Doors: Paradox | Review

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Doors: Paradox | Review | For as long as we can remember we’ve been walking on the thin edge between chaos and order. Until one day a mysterious portal was opened and chaos prevailed. Now it’s up to you to bring back order…but it is not that simple!

Developer: Snapbreak Games
Console Played On: Mobile
Time Taken: 3 Hours
Difficulty: Easy
Number Of Players: 1

Doors: Paradox had no business being this good of a game! And of course, I mean that in the Gen-Z way of saying “damn, this game was brilliant”.

For a few months now I’ve not really had any mobiles games to get me excited. Usually I’ve got a couple on the go, and besides one game from about a decade ago which I have to use an emulator for, my ‘game’ folder on my phone has been severely lacking!

Then along came Doors: Paradox, with it’s intriguing trailer, bright poppy graphics, and mysterious undercurrent of a story. Oooh… Tell me more!

Chaos and Order

In Doors Paradox, vast space with a floating island in front of you. Each island is built around a door, but piled high with puzzles to solve before that door will open. You can rotate your camera around the island and tap into almost anything for a closer look, all while collecting objects and combining curious things to reach a puzzle’s solution.

It sounds simple, but the reason why introduces an arcing narrative of chaos and order told through the medium of small scrolls hidden in each level, and a mysterious black cat who beckons you into each doorway and transports you to a new world. It’s a tale as old as time: Chaos versus Order, and somehow your presence in this dimension, following the cat and solving puzzles, will save everyone. At the end of the game you’re presented with a choice and a powerful final puzzle to solve. I have no idea if I made the right choices, but I had a lot of fun doing them.

Doors: Paradox

Puzzlescapes and Floating Islands

I suspend my disbelief on the story, because Doors: Paradox’s strength isn’t really in the narrative, it’s in the puzzlescapes each level presents. Escape room enthusiasts will be familiar with some of the themes – there’s a pirate episode, a haunted house episode, a cyberpunk style episode – even some strong steampunk elements running all the way through. But the developers manage to inject a feeling of freshness to each world they create to create visually impressive graphics and a brilliant soundtrack to boot.

Each of these little worlds is a whole escape room in of itself. You can expect about 5 – 10 minutes of gameplay for each, with a few stand out levels which really got my brain cogs whirring to solve. There’s a huge mix of puzzles in this game and the feel of each new world is so unique that each time I picked up my phone (whilst waiting for the bus, or waiting for some pasta to cook) I felt a sense of familiarity and surprise at what the next level presented.

For sure, there were a few puzzles I recognised from other video games and escape room games, but that likely comes with the territory of their only being a finite number of types of puzzles out there. In particular there were a few I recognised from The Room series, and one or two from old platformers I grew up with. but then, there were also many I’d never seen before which were fantastic. Some stand outs include fixing a motorbike in a cyberpunk future world, casino slots, fighting a cat over a box of sushi and angling the sun’s rays to destroy a vampire.

The majority of the puzzles are solved by tapping your finger to find, combine and use objects, but occasionally a more complex puzzle presents itself where a series of rotating dials must be tweaked to the rigth angle, some reflex action as you fire objects through small spaces, or a classic connecting wires puzzle. In any case, the breadth of what types of puzzles you’ll encounter is vast, so expect to be kept on your toes!

As well as solving the puzzles, there are gemstones to collect and scrolls to discover if you wish to follow the narrative. These are offered as collectables, but play an important role as you’ll need the gemstones to unlock the final, Epilogue levels too.

An Immersive Atmosphere… In Your Pocket!

No review of Doors: Paradox would be complete without mentioning the sound. I almost never play mobile games with the volume up – mostly because I’m playing on the go, in public, or listening to something else in the background. But Doors: Paradox is one of those games worth taking the extra effort to listen as you play. From moody sound scapes to relaxing music and satisfying jingles when a correct answer is inputted… The developers have done a brilliant job in bringing their world’s to life with sound!

Combined with the graphics, this makes Doors: Paradox an unexpectedly relaxing game. Like watching an escape room themed “lofi beats” on repeat for hours on Youtube, Doors: Paradox manages to create a perfect zen atmosphere. The puzzles can be tricky, but there’s nothing taxing in this game. It’s more about your journey through the worlds.

Of course, if you get stuck you can skip a puzzle with no detriment to the game at all – another nod to the fact the developers want you to really take your time and enjoy yourself here.

The Verdict

The first 8 levels in Doors: Paradox are free, after which you can pay a small amount to upgrade to the full game. For me, it’s well worth upgrading. If you enjoy the first 8 levels, then the whole game offers more of the same (and then some).

I personally really enjoyed playing it, and if I had just one criticism it would be that there isn’t more of it. I could have played 100 more levels and wouldn’t have been bored for a single moment. If you’re looking for a visually gorgeous, ‘pick up and play’ any time style mobile game that scratches that escape room itch, look no further.

If you want to play Doors: Paradox for yourself, download it for free on the Google Play Store or Apple Store here.

A Rogue Escape (VR) | Review

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A Rogue Escape Review | Your plan was simple: steal a giant, crawling mech, also known as a Nauticrawl, evade capture, and make a break for freedom. Find clues to unravel your whereabouts, but know – this is only the first of your many problems…

Developer: Spare Parts Oasis
Console Played On: Oculus Quest
Time Taken: 6 Hours +
Difficulty: Hard
Number Of Players: 1

Escape the Planet… Or Die (and Die, and Die) Trying

When trying to describe A Rogue Escape to friends and family, I settled on the following anecdote:

“You know when you start a new job and they load up some shiny new software on your computer and you’re like “Sure I know how to use this, how hard can it be?” and it turns out very hard indeed. You spend your first few weeks at the new job sweating at your desk pushing buttons on the software and hoping for the best.”

…Yeah, that’s kinda how A Rogue Escape went, and that’s exactly what the developer’s intended! You find yourself lost on a completely alien planet, and so in order to escape you take control of the Nauticrawl, a machine designed for traversing the foreign landscape. Except, you have no idea how it works. It’s built for an alien creature that looks nothing like you, and there’s an overwhelming amount of buttons and levels to push, dials to balance, and screens to keep an eye on. The game is trial and error. You will die, and you will die a lot. But heck, what do you expect? This is alien technology we’re dealing with and nobody is an expert at anything the first time they pick it up.

In some ways, it’s less of an escape room and more of an alien submarine simulator. On the other hand it’s the truest and most raw form of an escape room I’ve ever encountered. The developers have created a punishing and brilliant experience that would not be possible in real life. Like nothing else you’ll ever play.

The Evolution of A Rogue Escape

A Rogue Escape didn’t always start as a VR game however, the idea has gone through a lot of iterations in the past few years.

In September 2019, Spare Parts Oasis launched a PC game called Nauticrawl: 20,000 Atmospheres on Steam which was met with wide praise. Essentially, the concept was the same – pilot an alien Nauticrawl machine and escape from the inhospitable planet.

Last month in September 2021, Nauticrawl made it’s debut on iOS with another iteration of the puzzle game.

However, neither the PC nor iOS versions of the game are a direct port of one another. For sure, the idea and some of the puzzles are the same, but the games are different enough to give a whole new experience each time. The VR version in particular has been rebuilt from the ground up with a series of virtual, 3D environments to explore.

Mercilessly Difficult, Immensely Rewarding

So what exactly is A Rogue Escape? It’s an hour long escape room experience designed to challenge even the most veteran escapists! I say ‘an hour long’, then in truth I took around six hours to ‘complete the experience’, but this is mis-leading as each time you die you return to the beginning and must start again. From start, to finish, with skill and practise you’ll take no more than an hour… It’s the weeks (and months) of frustration learning the ropes and getting to that point that is at the core of A Rogue Escape.

Escape room players who are looking for pure puzzles may be slightly disappointed with A Rogue Escape. Put simply: the puzzle is figuring out what to do. If you enjoy this, you’ll be in your element, but if you prefer a little more signposting then the game may feel very frustrating.

One of the core gameplay loops is actually one of my favourite game mechanics ever, and I call it “plate spinning”. Some other games loosely in this genre include Don’t Feed the Monkeys, Papers, Please and Will Die Alone. Here, this takes the form of the sheer number of dials and meters you’ll need to keep an eye on. The visual clue of a dial slipping into red is followed by blaring alarms and, quite often, death. So as well as figuring out how to pilot the machine, players are also expected to keep a close eye on everything. One wrong move and it’s game over!

For sure, there are pros and cons with a game like this. On the one hand it’s realistic and tough like escape rooms typically aren’t. Your average escape room often contains irrelevant puzzles like “solve this cipher to give you a digit code to unlock a cupboard”. When was the last time you locked a cupboard shut with a 4 digit code, eh? A Rogue Escape’s puzzle experience is closer to what I’d actually expect a real alien submarine to be like. You never once need to break immersion, you’re just pushing and poking things and ‘solving’ the game without ever coming across anything like a traditional puzzle.

The downside is, it’s hard and I did struggle! I imagine a lot of people would not complete the game- and I only just managed it by spacing out my gameplay over weeks and months. This means it pitches at a more patient, forgiving, and enthusiast player – but that may not be a bad thing!

The Nauticrawl: A Virtual, Alien Space

A Rogue Escape uses Oculus’s roomscale settings to create a rather large, 3D space to play in. Quite literally, your living room is converted into an escape room, so you’ll need to be standing up and able to move freely around! Those levers and buttons aren’t going to push themselves.

Despite the large play area you’ll need, the experience is very claustrophobic. From the moment you don your headset you’ll be utterly immersed in the alien world, without a single porthole to look through. It’s anxiety-fuelling, sweaty, and oppressive. Everything beyond your Nauticrawl was left up to the imagination and I love that!

All you know is that you’re running for your life from aliens… But what do they look like? What did they do to you and your people? What even is this world?

The Verdict

I’m scoring it low on puzzles, but very high on immersion. In fact, so high we’ve decided to award A Rogue Escape our “I Believe” award for being outstandingly immersive. Every time I donned the headset on I was transported to this creepy, eerie and very tense world. I’d emerge 30 minutes later sweating, and occasionally shaking, doubting what was real and not. It’s so true to what a ‘real’ escape room should be, it almost goes beyond the genre entirely and for that we’re impressed!

Personally, I think the game might have been a little easier. Yes, yes, it turns out I am one of those people who prefers more signposting in my escape room experiences. But if you take a step back and take the game for what it actually is and not by the standards of what we’re used to, it’s clear it’s something special!

Goosebumps: The Game | Review

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Goosebumps: The Game Review – The walk home from school today is going to be a lot spookier than usual… Your sleepy neighborhood’s been overrun by monsters! Werewolves prowl the woods, Gnomes roam underfoot, and scarecrows walk at midnight. But these aren’t ordinary monsters—they’re R.L.

Developer: WayForward
Console Played On: Nintendo Switch
% Completed: 100%
Time Taken: 6 hours
Recommended For: Fans of Goosebumps!

POV: You’re me and you realise there’s less than 3 months until Halloween but unfortunately it’s way too early to start getting spooky (I mean, summer has barely started). So that means no Halloween candy, or putting up decorations, or snuggling up under a blanket to watch a ghost film… So what’s the next best thing? Reverting to a book series that made me the spooky pumpkin witch I am today. Goosebumps!

But did you know, Goosebumps also have a game out? Goosebumps: The Game was originally created for Nintendo 3DS back in 2015 to tie in to the Goosebumps film. Later, the game was ported over to the Nintendo Switch in time for the Goosebumps 2 movie.

And listen, I don’t know about you, but I really liked those films. In a kind of “oh god this is terrible but also so nostalgic kind of way”. Co-incidentally, that’s exactly the attitude you need to play Goosebumps: The Game. I’ll explain why:

Goosebumps: Taking you back to the 90s

For fans of the original book series, Goosebumps: The Game scratches the itch… But it’s definitely not a game to be taken too seriously. Instead it’s light-hearted, humorous, and reminds you what it’s like to be a kid whilst cramming in as many monsters from the books as possible.

Me: “Mum the house is literally infested with ghosts and there’s a werewolf looking at me and I think the walls might be closing in”
Mum: “You’ll be fine honey, oh dinner is in the fridge.”

In Goosebumps: The Game you play an early teen / late childhood character who, after finishing up school for the day, returns home to find their home has been turned into a spooky haunted house. None of your family are anywhere to be found, and your mobile phone (your source of clues in the game) is fast running out of battery. The terror soon spreads to other parts of the town with malicious monsters popping up in all locations ready to do unspeakable things to you and the other townsfolk. The game comes to a head with Goosebumps’ most iconic character of all – Slappy the Dummy, from Night of the Living Dummy.

Seriously, why does that particular book still make me shiver, 18 years later?

Your world is turned upside down, but your cries for help are mostly unanswered so it’s up to you to save the day.

A Classic Halloween Point and Click Adventure

This game is a classic point and click adventure game. We’ve chosen to feature it on The Escape Roomer largely due to the amount of problem solving you need to do – and if you’ve ever played a game in this genre you’ll know what we’re talking about.

You start out at your high school and as you move about the world, clicking through to each new location, your map grows bigger. Of course, you can trace and retrace your steps as many times as you like. In fact, you’ll probably have to if you missed any hidden items. I found that even the most obscure items I picked up and placed into my backpack has a surprising use at some point in the game. That plastic dinosaur? Yep, you’d better hold onto it!

Whilst it probably isn’t, Goosebumps: The Game feels pretty big! There’s a lot to explore. I spent at least the first 4 hours of the game wandering around just doing my own thing, dying repeatedly. This was a mistake as my core lifeline was my mobile phone which depletes in battery little by little. A few hours in, I’d lost my access to clues. Oops!

At some point however your goal becomes clear – it’s to find out whatever the heck is going on and put a stop to it. Easier said than done, but at least by the time you figure this out, your backpack will be holding a room’s worth of unusual items to help you.

Who are you calling ‘Dummy’, Dummy?

Clue-less, I did find myself using a fair bit of online walkthroughs and realised I’d missed a lot at the start, but the beauty of this game meant that most puzzles have multiple ways to solve them, meaning you’re rarely completely stuck.

Those unwilling to check your mobile phone for clues, or Google an online walkthrough should prepare themselves for a lot of trial and error. Unlike a lot of other games in the genre however, this trial and error was a lot of fun. You don’t really know how to use an item until you do it. I found myself dying A LOT until something stuck. It’s a kind of “wow I had no idea I could use that plastic dinosaur in that way” moment. But never once did I feel bored because at the end of the day, you can always leave and come back later with a fresh perspective.

The Verdict

I think it’s no surprise to say that I loved this game and I’m fairly sure if I were going to make a game, I’d want to make it like this. It’s got everything you could ever possibly want: Mystery, Puzzles, Halloween-Vibes… Assuming you’re like me, and those three things are all you want.

It was also refreshing to see the game ported onto the Nintendo Switch. The developers have done a good job, as the joycons rumble tensely along with the game, and keypad shortcuts bypassed the mouse-click mechanic likely popular with earlier, PC players.

I think returning to Goosebumps at the age of 25, you need to not take these things too seriously and go in with a sense of childhood innocence. It’s a lovely, if slightly predictable game, but one that took me right back to where I wanted to be.

Goosebumps: The Game can be purchased for around £10 on Nintendo Consoles and PC.

The House Of Da Vinci 2 | Review

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The House Of Da Vinci 2 Review | Become an apprentice of the famous Leonardo da Vinci. Solve handcrafted mechanical 3D puzzles and discover hidden secrets. Navigate through mesmerizing environments of the Italian Renaissance. Travel through time to influence your surroundings. 

Developer: Blue Brain Games 
Console Played On: Nintendo Switch 
Touchscreen Compatible: Yes 
Number Of Players: 1

I asked Leo to do my makeup. Needless to say, it took a while.

Do you wish that you lived in the renaissance era? Check ✅

Would you like to work for Leonardo Da Vinci? Check ✅

Would you like to travel back and forth through 16th Century Italy? Check ✅

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

“Painting Is Poetry That Is Seen Rather Than Felt, And Poetry Is Painting That Is Felt Rather Than Seen.” 

The House Of Da Vinci 2 starts by (literally) taking no prisoners. As the character Giacomo, you are guided to escape your prison cell, to meet with a mysterious character; proposing an offer you cannot refuse.  

The look and feel of the game are idiomatic from the beginning. Furthermore, the detailed aesthetics of the puzzles are in some cases, stunning; adding to the responsibility of drawing the player into the game’s world with ease. 

My one drawback from an immersion perspective is the voice acting, which at best, is wooden. The cut scenes in the game are heavily driven by NPC dialogue and it does take a slight shine off an otherwise, immersive experience. 

Real feels Leo. Real feels.

“Once You Have Tasted Flight, You Will Forever Walk The Earth With Your Eyes Turned Skyward…” 

I’m in two minds about the control. The handheld control I found intuitive and easy to get on with. The console-docked method however I found to be quite the opposite. 

Handheld allows you to either use the joy-con controllers, touchscreen or an interchangeable hybrid of both. There are plenty of calibration tweaks that can be applied in the options menu, for further customisation and personal comfort. 

The console-docked method involves a single detached joy-con only, to be pointed at the TV, like a mouse. The biggest setback; is that this method is right joy-con compatible only. The left joy-con has no option to be used. (If you saw our Palindrome Syndrome review, I mentioned that I am left-handed). Therefore, I didn’t feel comfortable using this control method. It is something I would like for the developers to consider, if any updates are on the horizon. 

“…Realise That Everything Connects To Everything Else” 

The majority of puzzles presented, are logical and satisfying to complete. Puzzle types include observation, searching, placement, logic and math. Be warned however that observation and attention play a huge part in the player’s success. There were a few times that I was stuck in a room, pressed for a hint and was asked to merely open a door handle or a latch to a drawer. These slip-ups were sometimes my own poor attentive skills, but in some cases, it was due to the mechanisms not being signposted clear enough on screen to engage with. 

The hints system works well in gradually assisting the player to the next progression, usually in 2, 3 or 4 stages. The collection of hints per puzzle are unlocked gradually through time spent looking around and attempting. This is a very organic process and strikes a fine balance between getting stuck for too long and spamming the hints from the off, preventing the risk of an overly-easy playthrough. 

A Led Zeppelin song comes to mind…

Art Is Never Finished, Only Abandoned.” 

What I like most about The House Of Da Vinci 2, is the reason that Giacomo becomes Leonardo Da Vinci’s apprentice. I’m not going to spoil it for potential players, but it is a fantastic story-piece, that bolsters the narrative’s depth. 

Whist I mentioned above that the puzzle aesthetics are generally strong, the puzzle mechanics and types are not that varied. A lot of the puzzles require acute observational skills and, in some cases; can come off as pedestrian. Because of this, some players may find the game at times, repetitive and frustrating. 

That being said, the return of the time travel mechanic from the first game; whilst not a completely original concept, is still exciting; adding further depth to the puzzles presented. There is a great satisfaction in going back in time, to change a prop’s position or picking up an item, thus carving out a solution in the present. 

Priceless Art Or Worthless Fake? 

The current value for The House Of Da Vinci 2 varies based on console choice. Mobile is priced at £4.99, whereas Switch is £8.99. Steam however is priced at £17.99. I’m going to base this on the console played (Switch), so add or remove a star for value for money, if you opt for one of the other two choices. 

£8.99 I feel is a very reasonable price point for a game that will provide around 10 hours worth of solid, enjoyable game play. 

For The Artist Or The Apprentice? 

I’m going to put it out there and say that the majority of content in The House Of Da Vinci 2 is not difficult… as long as you pay attention. It is a game that rewards you for having a keen eye for nuance and the finer details. It’s when your mind might wander; for example, you look at your phone for a brief moment, during a short, automated cut scene; you miss an integral part to progress, and therefore have no choice but to use hints. (Yes, this did happen to me *cough*). 

Bottom line, if you have a short attention span; you might struggle, and yes, I am calling myself out here. 

Rating 

This is a good game and has many reasons for it to be considered as your next purchase. Whilst there are some niggles and frustrations, these are often minor and do not take away from a satisfying experience.

Moroi Springs: Winterlore II | Review

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Moroi Springs Winterlore II Review | Follow the story of Ozana and her new found powers. The traditions she knew inside out bring a new meaning to her way of life and to Mamaie’s customs. She’ll mend herbs, brew concoctions and cook sweets for the solstice feast. Along the way she’ll encounter guests bringing in new beginnings, while others appear uninvited into the home.

Date Played: 1st September 2021
Console: PC
Number of Players: 1
Time Taken: 40 minutes
Difficulty: Easy

When Moroi Springs announced they were creating a sequel to the beautiful and heartfelt Winterlore game, my heart skipped a little beat! I first played the original Winterlore game over Christmas in 2020… At the height of the pandemic, isolated from my friends and family, sitting alone in my room wrapped in a blanket. The game was a little look into a far flung land of myths and legends, shrouded in mystery and heck – it meant a lot to me!

On September 1st 2021, Winterlore II launched. The moment I saw the notification I hit “download” and leaped back into the snow, to the familiar world of Moroi Springs.

Ozana and the Winter Solstice

The game opens with the Winter solstice and Ozana is now all grown up. We meet her preparing for the festivities, her partner Vasily, plagued by some terrible dark force, and her young baby suffering from blindness, asleep in her cot. Ozana’s goal is to break the curse of Yaga and restore good health to her family once more and the solstice is the key to this. But in order to break the curse she must perform a series of seasonal rituals passed down through her familial line on this important solstice night.

Along the way we as players get to explore Ozana’s home and are reminded of the first game with Easter Eggs dotted here and there. We meet new faces in Ozana’s family and are introduced to passing carol singers from the nearby community.

If you’ve played one after the other, there’s a distinct change from the first game into the second. Our character has matured, she now understands the ways of the world. Where she once needed careful instructions from her grandmother, Ozana now knows the correct amount of ingredients by pinching the flour between her fingers, and walks with confidence through this ever winter, folkloric world.

Discover Lost Traditions Through Puzzles

In terms of puzzles, Winterlore II follows the same pattern as the first game in the series, making it a classic point and click escape room video game. Hidden throughout the house are a series of recipe notes, visually indicating what must be combined to create recipes – quince jam, or pastry sweets for example. To find the ingredients, players must solve a series of puzzles – ranging from rotational puzzles, to slider puzzles, to rearranging jars on a shelf, and visual lock codes.

Overall, nothing is too difficult. Unlike the first game, I didn’t need to use any hints this time round and the whole thing felt paced out nicely. Each new space unlocked gives a new clue and never once did I feel lead down the wrong pathway away from a puzzle solution. Rather, everything fell into place neatly.

A Folkloric Escape Room Video Game

For me, the special sauce that makes Moroi Springs such a fantastic game developer is how they’ve positioned Romanian traditions and Balkan folklore tales so perfectly in a puzzle environment. It just goes to show how powerful puzzle games can be in telling the stories of those who traditionally do not have a space to do so, at least not within the video game industry.

In the short hour it took me to play Winterlore II I’ve learned all about winter solstice traditions, mythical creatures and seasonal food and dress from region… And I love that!

The Verdict

Once again Moroi Springs have outdone themselves! Second games in a series are typically harder to live up to the first, but not for Moroi Springs. The creative team’s hard work on Winterlore II has paid off and Winterlore II was an absolute joy to play! Opening up the game and seeing the first snowflakes fall felt like returning to a home away from home.

The best part… No matter what platform you’re playing on, Winterlore II is only $1 USD to play. I can’t think of many better ways to spend a dollar.

Winterlore II can be played on mobile devices or PC via Itch.Io. Check out the Moroi Spring’s developer page for more details.

The Office Quest | Review

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The Office Quest Review | Not all heroes wear capes… some prefer fluffy onesies. The Office Quest is a point & click adventure for all of you people who cannot stay in the office any longer! Solve challenging puzzles and riddles. 

Developer: 11Sheep 
Console Played On: Nintendo Switch 
Touchscreen Compatible: Yes 

Disclaimer! This review is for console-based versions of the game, and not for mobile. There are some interface differences between the two, that create a slightly different experience. 

Are you bored of your 9-5 office job? Check ✅

Do you wish you could escape – literally? Check ✅

Would you like a new job, where the interview process involves dressing up as a cactus, riding a unicycle and juggling? Check  ✅

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

Just Another Day At The Office… 

The Office Quest involves you controlling an unnamed hero, bored out of their mind at work. Their desk flower suddenly loses its colour, and the colour whooshes away! Astounded, you leave your desk to bring the colour back.  

I know this sounds crazy-odd, but it works so well alongside the Hanna-Barbera type, silent cartoon aesthetics. The character design is also highly intriguing. The majority of NPCs in the game (plus the player character themselves), consist of a human in a comical onesie costume. Additionally, some of the costumes themselves, pave the way for interesting items to be picked up and utilised to advance through certain puzzles.  

Each chapter has its own feel and signatures, which tie the narrative together effectively. The initial concern of chapters being considered disparate and disjoined from one another, was quickly dismissed from the seamlessness of the overarching story.   

Say it with flowers. Or better still, emojis.

“You’re Just A Step On The Bossman’s Ladder…” 

The control works mostly at a consistent level. Player controller movement is either done by analog control; using the left stick to move a pointer around and clicking where you want the player character to go, or touchscreen can be used instead. There are no sensitivity settings for analog control unfortunately. Furthermore, there is a short series of platforming puzzles in chapter 3 that does not allow you to use touchscreen; therefore, if you have been using touchscreen controls exclusively prior, it’s not the most welcome experience.  

Despite that, the control works perfectly well for the majority of the gameplay. You can switch between analog and touchscreen in most cases too, which is useful; especially for the more dexterously challenging puzzles. 

“…But You Got Dreams He’ll Never Take Away” 

The Office Quest has a wide range of puzzle types to solve. These include searching, logic, pattern matching, memory, observation, dexterity and as mentioned previously; platforming. Yes, you heard me right. I hope you’ve had your Sonic/Mario training in for chapter 3. The platforming might put some potential buyers off; however it is relatively short in the grand scheme of things.  

What I really did like about the puzzles in The Office Quest, was the reworking of classic games and conundrums into puzzles. A noughts-and-crosses type game with a twist in chapter 2, alongside the ownership of the Wolf, Goat and Cabbage Problem (google it), in a way that is highly relevant to the game’s characters. 

There is no hints system however, for the console-version of this game, and the guides available online aren’t very refined. There’s no official guide either, so tread carefully when looking for clues, so you don’t mistakenly see the solution! There was one puzzle in particular in chapter 2 (involving a television and changing the channel by aerial), that was not signposted all that well. As a result, I had to tread carefully around the web to find a suitable clue to move forward. 

That being said, the breadth of puzzles on offer is solid and enjoyable for the most part. 

The record deal came with a monkey chauffeur as standard.

I’ll Never Forget That Job Interview! 

Where the Office Quest really shines however, is not the puzzle types, but the execution of the puzzles themselves. Many of the puzzles are presented in a way that is funny, charming and adds real value to the narrative. This is especially commendable when the medium of communication in the game is almost entirely visual. I’m not going to forget anytime soon for example; my character undergoing a job interview, whilst dressed as a cactus, performing on a unicycle and juggling 3 cactus-shaped balls to impress the boss. 

Another highlight comes early on in chapter 1, where you have to sneak past a board meeting involving a pineapple, a rabbit and a carrot. The steps you take to achieve your goal, alongside the unique actions and reactions, are equally funny and memorable.   

Salary Deductions

The Office Quest is priced at around the £9.99 mark for most consoles. An experienced puzzler will probably complete each of the 4 chapters between 30 minutes to an hour. Whereas the lesser experienced puzzler may take double that. I feel this is a very fair price point for an independent games development company. 

For The Office Junior Or The CEO? 

The first chapter of The Office Quest, whilst has its challenges, is well-balanced in difficulty. The following chapters however, are certainly more difficult in areas and will require more patience and determination to see you through. I feel this would be most suitable for puzzlers at an intermediate level.  

One final thought to consider; the game presents no (explicit) vocal and very little reading in terms of signposting. The majority of it is visually presented. This in itself can present an initial learning curve. 

Ratings

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

Overall –  ⭐️⭐️ (Great) 

This is another great game with a solid price tag. The execution of the puzzles; relating to the game’s immersive qualities I feel, is enough to warrant a playthrough, however there is plenty, plenty more to be enjoyed here. 

You can purchase The Office Quest on your platform of choice here.

Thimbleweed Park | Review

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A haunted hotel, an abandoned circus, a burnt-out pillow factory, a dead body pixelating under the bridge, toilets that run on vacuum tubes… you’ve never visited a place like this before. Five people with nothing in common have been drawn to this rundown, forgotten town. They don’t know it yet, but they are all deeply connected. And they’re being watched.

Time Played: 30+ hours
Console: PC / Nintendo Switch / PS4
Recommended For: Fans of the mystery and macabre in videogame form

The signals are very strong tonight… 🐦

Thimbleweed Park is what you get when you cross 80s retro adventure games with Twin Peaks, add X-Files’ Scully and Mulder to the cast, and destroy the 4th wall altogether. In short: It’s wonderful. I couldn’t have asked for a better puzzle game to spend the last *checks notes* 7 months playing.

Grizzly murder and terrible hotdogs

For a game set in the 1980s it’s got none of the neon garishness we associate with the era, no. Thimbleweed park is beige and brown full of dark corners, grizzly murders, and terrible hotdogs.

It all begins with two secret agents arriving in the mysterious town of Thimbleweed Park to investigate a body found underneath the bridge. Pretty soon, the body is the least of the agent’s problems, as they soon explore the town and talk to the denizens to find out what they know. There’s an abandoned factory on the outskirts of the town, a very haunted hotel, a bakery that only sells mechanical tubes, a fairground with one resident, and a vast labyrinth of sewer tunnels… To name a few of the delightful places you’ll get to explore in Thimbleweed Park!

More curious than the setting… I couldn’t have asked for a more unusual cast of characters in this mystery adventure game. Over the course of the game you play as five unrelated characters as their lives verge towards an apex that is the game’s finale:

Agent Ray – One of the two main characters we meet right at the start of Thimbleweed Park. Agent Ray is here to get stuff done and take no nonsense from anybody.

Agent Reyes – He is the second secret agent we meet, and a slightly more mild mannered counterpart to Agent Ray. From a different city, he is also assigned with investigating the murder.

Dolores Edmund – A budding young video game developer – keen to create adventure games no less – and one of the heirs to her uncle’s pillow estate. After leaving to work for a game design company, she returns for the reading of her uncle’s will, but not all is as it seems.

Ransome the Clown – One of the *beep* main *beep* characters who can’t stop *beep* swearing. Ransome was cursed after being characteristically rude to the town witch who then condemned him to spend a lifetime eternity living in the abandoned fairground. In 1977 and 78 he won the “Meanest Clown” trophies.

Franklin Edmund – The late father of Dolores Edmund, Franklin is the only playable ghost character! This means he can’t interact with the living, but he plays an integral role to solving puzzles from afar.

Point & Click Nostalgia

Thimbleweed Park is the modern day, logical conclusion to classic 1980s and 90s point-and-click adventure games. It utilises a “Use X on Y” mechanic that took my Gen Z brain a very long time to get the hang of. I also opted to play this game on Nintendo Switch, as I believe some games are best played hiding under a blanket at midnight and I wanted the flexibility of taking Thimbleweed Park with me on my own adventures. But the Switch is very unforgiving and between the left joycon strafing and the pixel-perfect clicks in some puzzles, I almost gave up many times.

I think I would have liked this game more back in the 90s – a simpler time when I had nothing better to do with my life. There’s a quote on the internet somewhere that calls Thimbleweed Park alienating to an audience who didn’t play games like this, and I kinda see it. The adventure aspect of Thimbleweed Park dragged a little bit. Between January and July I had an on-again, off-again commitment to this game and each time returning from a break feeling further away from the plot than before.

But each time oddly felt like coming home, with each resident’s funny manner of speech and quirks, repeatedly eating the mouldy hot dogs, and returning to the crime scene to poke the body. A strange kind of home, but home indeed. Perhaps I took so long because I didn’t want the game to end!

Two Modes: Casual or Hard

When setting up the game you can choose from many settings (including whether you want the toilet paper to face in or out), but the most important decision is whether to play Thimbleweed Park in Casual or Hard mode. I chose to play it in Hard. Regrets? Nah, not really. I’m here for the puzzle game and so I wanted to solve some puzzles.

That’s not to say I didn’t have a really hard time with it. The puzzles in this game, as with many classic adventure games are centred around performing actions in a certain, mostly logical way. The multiple characters allow for a deeper level of complexity as you often have to navigate many characters to different areas to perform sequences simultaneously.

Sounds simple? Well, there are a lot of puzzles that I can’t fathom how you would be able to solve them without hints, and others which I still don’t understand. Spoiler Alert: I mean who else knew that you can steam stamps off envelopes by placing letters in microwaves with bowls of water? Not me, I lost hours of my life to that ‘puzzle’.

The flip side is that most of the game is delightful and the aha moment of finally piecing something together is brilliant. I really do enjoy the genre and wish I’d been around when it was at it’s heyday before 2000.

The Verdict?

The grizzly murder was committed by none other than… Oh wait, you meant did I enjoy the game? I did!

I often apply a metric whereby if the amount of hours I spent playing the game is greater than the cost I paid for it, £1 = 1 hour, then the game was good value for money for me. It falls down at escape room games costing £100 + for 1 hour’s play, or Skyrim that I’ve played over 600 hours in, but let’s suspend disbelief and apply it to Thimbleweed Park. I spent £15 on Thimbleweed Park and I played it for well over 30 hours. 30 hours of frustration and wonder…. Well worth it then!

If you want to purchase Thimbleweed Park yourself, head to their website here.

The Room VR: A Dark Matter | Review

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The British Institute of Archaeology, London, 1908: The disappearance of an esteemed Egyptologist prompts a Police investigation into the unknown. Explore cryptic locations, examine fantastic gadgets and uncover an otherworldly discovery which blurs the line between reality and illusion.

Time Played: 4 hours
Console: PSVR / Oculus Quest
Recommended For: An exceptional VR escape room game, and fans of The Room series

If you ask anyone in the escape room industry to recommend you a video game, chances are you’ll hear the name “The Room” thrown around a lot. It’s the quintessential escape room video game, transporting you into a series of steampunk-come-Victoriana spaces to solve a series of escape room puzzles transposed into the video game world. The premise is deceptively simple, yet Fireproof Games does it so well.

When I finally got my hands on a VR headset (the PSVR if anyone is interested), The Room was my very first download. In fact, I’d even go so far as to say that I only bought the PSVR in order to play The Room VR. It did not disappoint.

Victorian London & A Curious Case

The Room VR: A Dark Matter begins with you, a Victorian detective working a rather curious case. An Egyptologist has gone missing and your team of bobbies have rounded up and collected the evidence at your station in Bloomsbury. But late one night something starts whispering to you.

You discover this Egyptologist had on their possession an artefact that allows one to travel in time and space. This artefact you stumble upon is a piece in a far greater mystery than the one assigned to you. Following in the footsteps of three treasure seekers, you’ll explore an old museum, a peculiar church, and a witch’s cottage.

Your goal ultimately is to solve the case of the missing Egyptologist but in doing so you may just uncover more than your wildest imagination ever suspected.

An Eyepiece for Every Puzzle

The gameplay is based on a nodal system, meaning you can point and teleport to various locations around the room. On the one hand, it’s great for keeping you focused on the task and hand and not missing important details. On the other, the world’s Fireproof Games have created are beautiful, and I’d have loved to explore some more. At each location you can move the camera angle left and right, to avoid craning your neck around to see something behind you, or flailing your arms in the wrong direction.

A moment’s silence for all the cups I’ve knocked off my table whilst playing other VR games.

At each location, you’ve the option to interact with your surroundings as-is, or don a mysterious eyepiece. Fans of the Room will recognise this from earlier games. The idea is simple – the eyepiece reveals the unseen. Another dimension the ability to become very small, or mysterious floating orbs that must be dragged into place to proceed. You know, just typical other-worldly interdimensional stuff.

The eyepiece also adds a supernatural element which I really enjoyed. At times, activating the eyepiece reveals a memory of an action that occurred. The action often sets the scene, but in other cases merely hints at where players should look first.

The Verdict

The only problem? It wasn’t long enough! Excluding the intro and the outro, there are really only three spaces to explore. In a haze of excitement at finishing, I’m not entirely sure how this compares with it’s non-VR counterparts, but the whole experience did fall rather short. I found myself artificially waiting before picking up the headset again just to be able to say “oh, it took me a week”. But the truth is most players will complete this in under 4 hours. So one, to two sittings at most.

That said, if you’re a fan of the series you won’t be disappointed. The Room VR: A Dark Matter is every bit exciting, and twenty times more immersive than any in the series before it.

The Room VR: Dark Matter can be played on PSVR or Oculus. Find out more on Fireproof Games’ website here.

Tick Tock: A Tale For Two | Review

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In Tick Tock: A Tale for Two you and your friend find yourself trapped in an eerie world created by the skilful clockmaker Amalie Ravn. Your mission is to escape! But to do so you need to navigate a mysterious, sinister clockwork world filled with secrets and cryptic puzzles. To find the truth and ultimately escape this place, you must combine the information on both players’ screens.

Time Played: 80 Minutes
Console: PC / Nintendo Switch / Mobile
Recommended For: Two players, for a relaxed and spooky 2hr experience.

Ever since I first heard about Tick Tock: A Tale for Two (ironically, through my work – I work in videogames and mutual friends and colleagues cannot stop recommending this one), I’ve had it on my “To-Play” list. For me, the problem was finding a second player, but that’s where my good friend Borderline Puzzler came in!

We sat down together in a Friday night from totally opposite corners of the United Kingdom and absolutely aced the game in 80 minutes, but how was the game? Simply magical!

The Story

Tick Tock is a hugely narrative driven story which makes sense – it’s won loads of awards for creativity and inventiveness and they’re all very well deserved. When you first open the game you’re not quite sure what is going on. The space is moody, atmospheric and most of all: very mysterious. But slowly the game unfolds through a patchwork of floating words and letters.

If the name ‘a tale for two’ weren’t a giveaway, you’re given half of the story. Every time a mysterious sentence appeared on my screen, floating like smoke, I only understood the meaning in context with that BDP saw on her screen. Together you work through both puzzles and story alike, for a truly brilliant conclusion.

On the topic of the conclusion… No, no spoilers here but there’s an incredible sort of ‘twist’ at the end I can’t help but mention. Even now, writing the review a while later, I can’t shake the ending out of my head. Like a memorable film, or piece of art, or tune you can recall vividly, the ending is clinging to me. Great art!

The Puzzles

Overall, I don’t think either of us found the puzzles particularly challenging, but that might come with the territory! The key thing to understand is that you can see half of what you need to see. We didn’t use a single hint in the game and it was, in most cases, fairly straightforward to figure out what we needed to do. As I say, the key (no pun intended) to solving everything for us at least was staying in constant communication. In other words we both literally described everything all the time:

“Right ok there’s a speck of dust, and a slight shadow and the artwork on this page is a little rough, and I think the colour of this plant pot is sepia-“

“-Yeah none of that helps but keep going!”

Leave no stone unturned, no plant pot un-shaked, and no puzzle unsolved, that’s what I always say!

Particular puzzles players can expect to come across include Morse code, and conversely something that looks like Morse code but isn’t. There are a couple of ‘directional’ style puzzles to watch out for, and one particularly fiendish pattern puzzle which probably took up 20% of our whole gameplay time but felt super satisfying when we did ‘clock’ it. There’s a little bit of time travel in this game too, which is a nice mechanic not possible in real life but believable (and wonderful) in a video game.

Other Notable Stuff

Firstly, the artwork! Seriously, wow. This game is be-you-tee-ful. If you like dark forests and vintage phones and lights and clocks and keys and trains all rendered in a beautiful hand drawn style, then this is for you. In fact, stop what you’re doing! Go play it now! The images I’ve included in this article speak for themselves.

Secondly, the atmosphere. The night I played this I was home alone and wearing headphones. Every tiny creak in the game as I moved around a dusty room and every distant bird call I assumed somebody was in my apartment and about to murder me… Thankfully, I’m still here! Just a little spooked.

Overall

My experience of Tick Tock: A Tale for Two was absolutely magical. A combination of playing the game with excellent company, a spooky Friday night in and just a general sense of “wow the developers of this game should be so proud” makes this an exceptional game in my book. Plus, it’s such a good price. I picked it up in a Steam sale but it’s the kind of game I want to go back and re-purchase for full price. 100% worth it.

Tick Tock: A Tale for Two can be purchased for £5 on Steam or the Nintendo eShop. You can find all links on their website here. All images for this article are from Tick Tock: A Tale for Two’s press kit.

The House of Da Vinci

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You are Da Vinci’s most promising apprentice. Your master, Leonardo, has disappeared. You have no idea where he’s gone or what has happened. So you begin your quest, your search for the truth. However, Leonardo’s workshop is full of puzzles, inventions, escape mechanisms and objects hidden in all corners of beautifully decorated rooms. You’ll need to use all of your brain cells to find out what’s really going on!

Time Played: 7+ Hours
Console: PC / Nintendo Switch / Mobile
Recommended For: Folks looking for a good challenge, history boffins, appreciators of good games.

The House of Da Vinci by Blue Brain Games was the first game I picked to play as part of my Stream the Escape series over on Twitch… And OF COURSE I forgot to actually hit “record”, so it’ll forever go down in history as my “secret lost stream” that only the 30 or so folks who watched it will remember. Except of course for a 30 second clip the fabulous Armchair Escapist accidentally recorded for me!

Click here to hear me talk about the “gauntlet-y fingernail” for 20 seconds.

Lost but not forgotten – that’s what this article is for. A space to reflect on how I found the game, who I recommend it for, and some (maybe) helpful tips for folks playing it.

The House of Da Vinci takes between 5 – 10 hours to complete – maybe a little more, or less, I’m not shaming anyone for taking longer to explore the beautiful environments here. I may have left the game running on my computer, but I’ve currently clocked in 7 hours and being the completionist I am there’s still so much left to explore I reckon I’ll still be at it a fair few more.

So the story goes, you are Leonardo Da Vinci’s apprentice and the great man himself has gone MISSING. Thankfully, not before leaving you behind a series of clues. Clues on how to enter his secret workshop, clues on what the odd assortment of machines are, clues about your pretty cool magic abilities… So it’s up to you to do your best, track Leo down, and hopefully save him! But that’s not all! At every step of the way you spot someone (or something) shadowy on your trail. You’re being watched, and it doesn’t look good for you!

I kinda quietly kept shouting in my head “close the door behind you!” every time I moved from one area to the other. It’s not a horror game AT ALL, but there’s something really creepy about being followed by someone who is catching up with you.

The puzzles start easy enough with a leisurely pace through the first third. For sure, I tripped up a couple of times and used one or two hints I probably didn’t need to early on. Clocking the end of my stream at 1hr30 I’d almost completed the second ‘room’ of the game. Respectable enough!

Helping you out you first have the use of the Oculi Infinitum, allowing you to see things with xray vision – perfect for looking behind curious mechanical contraptions to see just how the dials are turning as you interact with them. Later, you can update this Oculi to add new powers, such as the ability to rewind time.

The longer you play, the more difficult and complex the game becomes. Bordering on the “throw my laptop out the window” level at some parts, yes… But who doesn’t love a good puzzle and the “aha!” moment it brings when you finally do solve it? In all cases however, if you’ve tried everything you can think of and turned your Oculi on and off so many times you’re fingers start to feel sore, you can get a “Hint”. When the game sees you stalling too long on one particular puzzle you’ll hear a little ringing noise and a hint will be offered in the top left of your screen.

From around Room Three onwards there was definitely exponential curve upwards as to how many hints I asked for and received. If you’re new to The Escape Roomer though, I’ll always say there’s zero shame in asking for a hint. No use frustrating yourself when you can get a helpful nudge in the right direction!

One of the really nice things about The House of Da Vinci was how history was woven in at every stage. There are some very fun nods towards the actual works of the inventor, with a really impressive ‘achievement’ system that lets you collect his inventions and review them in a special courtyard from the main menu. Very cool! I’ve kinda always wanted to see his flying machine up close.

Probably the only thing I didn’t love were the controls. They’re a little tricky in parts, but I reckon that’s either the game trying to simulate the weight of an object or handle by making it near-impossible to move. That or the difficulty with porting controls across multiple platforms – you can play The House of Da Vinci in almost all consoles, and mobile devices too.

But overall, I feel proud to have played the game, solved the puzzles, and ‘saved the day’ so to speak. The game perfectly sets up for the sequel and I can’t wait to get my hands on it and give it a go.

Until next time, please consider checking out The Escape Roomer Twitch channel, where I stream an escape room game every Thursday at 7pm GMT.

You can purchase the House of Da Vinci for ~£18 on PC, Switch or Mobile. Support the creators, Blue Brain Games on their website here.