels?Unusual light fixtures? Objects locked inside cages? I reckon if you’ve only got time to download one escape room game from the Steam Game Festival, give this one a go!
Lacuna – A Sci-Fi Noir Adventure | DigiTales
A murder. A hack. A bombing. All it takes to plunge the solar system into war – unless you do something about it. Help CDI agent Neil Conrad make a string of increasingly difficult decisions in this modern dialog-driven adventure set in a gorgeous 2D sci-fi noir universe. “I look up at the stars one last time before they disappear. They don’t provide any guidance. They don’t give a f*ck.”
A “sci-fi”, “noir”, “detective” adventure?! SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY. What really draws me to this game is the moody 2D pixel art. This one is all story, all puzzle and has already bagged itself a bunch of awards. Sure, you’re probably thinking it’s not exactly an ‘escape room’ experience, but I can’t help but find myself drawn to this adventure. Escape room or not, it scratches the itch and I cannot wait to leap into the mystery and solve crimes. 2D pixel crimes. Heck yeah!
Escape Simulator | Pine Studio
Escape Simulator is a next-gen escape room experience: pick up and examine everything, move furniture, smash pots and melt locks! Play solo or with a friend to solve cryptic puzzles and riddles. Remember to vote for the next location every month. ESCAPE SIMULATOR is a platform for immersive escape rooms. You can pick up and examine every object, drag furniture, smash vases and glass, burn things, melt locks – all of this in the interest of solving challenging (and fun!) puzzles.
Not a lot is known about Escape Simulator so far but it’s one to watch this 2021! Launching with 15 rooms to play – each in their own interesting looking environment, Escape Simulator takes the escape room experience to it’s logical conclusion. With local co-op multiplayer, there’s room for your whole team too. Since the start of the festival, they’ve made Escape Simulator free to demo and I can’t wait to get stuck in!
Ghost on the Shore | like Charlie
An exploration game about emotional ties that transcend even death. Riley is faced with a headstrong ghost, urging her on an adventure across atmospheric shores, uncovering the island’s tragic secret. Choices in dialogue shape the bond between the two, ultimately deciding Riley’s fate.
With multiple endings and a super rich environment to explore, this one is visually (and narratively) quite ‘wow’! You play as Riley, wandering a lonely island trying to solve a mysterious death, retracing steps backwards in the sand and uncovering more than just the history. Whilst the Steam page doesn’t mention any puzzles explicitly, I always enjoy a game where there’s a mystery to be solved and items to find. Ghost on the Shore looks like a good’un.
The Darkside Detective: A Fumble in the Dark | Spooky Doorway
Delouse your room with sage and pack up your travel-sized ouija board, it’s time to re-enter Twin Lakes – America’s 34th most haunted city. Join Detective McQueen as he puzzles his way through 6 chilling cases, risking life and pixelated limb to solve the macabre mysteries that plague the poor town.
You had me at “1 mail-in rebate per customer on exorcism services for hauntings resulting from play”. This game’s got humour AND style. It’s a point and click puzzle, adventure and exploration game that’ll have you travelling to a whole manner of spooky locations. Think of it like your favourite Scooby-Doo episode, but in 8-bit.
Operation: Tango | Clever Plays
IT TAKES TWO to save the world in this Asymmetrical Spy Thriller. Pair up with a friend as a special agent or elite hacker, and work together to bring a high-tech global menace to its knees.
I love this! I’m getting real “Tick Tock: A Tale for Two” vibe from Operation: Tango as the crux of the whole experience is you need 2 players to complete the game. One player takes on the role of AGENT and the other HACKER. You’ll both have a totally different perspective and puzzles that require two heads than one. It’s a smart idea but I think Clever Plays might just have nailed it.
Nine Noir Lives | Silvermode Studios
Stretch your legs, clean your whiskers, and dive into Nine Noir Lives. Enjoy a “point-and-lick” comedy-noir adventure, full of humour, crazy characters, and intriguing locations. Solve challenging puzzles and answer the immortal question: how many things need to be licked to solve a murder in this town? Welcome to Meow Meow Furrington, capital city of cats, home of the world’s biggest ball of yarn…and hotbed of crime. You are Cuddles Nutterbutter, feline private investigator and owner of two perfectly normal-sized paws, the doctor said so.
I’m not a cat person, but I’ve never wanted to be Cuddles Nutterbutter more than anything else in my life right now. Plus, I’ve seen a LOT of people VERY excited about this game which is always a great sign! It’s another classic point and click detective story on this list but the twist here is that Nine Noir Lives finally answers the question that’s been nagging at me a while now: how many things need to be licked to solve a murder in this town? Since I can’t go around licking real life escape room surfaces (thanks pandemic), this game’ll do the trick.
Dr Livingstone, I Presume? | Vulpesoft
A letter from the messenger in which your friend Dr Livingstone asks for help makes you turn back to Ujiji. After crossing the threshold of the house, you immediately realize that something has changed. Explore a mysterious building full of locked doors and face puzzles to find it.
A self-prescribed ‘inverted escape room’ – rather than escaping, you’re called to the mysterious home of your friend Dr. Livingstone only to discover something is very wrong. You must search for clues, unlock locked doors, peer inside cabinets, finds items and solve puzzles in order to unravel the mystery. It’s also completely embedded in history which is awesome. You learn about the tumultuous period of European colonisation in Africa. I enjoy a history lesson with my escape room. This means I can skip school and play this game instead, right?!
Kathy Rain: Director’s Cut | Clifftop Games
Award-winning adventure Kathy Rain returns in the Director’s Cut, featuring an extended story with more puzzles to solve and new areas to explore. Witness the rise of an iconic detective as you uncover a dark and sinister truth hiding behind the calm exterior of a small rural town.
The directors cut, in order words a more expanded version of the original. But why am I so intrigued? It has more PUZZLES TO SOLVE. *smashes download button*. Kathy Rain has won a LOT of awards, and I’m super pleased to see a Directors Cut making a return in the Steam Game Festival 2021. With it’s female protagonist and atmospheric artwork, this one is guaranteed hours of excitement.
Tiny Room Stories: Town Mystery | Kiary Games
Find the answers of town mystery in the game with escape the room mechanics. You are a private detective. After receiving a letter from your father, asking for help, you go to the small town of Redcliff. The city is completely empty. Where have all the inhabitants gone? What happened to your father? This is what you have to find out. Explore the city, find clues, solve puzzles, open locks to advance your investigation. The game is a mixture of escape the room and classic quests.
With simple graphics, this one puts all it’s focus on a rich story and engaging puzzles. Another aspect of the gameplay which is unique to Tiny Room Stories is the ability to rotate the location 360 degrees – want to search behind the house, in the bins, or sneak a look underneath? Well go on and *gameshow host voice* SPIN THE WHEEL! It’s overall a really nice concept, and although I haven’t yet played this one despite it also being available on mobile – I’m sure it’ll be a hit for beginner and veteran escape roomers alike!
P.S. After posting this article I spotted another FANTASTIC game that absolutely had to make the cut.
Slender Threads is a point-and-click thriller adventure where unseen forces bind the fate of an unremarkable traveling salesman to the peculiar town he one day arrives in.
With that, I conclude my list! This was a really exciting one to pull together and even though the Steam Game Festival only runs for 1 week, you can bet I’ll be doing my best to play each and every one of these before the time is up.
Don’t forget, if you enjoy a game please please ‘add it to your wishlist’ because it really helps small developers be found in Steam.
Have fun and escape that room!
Mairi is the editor-in-chief and covers escape rooms/immersive theatre in London, play at home games, and video games.