M9 Games: Vereda | Review

Image

Vereda Review | Vereda is a 3d escape room puzzle adventure. Play as a secret agent assigned a mission to recover a secret dossier set in an unusual town. Explore areas and take in your surroundings. Use all of your puzzle solving skills to make your way through the town and recover the missing dossier. As a secret undercover agent used to adventure and mystery you are tasked with your latest mission to infiltrate a town guarding a top secret dossier. What the dossier contains is not known, your sole focus is just to find and recover it. What you are not prepared for is the lengths the dossier has been protected. It’s down to you to use all your experience to solve the puzzles and contraptions that block your way.

Developer: M9 Games
Date Played: 1st April 2022
Console: Steam
Number of Players: 1
Time Taken: 49 minutes

April first?! Wait, that’s April Fools! In an effort to hide myself from all of the April Fools’ jokes floating around, I booted up my PC and sat down to play a brand new escape room game from indie game developer M9 Games: Vereda. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I’d seen a few reviews doing the rounds in the escape room community, so was excited to try out the game for myself at last.

Vereda takes a single player on a short (probably less than an hour) escape room puzzle adventure. You play a secret agent and your one goal is to recover a mysterious dossier. That mysterious dossier is locked behind doors and doors worth of increasingly curious puzzles. Pushing mysterious switches to make giant pillars in a back alley move, and rearranging cards on tables to unlock doors… It’s, interesting! Certainly a game to get the cogs moving.

 

 

Meet the Developer, Chris at M9 Games

The most important thing to know about Vereda is that it is a passion project of solo game developer Chris, who got in touch with us at The Escape Roomer with an invitation to try the game. Since the lockdown, Chris has turned his hand to creating video games full time – from early point and click and 2D exploration games, Vereda is M9 Games’ first fully 3D escape room adventure for PC and (we hope soon) console. Presently, it can be downloaded on Steam (where I played) or on mobile devices. For the full and most up to date list, check the website here.

Okay, okay so enough background. How was it? Vereda was… Decent! I don’t think it will be winning any awards, but as a game developer myself I admire the drive and creativity that has gone into pulling this fun experience together, and I hope it’s the first of many Chris and his studio creates. Take it from me, making a video game is REALLY HARD. It’s hard enough when you have a whole studio made up of narrative designers, puzzle/level designers (oh hey that’s my job), 3D and 2D artists, programmers, and so on. So when I heard that Chris was doing this all by himself, I had nothing but a huge amount of respect.

 

 

Enter Vereda, a Noir World of Secret Agents…

In terms of visuals, I love the whole back-alley, dark and dirty, vintage vibe of video games like L.A. Noire, Overboard, or Inspector Waffles. For me, Vereda had that feel and it was very exciting to move through the unique spaces in search of puzzles and… A way out!

After a cinematic sequence where a mysterious grey car drives through deserted street after deserted street, players spawn into a locked room with a few desks and scraps of paper on the desks. There are drawers to be unlocked, documents to read, and a big door tantalisingly waiting for me to find a key for it! Ooooh boy, I love a mysterious setup.

The assets were largely store-bought, but it would be grossly unfair of me to call it an asset flip. No, everything that was put into the game was put in with purpose and felt right at home. I would have preferred to see original art, of course. The setting was ripe for something a little more unique, but the developer did well with the resources he had available to himself. The game came together visually consistently and definitely managed to create a dingy atmosphere of a seedy criminal underworld.

 

 

 

Secret Agents, and Puzzles!

In terms of puzzles, there’s a lot of discourse in the escape room world about mimesis and diegesis which I won’t go into here, so instead I’ll regurgitate the words of Errol Elumir,

A puzzle is diegetic if it fits the theme and reality of its game universe. A puzzle is mimetic if its existence and its solution reflect the reality of its game universe.

 

There were many types of puzzles in Vereda, and largely they seemed to follow a trajectory of diegetic at the start, fizzling out towards neither mimetic nor diegetic at the end. But that’s not to say they weren’t fun!

At the start of the game I began looking for tools like screwdrivers, or missing buttons in order to fix panels to unlock gates. Exciting! Towards the middle of the game, there were some riddles and colour puzzles and a very unique puzzle involving levers and giant pillars in the middle of an alleyway. Which is… Well, I suspend my disbelief.

As the game came to it’s climax, I encountered puzzles that I’d call neither diegetic nor mimetic, such as piecing together jigsaw puzzles to get puzzles that look like a pigpen cipher, to mysterious tarot cards being placed on an electrical panel, to an infuriatingly tricky picture slider puzzle, and something about phases of the moon.

 

 

Okay, okay I don’t want to sound harsh – because the puzzles were fun! But this is all to say I enjoyed the first half of the game a lot more, but as the game progressed the puzzles felt slightly more detached from the context of the game and felt like they were in there to provide unique things to solve. But in truth, I would have been happy to keep looking for broken panel buttons, or deciphering mysterious graffiti, because those made sense in the world. There’s no hard and fast rule about what puzzles a video game should have in them and of course, loads of fantastic games have puzzles in them that have no relation to the environment at all. But for me there was a slight disconnect between the puzzles and the environment that the creator had so carefully set up.

In terms of difficulty, Vereda comes in on the easier side. It’s a short and sweet game that is possible to complete in around 20 minutes if you’re feeling speedy. 40 minutes if you play through comfortably with a glass of wine in your hand *glances down at hand*

This puts it at about the same length of time a real life escape room takes, but this is a tiny, tiny fraction of the price. And since it’s a video game that is out on mobile or PC, you can play it in your pyjamas. Win win.

 

The Verdict

For all of the reasons above, I’ve given it a 3 stars out of 5. For the average escape room enthusiast, that might be a little generous, but I thought it was a really promising game with some ‘noire’ vibes. Vereda had all the makings of being something special, and for a solo game dev project I am seriously impressed. Sure, it felt a little rough around the edges and felt slightly short on a few points but nobody comes into any industry fully formed. If Chris and M9 Games continues to create puzzle games with the same enthusiasm in the future then I have absolutely no doubt that the company will do well. The world needs more escape room games.

My lasting thought is that after playing the game I would honestly love to see this designer build a physical escape room. Vereda in video game format was a decent indie escape room game. Vereda in a real life warehouse? Take my money now!

If you want to purchase Vereda for yourself or keep up with M9 Games, you can check out their website here.

How to Play the Crimson Room (2004)

Image

You wake up in a Crimson Room, suffering from retrograde amnesia. You don’t know where you are, or how you got there. All you know is that you need to escape this mysterious red room. The objective is simple. Find the key to the door and escape. Search for clues around the room and look for clues that help you reach your goal of escaping.

Developer: Toshimitsu Takagi
Console: PC (Flash)
Number Of Players: 1

About The Crimson Room

The Crimson Room is widely credited as one of the first ever ‘traditional’ escape games created. For sure, many previous TV shows and teambuilding games are similar – such as The Crystal Maze in 1990, or The Adventure Game in 1980, but Toshimitsu Takagi’s Crimson Room pips the post for what we understand an escape room to be today. Created for Fasco-Cs, the exploration game has you wake up in an unfamiliar space – a locked room. Hidden around the room are a number of clues and puzzles that are the key to escaping.

The OG Escape Room Video Game!

“Hey Russ, I tracked down the original file for The Crimson Room, the original escape room video game! Are you up for playing it?” asks Mairi.

I mean I’m obviously curious as to what was developed 17 years ago. My interest was piqued with questions I wanted answers for.

Is it an important historical escape game artefact that paved the way for present-day games?
Is it still relevant?
Does the file even load?!

Well the last one I can answer a yes to, however you need the .swf game file and a browser flash emulator online to play it; it’s not as simple as streaming it off a dedicated site. Thankfully, I had both ready to go!

Where (and How) to Play The Crimson Room Escape Game

As a flash game from the early 2000s, it’s not an easy one to track down, especially if you want to avoid dodgy links on the internet. So here’s how we played the game (reliable and accurate as of 2021):

  1. Download the SWF file here (please note: this URL is hosted externally on Free Room Escapes)
  2. Choose a Flash emulator. We used this one: http://flashplayer.fullstacks.net
  3. Select “Choose File” and upload your SWF file and select an emulator of your choice from the drop down (we used “Flash Emulator 1”)

And now, it’s time to escape!

The Premise

You’ve woken up in a crimson coloured room (hence the title) after too many drinks the night before. You can’t remember how you got there but you know you need to escape. Cue searching for items!

The Look and Feel of The Crimson Room

I mean absolutely no disrespect from this, but the game looks to have been made in MS Paint. The visuals are simple but striking with its bold colours and geometric-centric models. Special mention to the projector puzzle with it’s dancing animation, which back then I imagine was deemed as super impressive.

The Gameplay and Control

Most of the game consists of searching for items in a linear fashion, to edge further and further to successful escape. There are some unlocking of drawers, a placement meta puzzle and a single 4-digit combination safe.

Also there is a clue that directs you to a real website which has the answer to the safe combination. Well… it did. The site is no longer active. For the record, if you need the code to the safe; it’s 1994. That being said however, this puzzle mechanic of searching via an external website page, is rife in present-day online escape games. Quite innovative, this being executed over a decade prior to games we are more accustomed to.

Control wise, its a double-click method for everything ie: click in the corners of the screen to look around the room. Being so used to pushing a mouse to turn around, this took getting some used to, but hey; it’s 2004, this was a totally acceptable form of control back then.

The Duration

As to be expected, it’s just one room. The longevity of it however is arguably extended by its requirement to be precise with mouse pointer clicks. There are a few areas in the room that are hard to get to (and subsequently gain integral items), unless you do some mass trial-and-erroring with mouse clicks. In this day and age, this could be deemed as a massive no-no for escape games. It also adds additional fire to the debate of games in the 20th and very early 21st century, being harder to complete due to unfair or frustrating mechanics… but that’s a thought (or article) for another time! Again however, not a criticism; just a commentary on the historical difference.

The Verdict

Is this a game to rush to play? Probably not.

Is this a game to view and appreciate how far escape games have come since 2004? Absolutely.

Crimson Room doesn’t offer much when compared to present-day gaming standards, but the ideas that it spawned most certainly helps it to walk, so future escape games could run.

If you don’t want to play it, but still want to view to scratch your curiosity itch, see this super-fast walkthrough here 👇

Between Time: Escape Room | Review

Image

Between Time: Escape Room Review | You are going to steal a time machine. In this escape room, you have to travel through time, explore mysterious places and solve puzzles to get priceless treasures. Will you be able to make it back alive?

Developer: mc2games
Console Played On: Steam
Number of Players: 1

Do you aspire to time travel? Check ✅

Do you like playing as an anti-hero or bad-guy? Check ✅

Are you in awe of the zones of The Crystal Maze? Check ✅

Well if so, this escape game might be for you.

We’ve Been Here Before…

Some of you may remember that my first ever review for The Escape Roomer, was mc2games’s sci-fi escape room Palindrome Syndrome. I had a good time with it; it was short, but it was fun and I enjoyed the risks they took from a narrative perspective. There also were some aspects I wanted to see improved for their future games roster, and I’m looking forward to seeing what Between Time has in store.

Between Time has you control a character known only as Robert, who aside from having deep bassy, George Clooney-type vocal tones, is looking to steal a time machine to go back in time and nab priceless treasures to become rich. The Time Machine itself is a talking AI called AITMA (Artificial Intelligence Time Machine Assistant) who guides you between each time zone.

BRB Changing My Name To Richard O’Brien…

From a narrative perspective, there isn’t much to go from at the beginning. You start in a futuristic laboratory immediately tasked with unlocking access to the time machine after Robert chortles to himself, bragging about the lack of security to gain entry. Bragging over, the eerie synth music comes within earshot and signifies it’s time to start playing the game.

The core game loop is essentially; you’re in a time period, solve the puzzles, grab the treasure and move to the next zone. This sounds like The Crystal Maze doesn’t it? Well, Crystal Maze fans, you’ll be pleased to know that 3 of the 4 original zones from the show are represented here; Futuristic, Aztec and Medieval. The only outlier being a Wild West zone in place of the Industrial (or Ocean) zones we were accustomed to.

Visually the game is polished with some lovely idiomatic touches, just like The Crystal Maze has. The Aztec zone in particular, looked very good with its fire torches and hieroglyphic-influenced puzzles.

Am I Doing This Right?

Speaking of the puzzles, there is a sizable amount of them during the game to keep players engaged. That being said, I feel the puzzles in Between Time are its weakest component. I came across the following issues; puzzles that could be solved in more than one way having only one solution to advance, puzzles that require more signposting to solve legitimately or puzzles that are not clearly instructed.

There was even one puzzle I couldn’t work out during the Medieval zone so I moved on to another puzzle. Before I knew it, I was leaving the zone with the treasure; with that puzzle still unsolved! In terms of the ratio of puzzles that work, to puzzles that need improvement, its not a large amount; however it does degrade the playing experience quite significantly. As a result of this, the fun factor is unfortunately reduced too. It’s something I would like to see the developers look at improving should there be any version updates planned in future.

Another puzzle-based consideration is that a larger proportion of puzzles (especially during the final third of the game) are maths-based; just like in Palindrome Syndrome. I’ll be repeating myself once again in saying that I don’t mind this personally, but I’m aware many escape room fans are adverse to an abundance of math conundrums.

There is a hints system however! Each puzzle has one visual hint that can be looked at, for further solving assistance. This is a feature that didn’t exist in Palindrome Syndrome and is a welcome addition. Of course, there are plenty of walkthroughs and the official guides to all mc2 games are here.

Take Control Of Your Journey

I’m aware that I played Palindrome Syndrome on the switch and Between Time on steam, so there is no direct comparison of controls. However my experience with steam controls for Between Time was a massive improvement. The controls do what they need to do and provide good customisation for both keyboard/mouse and gamepad setups.

It was initially confusing in two ways however, when trying to set up my gamepad; the gamepad controls are labelled joystick – not a huge issue but from a user experience perspective its not the most intuitive description. The other being that one more than one occasion, I had to unplug my gamepad at the start of a loaded save, because the game wanted to default to a keyboard/mouse setup and didn’t recognise my preferred method of controller. That being said, these were minor issues at worst and I stress again, was a huge improvement upon my previous experiences.

An Ending Kubrick May Well Be Proud Of

The main aspect I was hoping to be improved upon, was the immersive elements through the presented narrative. Don’t get me wrong, the time travel aspect with its different zones created some positive aspects of immersion. However if you look at my comments on the ending of Palindrome Syndrome, I applauded them for taking the risk of making an unconventional escape room ending, albeit it was lacking overall depth and as a result, had a lot more potential to give.

So…

Does Between Time have an unconventional escape room ending? Yes.
Do I applaud the risks taken to do that? Yes.

Was the depth of the narrative’s end improved and invited into the whole story on a deeper and more meaningful level? …Afraid not.

Unfortunately, I had the same feelings from the ending of Between Time as I do from Palindrome Syndrome; great ideas, not executed thoroughly enough and thus, leaving the immersive experience once again looking for more.

Trading Treasures In Time

Between Time as a price-tag of around £8.50 for all consoles. For this you get around 2-6 hours worth of gameplay. This is between two and three times lengthier than Palindrome Syndrome, therefore the value is arguably higher than previously. It is to also be noted that mc2games is a two-person development team (plus one musician) and producing a game of this length for that price warrants at least, some form of commendation.

It’s a bigger game, with more to do than previous entries. However aside from the newly-featured hints system, the core components that needed improving I feel, haven’t been worked upon enough. It’s still a good experience however and this should not put you off from considering this as a cost-effective escape game purchase, especially if you enjoyed the mc2games formula from previous instalments.

To play Between Time on your platform of choice, head to MC2Games’s website here.

Ratings

The Eyes Of Ara | Review

Image

The Eyes of Ara Review | The Eyes of Ara invites you to escape to another place. Become enthralled in a stunning Adventure-Puzzle game set in a gorgeous 3D environment. Explore a vast and ancient castle riddled with secret vaults and hidden rooms. Solve elaborate puzzles, locate lost treasures, and unravel an ancient mystery. 

Developer: 100 Stones Interactive 
Console Played On: Steam 
Number Of Players: 1 

Do you like abandoned castles? Check ✅

Do you yearn to relive the mid 90s? Check ✅

Does a plethora of puzzles and secret passages get you giddy? Check ✅ 

Well if so, this point-and-click game might just be for you. 

One Man Did It Alone… 

The Eyes of Ara is a point-and-click game that harks back to the mid 1990s, influenced by games such as Myst, Broken Sword and Medievil. It involves, you; a radio technician assigned to shut down the dominant broadcast coming from the castle you arrive at via boat in the opening of the game. Of course, as expected, it is not going to be as simple as shutting off a switch and picking up your paycheck! 

The first thing that needs to be mentioned, is that the developer, 100 Stones Interactive; is just one person – an Australian games industry veteran called Ben Droste. The fact that this entire game was developed by one person absolutely blows my mind.

Take Me Back… 

The theming of the game is very much on point (sorry, poor pun) and is idiomatic to the times of the mid 1990s; right down to the bulky computers and tacky futuristic elements like simple LCD graphics screens. The music places itself more towards the historical thematics of the castle, and from time to time, the score would transcend me back to the 1998 PS1 game Medievil; both having similar musical textures and arrangements. I also found myself being drawn to the SFX – clicking on walls, doors and other materials rewarded you with some satisfying foley. 

Visually, the games aesthetics are not anything ground-breaking, but everything serves their purpose well; be it a secret passage or a mechanism that signifies a puzzle solved. I don’t know if I was all that immersed however. There is a narrative which progresses as you pick up books and diaries throughout the game, but its entirely static; ie: words on a page; which don’t bring anything story-based, convincingly to life. I found myself often not willing to read anything thoroughly that wasn’t pertinent to solving any of the puzzles.   

I had the same desktop background on my Windows 95!

A Puzzling Affair! 

The puzzles. There are lots of puzzles. It’s a really meaty experience for anyone wanting their solving itch scratched. There are a wide range of puzzles and again, the style of them hark back to games like Myst and even the earlier games of the Resident Evil series. Not the shooty-zombie bits of those games, but the stop-and-think, work-this-connundrum-out parts.  

Despite the solid range of puzzles presented however, there is a lot of searching involved. If you like searching for items in escape rooms and other puzzle-based games; this might be heaven for you. For others however (and especially if you have a non-performant PC running the game, where the graphics can cause certain items to blend in with the background), search fatigue can set in quickly. 

A Bonus Or A Burden? 

Another thing to mention, are the “bonus” items that can be collected throughout the game. There are a lot of these items, however they serve no greater purpose in progressing. Many of them involve solving puzzle sets that are much, much harder than the main puzzle pathway. I could very easily imagine escape room fans getting quite frustrated at solving one of these challenging puzzles, only to be rewarded with an item that is optional to acquire. I know red herrings are a touchy subject with the escape room industry and I’d be inclined to say similar strong feelings with these bonus items, could very much be a thing. 

There is a small hints mechanic in the game. If you are wondering around aimlessly for too long, the game might point to an (already acquired) item you could use in the room that you are in. Aside from that you’ll have to hit the internet for text or video walkthroughs. No major issue here however, there are plenty of spoiler-free walkthroughs available, should you need them. 

A galaxy’s worth of puzzles await…

Just Point… And Click… 

Control-wise on steam, all you need is a mouse with a roller. It’s simple, but effective and works perfectly well. My only consideration for improvement is that there is no compatibility for gamepads, for differentiation purposes. Aside from that, it’s a minor consideration. The mouse controls do exactly what they need to do. 

How Much Guv’nor? 

The price point, is around the £12 mark for all consoles. I estimate that The Eyes Of Ara will keep players busy for 7-12 hours based on a single playthrough without guides. I’m not sure if there is much replay value aside from walking around the castle’s pleasing environment. That being said, a £12 game of this calibre made by a single person, is highly reasonable. 

This poster has serious Mairi vibes….

For The Apprentice Or Master Technician? 

If you love to search to your hearts content, this game may be easier for you; otherwise, it will probably serve as a difficult challenge for the majority of the game’s lifespan. I’d say that the initial puzzles start off quite easy to get you hooked in, then the difficulty ramps up quite swiftly; especially with the acquisition of the bonus items. 

Rating

Considering this is the efforts of a single person, there are many elements of this game that are outstanding. However, from an escape roomer’s point of view, it falls a little short on a couple of issues. That aside, it’s a super game that has a ridiculous amount of puzzles to get stuck into, alongside it being a visual love letter to three decades past.

The Eyes of Ara can be downloaded on Steam, Nintendo Switch, and most mobile devices.

Superliminal | Review

Image

Superliminal Review | As you fall asleep with the TV on at 3AM, you remember catching a glimpse of the commercial from Dr.Pierce’s Somnasculpt dream therapy program. By the time you open your eyes, you’re already dreaming – beginning the first stages of this experimental program. Welcome to Superliminal. 

Developer: Pillow Castle Games 
Console Played On: Steam 
Number Of Players: 

Mental Note: 3am Alarms Suck.

Are you a lucid dreamer? Check ✅  

Do you like novelty-sized chess pieces? Check ✅

Do you appreciate the thematics of Lewis Carroll? Check ✅  

Well if so, this escape game might just be for you. 

Sign On The Dotted Line To Begin 

Superliminal’s outline is you fall asleep, into a dream and you have to get yourself out. The premise is simple; however the methods are much less so. Getting from A to B requires firstly, working out what objects you can manipulate, and secondly, how you use those objects to achieve success. 

The game’s narrative alongside the theming, keeps you constantly guessing; the moment you think you have a handle on it, is the moment the rug gets pulled from under you. This is fully intentional and considering the concept, works superbly well in Superliminal’s presented environment. Additionally, the tempo of the game is finely tuned, to exploit the dream-like immersion that the player experiences to its maximum.  

Everything that is presented in Superliminal has a purpose; even the loading screens play their part! The visuals overall whilst aren’t ground-breaking, serve their purpose throughout; assisting the extremely strong theming and immersive factors.  

Mental Note: Don’t Make A Sound.

Take Control Of Your Dreams 

The controls are absolutely spot on. On steam, players have full choice between using a keyboard and mouse combination or using their gaming pad of choice. I opted to use a switch pro controller and wasn’t disappointed with my decision. The full customisations of button mapping and sensitivity controls are present to suit all player types. This is an important staple to the experience, especially when the game’s mechanical concepts, particularly in the beginning; require a lot of focus to comprehend. 

Work Your Way To Awakening 

The puzzles in Superliminal are centred around three factors; perspective, misdirection and illusion. This may seem like a limited range, but the applied depth and variation of these factors over the course of playing, creates a wholly impressive puzzle set. Additionally, whilst there is repetition of some of the set pieces, there are justified reasons for this; linking it to the overarching concept and immersive qualities. 

My only criticism of Superliminal lies in chapter 6. It is very easy to lose your way and end up getting stuck, with nothing to tell you so; all because you made a single wrong decision. If this does happen, just restart from checkpoint in the pause menu and don’t identically repeat the same steps; try at least one thing different next time. 

Because of the difficulty of some of the more heavily lateral-based puzzles, certain parts of Superliminal can be frustrating at times. There is no hint system either, however there are plenty of video walkthroughs available; often split into chapters making potential spoilers easy enough to avoid. 

Mental Note: Stronger Grocery Bags Next Time.

“It Came To Me In A Dream!” 

During the first chapter, you would be forgiven, like me, to mutter the foolish words… 

“Oh, this is a Portal clone.” 

It is certainly, certainly not the case. 

Each chapter has something original to offer despite the (justified) repetitive elements. As you progress through the 9 chapters, theming and puzzles become more and more varied, immersion becomes more and more engrossing, and the whole experience becomes more and more exciting. It all comes together with a very satisfying ending too. 

The Value Of Good Sleep Is Priceless 

The price point, is around the £16 mark for all consoles. For that you get a main attraction that will keep you busy for at least 3 hours. On top of that, once completed, there are 3 additional modes including the aptly named challenge mode; which breathes new life into the main campaign. Furthermore, Pillow Castle Games are a small games development company, and I’d go as far as to say that this package could be priced slightly more, and still be a fair deal for the consumer. Getting it for less than that is an absolute steal.  

For The Daydreamer Or Dreamweaver?

Fair warning; this game requires a lot of lateral, out-of-the-box thinking. Is it not a conventional escape game. Some players may breeze through it, some may struggle quite a bit. Despite this however, the self-satisfaction of completing the puzzles presented, will make you “oooh” and “ahhh” as your brain releases endorphins for a job well done.   

Rating 

I’m not one to be easily impressed, however when the credits rolled at the end of my playthrough of Superliminal, I went cold; I sat in my chair and reflected on the experience. Then, I went and told everyone I knew to play this game. It is developers like Pillow Castle, that are creating the full package of immersion, challenge vs reward and original ideas; then, wrapping this all together at a price point that is of outstanding value.  
 
Bottom line; it’s an amazing game, you will not regret playing it.  

To play Superliminal on your console of choice, head to the developer’s page here.

Discolored | Review

Image

Discolored Game Review | A lonely roadside diner in the middle of the desert. The locals say it’s lost all its colour. You are sent to investigate. Discoloured is a strange and surreal puzzle adventure, taking place over two-or-so hours in a single desolate location. Your mission: restore the colour to this once-vibrant world. What caused the colours to disappear? How can they be brought back? 

Developer: Godbey Games 
Console Played On: Nintendo Switch 
Touchscreen Compatible: No 

Do you like abstract and surreal surroundings? Check ✅

Do you enjoy the primary colours of light? Check ✅

Are you a fan of Tolkien’s Eye of Sauron? Check ✅

Well if so, this escape game might just be for you. 

Pink Floyd might want a word…

One For The Road 

You play through the eyes of an unnamed detective tasked to find the missing colours of a roadside diner… and that’s about all I can tell you. 

Unlike many other escape games, Discolored has no beginning or ending narrative; neither through text or voiceover. You are thrown into the game from the off, without any warning. Whilst I like the no-messing-around style, it did feel a little empty to have absolutely nothing to introduce you to the storyline. The end of the game also feels like the rug has been pulled from under your feet, albeit, not in a very exciting way. It’s a shame, as the ending does hint towards a potential sequel; something which I feel the developers could certainly do it justice. 

Contrarily; the middle of the game, where the player is at the diner, does have merit. The music whilst minimalistic, sets the tone very well. The art execution, particularly when progressing through the puzzles, provide a simplistic, yet sharp and engrossing environment. Finally, the antagonistic figure that arrives just before the end section, possesses an impressive sinister aura for its modest physical qualities. 

Show me a 4 digit code pleeeeeease!

Directions For The Diner 

Controls are universal; left stick to move forward/back/left/right and the right stick to turn. There are a number of options to adjust sensitivity. There is also a choice to either be free-roaming or stationary point-and-click. I feel that this is a great feature and it provides more comfort in control, based on personal playing preferences. 

There are a few things that I would like considered if an update is in the pipe-line.  

  1. Like Palindrome Syndrome, when focussing upon a puzzle, the cursor on screen is controlled by the right analog stick, with no option to change it to the left.  
    (The pain of being left handed is eternal). 
  2. The choice of sensitivity generally works, however once focussed upon a puzzle, the sensitivity becomes super sensitive and as a result, caused my cursor to fly off screen with the same amount pressure used, when not focussed upon a puzzle. I got used to it eventually, but it did take a mental adjustment. 
  3. There is no quit/return to title button in the pause menu. You have to quit the game from the switch home screen. 

Don’t get me wrong, the controls work on a fundamental basis. Once I got over the initial mental obstacles, it proved for a smooth playing experience. 

Such Pretty Colours… 

I feel that the puzzles and the aesthetics behind them, are certainly the strongest part of Discolored. Puzzle types include; searching, placement, observation and logic. Whilst not overly challenging or varied, they are balanced and thematic. The method of using certain key items (or not) to progress, is a welcome mechanic to the game. 

The hints system works well and is short, sharp and to-the-point. Furthermore, there is an option in the controls to allow a second, visual hint, in certain areas of the game; if you get stuck further. 

Be like the water.

Something Is Always Watching… 

Aside from the mechanic that allows (or prevents) you from viewing or using certain inventory items based on the placement of specific key items; the majority of the puzzles don’t offer much in terms of originality when compared to other escape games on the market. 

The abstract and surreal narrative plot-point however, is certainly a fresh concept. However as mentioned above, it’s unfortunate that it hasn’t been embellished further.  

Desert Dollars 

Discolored is priced at £8.99 on the switch and £5.49 on steam. An experienced puzzler might finish this between 30 minutes and an hour, otherwise between 90 minutes and 2 hours is a fair estimation.

The switch price for some, (especially the more experienced puzzler) may not be enough to warrant value, however the steam price, is on the right side of justification for all to purchase. 

For The Starting Sleuth Or The Daring Detective? 

Discolored would be a great recommendation for any prospective player who has played less than 5 escape rooms (IRL or virtual); it’s a solid entry-level game.

On a completely different note, I’d also recommend it to game designers who are looking for a product that projects strong aesthetics, from a limited palette.  

Rating 

Concept & Immersion – ⭐️ (Good) 
Control – ⭐️ (Good) 
Puzzles – ⭐️⭐️ (Great) 
Freshness – ⭐️ (Good) 
Value For Money – ⭐️ (Good) 

Overall – ⭐️ (Good) 

This is a good game. The art design and application of colour in the puzzles are definite highlights. However, for value and control reasons, I strongly recommend that you play this on steam instead of switch.

Conversely, there is buckets of potential for a sequel, that has every opportunity to be even more successful. 

Check out the developer’s page for Discolored here.

Palindrome Syndrome | Review

Image

Palindrome Syndrome Review | You wake up in a spaceship with no memories. In this escape room with a sci-fi setting you will have to investigate your past solving different puzzles. Will you be able to discover what happened to you and how did you get there?

Developer: mc2games
Console Played On: Nintendo Switch
Touchscreen Compatible: No

Aibohphobia is a fear of palindromes.

Do you like space? Check ✅
 
Do you like puzzles? Check ✅
 
Are you a person who giggles gleefully at words like CIVIC, RADAR, RACECAR and TACOCAT? 
….just me? *Ahem* Check ✅

Well if so, this escape game might just be for you. 

“So, What Do You Like About Being Up Here?”

“The Silence.”

Palindrome Syndrome is a space themed game where you control a character who has woken up, alone, from a cryogenic sleep chamber. From there, you have to solve a number of puzzles in a room to move to the next; piecing together the narrative elements.

The wake-up icy effects at the start of the game, really helps pull you into the game straight away. The music is minimalistic; audio you would expect to hear in an airport waiting area, which in itself is highly appropriate for the progressing narrative. 

The narrative is mostly pieced together as you progress further and further, however towards the end of the game when the narrative is realised; it truly gave me some chills down my spine! I came out of it with a real feeling of existential dread. That being said, I would really like to have seen the endgame sequence extended further, to increase the immersive intensity; instead, its unfortunately leaving me wanting more.

Be warned! Saving is manual via the pause menu. It works just fine, but don’t expect it to auto-save like I did!

One Small Step For Man…

The player controller movement is universal; left stick to move forward/back/left/right and the right stick to turn. There are sensitivity and invert Y axis options, which are well considered. A couple of points for improvement though:

  1. When focussing upon a puzzle the cursor on screen is controlled by the right analog stick. This threw me off to begin with, as I was trying to use the left analog stick as a default. Its a shame that there isn’t an option to switch this. Instead, I had to force myself to use the right stick (I’m left handed!).
  2. The snap-on mechanism when placing objects into designated areas was quite hard to do. The area of snap-on was quite small in a lot of cases, and required real precision from my (poor) right analog stick skills, otherwise the object would miss and return to its original placement. 

The controls work on a fundamental basis, but if an update was made by the developers in future, these are what I would like to be considered.

The lunchbox operated a traffic light system for some reason….

In Space, Anything Is Possible.

There are a variety of puzzles including logic, observation, sequence, placement, decoding and math. I don’t mind math puzzles, but I know a lot of puzzlers who are not keen on them. There is a slight lean towards math puzzles against the other types in Palindrome Syndrome and this may put some potential buyers off. 

All puzzles work as they should, with the exception of one placement puzzle. It works, but there is technically more than one correct answer and the game only accepts one of them; which took a small amount of time to cycle through each answer until one was accepted. There is no hint system either, however their official guide (link below) does the job and is cleverly redacted to prevent solution spoilers.

https://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=2256529649

Aside from that, it is a satisfying collection of puzzles that are all around a similar difficulty range.

The Sky Is The Limit Only For Those Who Aren’t Afraid To Fly!

Is Palindrome Syndrome a good escape game? Most certainly.
Does it have any fresh ideas? Not really.

A lot of the concepts and puzzles, have already been tried and tested by many escape games preceding them. There are two elements however that did strike a chord with me:

  1. A light-based puzzle that was used multiple times, with some clever variants.
  2. The ending is not your usual “We escaped, hooray!” which I really applaud mc2games (as well as other developers), who take that risk in trying something different with the endgame formula. 
Obviously the first place to head, is the free space bar.

In Space, No One Can Hear You Spend

The price on the switch store is £8.99 and is £7.19 on steam.
If you are a seasoned puzzler, this value might be less so as you are likely to finish the entire game quicker than my attempt. That being said, for an independent development team, I feel this price is very fair. It’s very important we give love to independent development teams as often their costs are larger than the more established!

For Space Cadets or Voyagers?

This would be an ideal game to pitch to a beginner or a casual puzzler. There is enough there to still engross a veteran, but it’s a strong introductory skill game based on the puzzles presented and time taken to complete.

Ratings

Concept & Immersion – ⭐️⭐️ (Great) 
Control – ⭐️ (Good) 
Puzzles – ⭐️ (Good) 
Freshness⭐️ (Good) 
Value For Money – ⭐️⭐️ (Great) 

Overall⭐️ (Good)

This is a good game pitched at a very fair price. It doesn’t break the mould in any large way, but if you have a spare hour or two, this is certainly worth your time; especially for the narrative pay-off at the end. 

realMyst | Review

Image

Welcome to Myst: the starkly beautiful island, eerily tinged with mystery and shrouded in intrigue. Explore the deeper connections and uncover a story of ruthless family betrayal.

Time Played: 10+ Hours
Console: PC
Recommended For: Retro gamers, people not easily frustrated!

Yo, listen here. I genuinely suck at Myst. I’ve decided to tap out at the ~10 hour mark (possibly even more) and call it a day on Myst forever… Maybe… I mean, I might get it in VR to be honest.

But anyway, I’m getting side tracked. I still wanted to write this review because Myst is such a breathtaking game and years ahead of it’s time! The first version of Myst came out in 1994, before I was even born. Just because I don’t ‘get it’ and find it super tricky, doesn’t mean it’s not an incredible game and worth all your time in the world. Maybe just err, use a walkthrough for good measure! No judgement here.

Here’s a screengrab of me streaming Myst over on my escape room Twitch channel, shortly before I descended into “oh my god it’s been an hour and I’m still in the first area“.

If you’re comparing realMyst with another version you may have played, then here’s a breakdown of every version:

  • Myst – original 1994 game, point and click, fixed viewpoints
  • Myst: Masterpiece Edition – same as above but improved graphics
  • RealMyst – 3D version of original game
  • RealMyst: Masterpiece Edition – as above, but improved graphics
  • Myst VR – as above but VR
  • An unknown remake – who knows!

The story starts with you, docked on a shoreline with a sunken ship behind you. The island is home to a medley of unusual structures and mechanical contraptions from another world. At one end of the island a rocket ship is parked ready to take you away. Solve the puzzles and find the clues, and you’ll travel to incredible new worlds.

To start Myst, or realMyst, or Myst VR (whichever version you’re playing – it’s the same), you’ll want to grab a notebook. This game is all about making notes as you go along, and trying a bunch of different things until you get it right. It’s not a simple “okay this puzzle is this, then leads to this”, it’s about tiny subtle clues in the environment that might help, or might not.

There’s no inventory system, no health bar – absolutely nothing you’d normally expect from a video game. It’s just you and the environment, eerily deserted. No way out until you solve the puzzles. Like taking an escape room to it’s logical conclusion – a chilling island in the middle of nowhere you can never escape *shudders*.

For all it’s difficulty, the game does provide some wonderful ‘aha!’ moments. With a game so tricky as this, with a lot of trial and error in some puzzles, finally cracking something is an absolute joy. It’s easier today in 2021 than it was back in the early 90s when we didn’t have a ready internet walkthrough available to us, and it shows in the puzzles that are MEANT to be laboured over for hours to finally have that “oh wow, I’ve solved it” moment like burst of light.

I’m keeping this review really short for two reasons. Firstly, I’ve not finished the game, and I don’t think I ever will. As such, I can’t really comment on the ending (I hear there’s alternate endings). Secondly, because Myst isn’t really to be judged by it’s puzzles and I’m not in a place to judge it. It’s an experience – relaxing and frustrating but more importantly ICONIC. I don’t think anyone reading this website is a Myst newbie. This game has been around forever, again, longer than my whole life. So I instead wanted to use this space for my thoughts and reflections.

It was a lot of fun in the Twitch stream hearing other people talk about playing Myst in the 90s and reminisce over puzzles long forgotten, and enjoy the new graphics. Good luck to those of you playing the game and if you, like me, don’t want to finish it that’s okay too!

RealMYST: Masterpiece Edition can be purchased for £12.99 on Steam.

Dr. Langeskov, The Tiger, and The Terribly Cursed Emerald: A Whirlwind Heist

Image

It’s the hottest summer on record, and all across Europe, valuable objects are disappearing. Museum curators unlock cabinets and find precious artefacts stolen. Wealthy mansion owners wake up to see their priceless paintings have vanished from the walls. One thing’s clear: a master thief is touring the continent and the police are left scratching their heads.

Time Played: 30 minutes
Console: PC
Recommended For: Everyone (It’s Free!)

I’ll be shortening Dr. Langeskov, The Tiger, and The Terribly Cursed Emerald: A Whirlwind Heist from herein to “Dr. Langeskov” for… Obvious reasons. It’s a fantastic escape room style adventure game involving a tiger, a mysterious haunted mansion, a lot of rain, and some incredible action sequences which- OH GOD! I QUIT TOO! *throws papers in the air and goes on strike*

Dr. Langeskov is a game that masters the art of breaking the fifth wall. It’s actually not about any of those things I just described, because the fact is it’s a game about running a game. You arrive at the title scene only for a nervous narrator to explain that the game isn’t quite ready. There’s someone in there still playing it and you can’t just go barging in, you have to wait your turn. But since you’re there, you may as well help out, right? Pretty much all the staff are on strike due to low pay and too frequent tiger accidents. With less hands on board, the narrator gently encourages you to progress: pull a lever there, press some buttons, put out a fire, trigger a lift (that the REAL player is in) to start moving, and so on.

So why am I talking about it here in The Escape Roomer?

Well, good question. It’s not really puzzle-y but it’s certainly mysterious, short and fun. Plus, I did a casual “Let’s Play” on Monday on Twitch, and it felt fresh in the mind for reviewing!

I love any sort of video game where the only puzzle is figuring out what the heck is going on (Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture is another great example of this). In Dr. Langeskov, you’re piecing together the ‘who, what, when, where and how’ with the use of your WASD keys and a right click.

Hidden throughout the game were even more curious items which prompt mysterious questions. Here are a few, hinted at by the host of achievements you can get on Steam:

  • Steal your first five francs – hidden on every level are some coins. Collect them all? It’s not as easy as it sounds!
  • Every Nook and Cranny – again, hidden throughout the game are a number of pretzels. Find them all.
  • Orange Thief – steal enough coins to collect the orange drink from the vending machine.

Overall

I’m keeping this review short and sweet because honestly you could probably go and download the game and start playing faster than it takes you to read my average review and since it’s free, why not? Sure, don’t go into it expecting an escape room if you heard about it here… But do go in ready for a mystery, many walls to be broken, and a hearty laugh.

Play Dr. Langeskov, The Tiger, and the Terribly Cursed Emerald for free on Steam.

Frog Detective: The Haunted Island

Image

You’re a detective, and a frog, and it’s time to solve a mystery. Play as the freshest frog in the pond and find the secret of The Haunted Island. Using your extreme investigation skills, question suspects and find clues to get to the bottom of this spooky and mysterious mystery.

Time Played: 42 minutes
Console: PC
Recommended For: Frogs, Detectives, and everything inbetween

Frog? Detective? FROG DETECTIVE? Haunted Island? What kinda Scooby Doo s**t is this?! I’m kidding. Real talk, this game is… Incredible! A true work of art among video games. Of course, when I first picked it up I wasn’t sure. It’d popped up on my Twitter feed once or twice, and if you know me you know I love a good detective game so I couldn’t resist giving it a cheeky go. On loading up the game, the first page throws back some very unconventional graphics settings. From there in, I knew I was in for a treat.

The Frog Detective series is a labour of love by video game duo Grace Bruxner and Thomas Bowker, with an original soundtrack by Dan Golding. It launched back in 2018 and my only regret is not picking up a copy sooner.

In this first person detective game, you play the titular character, Frog Detective and are pulled into a mysterious, yet oddly intriguing mystery on a tropical island, way out in the middle of the ocean. You see, the owner of the island, Martin (a sloth wearing a solid gold crown) is convinced it is haunted. He’s been hearing mysterious ghostly noises for about two weeks now and is terrified. It’s really putting him off his dance training for the big competition this weekend. Yeah, that’s the plot. Bear with me on this one.

This sets the scene for your arrival on the island where you’re greeted by a motley crew of “ghost scientists”. You’ll quickly come to realise none of these scientists are qualified, but that’s part of the charm of this game, really.

From herein Frog Detective is less about solving the mystery and more about exploring your environment and talking to as many anthropomorphic animals on the island as possible. Wait, does that mean the game is really about making friends? Sure! I mean, you do also have a magnifying glass and you can look at evidence (or just bugs really), very close up. But really you’re just there to help the plot reach it’s unusual, yet logical conclusion: to compete in a dance competition.

The main thing that drives the game is narrative. Each character you can interact with is quirky and bordering on the ridiculous – there’s a nervous, stammering mouse, a koala bobbing about in the ocean, a dental hygiene obsessed crocodile, and Bernie the bear who is convinced you’re a secret agent- oh, and he loves pasta. It’s important to the plot. No really, it is.

Each character has a jittery, nervous energy. It must be all the ghosts. But, like a true sleuth, Frog Detective picks up on the suspicious behaviour and gently nudges you towards a wholesome interrogation to find out what’s really going on.

What I love most about the game though is it’s absolute unashamed absurdity. There’s a detective noire vibe (and soundtrack!) that butts heads with the bright colours and smiling faces of the characters in the tropical paradise. The characters speak frankly and really your only goal in the game is to run errands between them, finding (and trading for) items in order to get what you want to progress.

The puzzles aren’t really the point … *pause* … So why am I even writing about this game on this escape room blog? Because it’s still a mystery. Just how in many escape rooms I’ve had to do really ‘outside the box’ things to solve a room, in Frog Detective you have to err… Be a frog, walk around, and compete in dance competitions. There’s no right or wrong way to solve a mystery. I don’t discriminate against frog related experiences.

Overall, there’s not much more that can be said about Frog Detective. Frog Detective is something you have to experience for yourself and either you’ll ‘get it’ or you won’t. I don’t know if I’d recommend this to do the ‘hardcore-escape-room’ group of enthusiasts, no. Instead, you have to go into this with a sense of whimsy and not expect any complex puzzles. Frog Detective never once claims to be anything other than it is: A detective story about a frog.

Frog Detective: The Haunted Island can be purchased for £3.99 on Steam. Head to their website to find out more and support the game.