When the infamous detective Dale Vandermeer wakes up in an ominous room without any recollection of his past, he soon finds himself part of a bizarre game orchestrated by an old foe. Dale must solve increasingly challenging puzzles to escape the room and recover his memories.
Time Played: 4-5 hours
Recommended For: Fans of the mysterious and artistic!
Content Warning: Blood, Violence, Murder
This review is for both the free Chapter 1 and the paid Chapter 2.
I was introduced to Cube Escape *right* at the start of lockdown and, looking back, I’ve almost completed every one of their games now. From the spooky atmosphere, to the haunting music and the film tie-ins – I can’t get enough. But I thought, for this review (and my first in the videogame series) I’d return to the game I played first.
Rusty Lake games are generally playable on Steam, or on mobile devices. I opt for mobile device. What can I say? I like my puzzles on the go. Confusingly, there are “Rusty Lake” games, and “Cube Escape” Games. The former are longer and more likely to be found on Steam. The latter, shorter, and more likely to be a mobile or browser game. Simple? Err, sort of. Paradox sits in the middle and, due to it’s length, seemed appropriate to write about here!
The story goes, you play Detective Dale Vandemeer of Rusty Lake. You awake, suddenly and find yourself trapped between four walls. Yep, that’s literally it. The whole game (more or less) takes place within those four walls, and everything you need is in there.
You’ll forgive me if I don’t go too deeply into the plot in this review because, well, as with all Rusty Lake experiences… I’m not entirely sure what happened! You take a trip into the mind, delving deep into the future, the past and retell the central character’s tragic life through his memories. It’s creepy, eerie and… Brilliant!
There’s a certain rhythm to these games, and certain styles of puzzles you can come to expect. For one, there are locks, drawers, windows to open and keyholes to look through. It’s a point and click game at the very core of it’s being, but you can interactive with objects in surprising ways too. I must have spent a long time looking at one or two puzzles before I realised, “Oh! I can pick this up and drag it around”.
But the puzzles aren’t confined to ones you’d find in an escape room. No, Paradox destroys all pre-conceptions. For one, you can time travel. In a manner of speaking, anyway. In exploring the mind of the central character, you can lobotomise and swap his brain (yeah you read that right) from past, present and future mind to effortlessly time travel between cognitive realities. Pick up an item in one ‘time’, use it in another, and so on.
The best part about Cube Escape: Paradox? The atmosphere, or ‘vibe’ if you were. For such a simple and straightforward game, it’ll send absolute chills up your spine. Everything about the game is unnerving. Why did I find a headless deer, who is the magician, why not the red vial, why not the blue?
I wouldn’t recommend this for kids. I mean, even if the kid in question doesn’t mind a bit of blood (the other week my little brother showed me the best way to kill a large amount of Creepers in Minecraft… So kids these days, I dunno!), there’s something so unsettling, macabre and nightmare-inducing about Rusty Lake. In the same way something like the podcast Welcome to Nightvale is. Rusty Lake is an alternate universe where everything is just a little bit wrong.
To round off this review, if you can’t get enough of Paradox, there’s a tie-in 20 minute film. The film spoils the ‘story’, but none of the puzzles – so you’re welcome to watch this before, after, or even during your gameplay.
If you want to enjoy this game, you could simply play the free Chapter 1 and still walk away with an awesome experience. You could also watch the film, and leave it at that. I played both Chapter 1 and 2 (because I’m borderline addicted to this series), and I’d recommend this for the best time. For such a small price point, it’s completely worth it to purchase the full game.
Mairi is the editor-in-chief and covers escape rooms/immersive theatre in London, play at home games, and video games.