Pressure Point: The Moonlit Wild | Review

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The Moonlight Wild Review | An ancient story is known that the god of wealth, Eltari, once hid a valuable treasure deep in the jungle. Eltari hid the treasure to protect human kind from the greed, hatred and self indulgence that will be consumed upon possession of this magical artefact. The story goes that those who possess this treasure will be given limitless wealth for eternity. Many explorers have attempted to seize this treasure but no-one has ever been able to solve Eltari’s mythological puzzles that pave the way to the infinite magic that he created.

Do you and your team believe you have what is necessary to take on a god? 

 

Date Played: February 2022
Time Taken: 45 Mins 19 Secs
Number of Players: 4
Difficulty: Medium

How often do you really get that wow factor from walking into a room? I mean honestly?!

The Moonlit Wild was one of the few escape rooms which really took my breath away! Here’s a summary of why…

 

Outstanding Set Design!

Without doubt, The Moonlit Wild is certainly one of the most aesthetically pleasing rooms I’ve ever played. The scenery really is that good. I’ve always had concerns over how authentic an escape room can really be when its meant to look like the great outdoors; but this really did tick the box…

Think deep dark forest, leaves, bark covered floors, perfectly set lighting. It is a certain ‘pinch yourself’ type room, where the creativity around the set demonstrates what is sure to be a fantastic room.

As the game evolves, the setting continues to grow more and more impressive, with trees, wildlife, water and so much more; I would question anyone who said that they weren’t blown away by it.

Immersion continues to be the name of the game with this room as (no pun intended) the whole scene is lit beautifully, which provides just an appropriate amount of light. Not too dark to actually read anything but also dim enough to make for a really well done atmospheric adventure.

Finally, the subtle soundtrack. What can I say? This really is a feast for the senses.

For this reason we’ve chosen to award the room our special “Diamond Badge

 

The Moonlit Wild Brings Out My Inner Child!

Of course, we then have the main feature of every escape room; the puzzles. Our team all agreed that the puzzles in this room are really well put together and sit within the theme really well. As opposed to the more obvious “here is a puzzle” stance taken in their other room Murder on the Dancefloor, here we find much more subtle puzzles that are really well disguised, so your search senses are really needed in this room. I was like a kid in a candy shop!

Look high and low on this one – there really are puzzles everywhere. So try and question everything you see, and hear! Sure, there are a handful of more blatant games in this room but one of the huge positives is how they have thought long and hard about how the games integrate within the environment.

There are also a huge amount of puzzles within this room – its easy to sit back and think you are progressing at quite a pace in this room, however do not be fooled. The gameplay keeps you on your toes and you’ll find yourself doing both solo and team puzzles galore, so its a wise idea to keep communicating; there are some moments where communication is literally everything, so keep your wits about you!

Expect a real mix of puzzles here too – there’s nothing too physical, generally there is quite a lot of observational based bits going on here, which I personally adore. There a handful of lock bits, but predominately expect very well delivered puzzles, where the electronics have been superbly hidden so the game just flows without any “what the hell do I do now” moments.

In terms of difficultly, I would suggest that this is slightly harder than the Murder on the Dancefloor game, however still has the same level of accessibility – whereby anyone could really pick it up and enjoy a fantastic game.

 

A Game Which Flows as Beautifully as a Freshwater Stream!

Where this game excels over many others is the way in which the game flows. There is always something to do, always something to look at, and there aren’t any real “sticky” moments where things grind to a halt based on someone’s experience or understanding – this is also where having a strong games master came into play.

For this game, Vicky was our games master and she really was a delight. Having done a very thorough and engaging intro to the room (in a very cool looking Moonlit Wild briefing room), she also presented us with clues at just the right time. Clues were always subtle, didn’t give too much away, but often guided us to a potential location within the room where we might have missed something in the beautiful scenery.

As a really amazing side note, showing quite how engaged she was with our game, when we finished playing, she had discussed quite how impressed she was with my son and how good is appeared to be at rooms – so much so that she had written down all the puzzles he had completed himself within this game and listed them off to him – both a proud dad moment, and a smile through gritted jealous teeth from me!

 

What’s the Story?!

Now this might sound really odd, as normally I’m a sucker for having a really strong storyline within a game; but here the storyline really didn’t make that much odds to me. From beginning to end we all appreciated that we needed to locate the hidden golden artefact within the Moonlit Wild, and Vicky had done a great job in introducing the story during our briefing.

However when faced with the outstanding scenery, wealth of puzzles and brilliant immersion, the depth of the storyline feel into insignificance as we were all having far too much fun to really worry! That’s not to take away the great level of detail and depth that has gone into producing this experience  – I think we were just having too much fun to care!

 

Our Verdict

Bloody brilliant! Nothing much more to add than that. The Moonlight Wild ia really fun room, with one of the best sets I’ve ever played in, an array of puzzles which can be accessible to all, a fully engaged GM who clearly cared about our experience and a game play which flows better than most others could dream of. Great job Pressure Point!

 

If you want to book The Moonlight Wild at Pressure Point, head to their website here.

Down the Rabbit Hole | Review

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Down the Rabbit hole Review | Down the Rabbit Hole is a VR adventure set in Wonderland prior to Alice’s arrival. You will guide a girl who is looking for her lost pet by solving puzzles, uncovering secrets and making choices about the story along the way.

Developer: Cortopia Studios
Date Played: October 2021
Console: Oculus Quest
Number of Players: 1
Time Taken: 3 hours

My first encounter with Down the Rabbit Hole was, amusingly, in VRChat. VRChat is a land of absolute madness and debauchery where pretty much anyone can don their headset and be transported to an amazing land with folks from anywhere in the world. Actually, I’ve played some good escape games and made some friends there.

But one of the coolest ‘worlds’ I’ve been to in VRChat was a promotional space modelled off the intro sequence to Down the Rabbit Hole. It was so intriguing that I wasted almost no time purchasing my own copy of Down the Rabbit Hole the next time I spotted an Oculus sale.

I actually had almost no intention of reviewing the game for The Escape Roomer- you see, I didn’t even realise it was a puzzle game. But somehow the incredible, rich worlds filled with mystery just felt so right for the escape room audience. I was captivated from the very first moment to the very last, and binged the whole thing in just one day!

Oh yes, there are puzzles a-plenty!

Welcome to Wonderland…

Down the Rabbit Hole is a prequel to the story of Alice in Wonderland we all know and love. The theme is a staple of escape rooms all over the world (like this one, or this one, yep and this one, or even this one), but somehow Down the Rabbit Hole manages to make it different with the introduction of a new girl – not Alice! She descends into the rabbit hole and meets a host of wonderful (and familiar) characters before going up against the Queen of Hearts herself.

As a story, it’s fairly predictable. It’s probably quite hard to do anything other than loosely follow the source material, and that’s okay. But one big change the studio did make was casting an American voice actress for the classic British character. For some reason, this did bother me… A lot. If the game is a prequel, then this should be set in the very early 1800s and in Britain. Needlessly Disney-ified? Perhaps. But let’s move on…

Our main character falls down the rabbit hole whilst chasing her pet, but is soon joined by a ‘4 and a Half’ card who is shunned by his society. You see, the Queen of Hearts is a supremacist who believes only the whole cards are real cards. Whilst your main focus is to find your pet, by the time you descend to the very bottom of the rabbit hole you’re too embroiled in the world just to leave it as is it. Who else will help the half-cards?! Or find the missing letters?! Or help prepare for the Queen’s tea party?!

In a final note on the story, the game ends quite abruptly. There is some element of multiple choice, but largely the endings are bittersweet. You might save the day but you can’t save everyone, and even if you can are you willing to turn your back on the ‘real world’?

I’m wondering if the open-endedness of the story may lend itself to a possible sequel on the table? Well, a girl can hope!

Things are Getting Curiouser and Curiouser

So I’ve established that the story telling is okay. But let’s talk about what really makes this game shine: Environment and Puzzles!

This game is breath-taking.

No, seriously. A little louder for those in the back. This game isn’t just a pretty game it’s an absolute work of art and simply existing in this world for a few hours with your VR headset on is a privilege.

Players have two viewpoints. On the one hand, you are the camera in the middle of the rabbit hole looking at the story play out in these tiny, brightly coloured rooms lit up all around you. Using roots to pull yourself further down or pull yourself up, you can follow the story as it goes round and round in a feeling like you are the person tumbling down the hole. Look up and you’ll see the moon and the stars far above you, and look down and you’ll see the darkness stretching out forever.

On the other hand if you need to take a closer look you can switch to the perspective of the main character as she runs around each room. Especially useful for getting up close to treasure chests and opening small locks.

Frankly, I’ve never played anything quite like it, and it’s a perfect example of what wouldn’t be possible in real life but is flawless in VR. Game developers – take note! This is how a good VR game is presented!

“Six Impossible Things”

In terms of puzzles, they’re fairly straightforward making this a widely accessible game for puzzle enthusiasts of all skill level. For one, there’s a meta puzzle running throughout the whole game where a number of invitations to the royal party have gone missing. You need to collect them all. But then within each level is a number of mini-puzzles to tackle and solve before you can move on.

One of my favourite puzzle sequences was a world in which you could be flipped upside down from your partner and swap between the right-way-up and the wrong-way-up characters as you worked together to find a way through. It was a little like the classic Ibb and Obb, but made all the more brilliant for the giant teacups floating around.

Other puzzles involved painting hedges different colours, concocting a potion to make yourself shrink after accidentally trapping yourself inside a house, and may more involved finding 4 digit (or symbol) codes around the world.

The Verdict

I really enjoyed Down the Rabbit Hole – it’s not often I get to binge a VR game without the pressure of reviewing it (some irony that I did review it in the end!), and it was a lot of fun to relax into this world. The world and the immersivity in this is incomparable. Sure, I didn’t gel with the characters much – but the world itself is it’s own character and I love that.

After a discount, this game came in at about £10 which is the same as a couple of cups of coffee. Instead I got to experience one of the most impressive VR world’s ‘ve ever seen. Definitely worth it.

I’ve chosen to award this game a Diamond badge for being visually impressive, though it’s also easy to argue that this game deserves a Best in Genre badge for being a brilliant Alice in Wonderland game.

To try out Down the Rabbit hole for yourself, head to downtherabbitholegame.com

Ratings

E-Scape Rooms: The Sword of Drakul | Review

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E-scape Rooms: The Sword of Drakul | Review | Retrieve the sword of the dragon king and save the kingdom in this online escape room game. 

Completion Time: 46:24
Date Played: 18th October 2021
Party Size: 4
Difficulty: Medium

If we could give an award for the most exciting and dramatic intro to any at-home escape room game, The Sword of Drakul would claim it! Seriously, I felt like I was watching the intro to HBO’s latest fantasy drama rather than an escape room.

Game of Thrones, eat your heart out!

On an October Monday – not our typical escape room day of the week – Escaping the Closet, our friend Tasha and I sat down to try the brand new game from E-scape Rooms. Please note, we played the game a couple of days before it’s official launch, meaning it’s possible the game has been tweaked slightly (read as: improved), so take this review with a pinch of salt!

Kings and Dragons and… Goblins!

The story of the Sword of Drakul is an exciting one. We arrive on the scene at the end of an incredibly long war between dragons and humans. So deadly that many a city had been burned to a crisp under the dragon’s tyrannical rule. The king of this great land, after trying every ‘conventional’ method, soon turned to magic to try to stop them – bewitching his most trusted soldiers into dragons themselves to fight them off.

However those six soldiers soon turned against the king and killed him to stop their power from being reversed at the end of the war. However, this also meant that the only secret to stopping these power-crazed dragons died with him. Legend has it the only way to stop the is to recover a mythical sword from deep within the king’s armoury.

It just so happens our crack team of escape room enthusiasts are up to the job. This isn’t our first rodeo and we’ve broken into (and out of) many a king’s armoury before. It’s time to save the world!

Start in the Catacombs…

The Sword of Drakul is played on a platform called Telescape. This means that players have a 360 degree view of each new space and may click into anything for a closer look. Furthermore, you’ll be able to see each other’s mouse mark on the screen to see which puzzles they’re working on in real time. In The Sword of Drakul, when an object is clickable, a dragon’s eye appeared and blinked at us, so no red herrings here.

What was most impressive about this at-home escape room however was those 360 degree views. In most Telescape games, they’re recreations of real life spaces captured with a 360 camera, but E-scape have gone a step further and created a whole new world that felt like it was right out of a video game!

We started in the Catacombs before moving throughout the castle in search of the hidden chamber, solving puzzles along the way – but each time we encountered a new space it took our breath away. The sheer detail! How can this be real? Absolutely gorgeous.

The Dragon King’s Puzzles

Overall, the puzzles in The Sword of Drakul felt really well themed to the setting. When I think of fantasy castles, I think of dusty old games of chess, huge stone pillars with unusual inscriptions and mysterious mechanics lost of time, and of course plenty of dragon motifs! This about sums it up for this at-home escape game, and players can expect to encounter a lot of different puzzles suited to a small group of players.

In particular, my favourite puzzle involved a maze and a goblin. This was also one of the most collaborative puzzles in the game where Ash and I separated ourselves at other ends of the room communicating directions and instructions out to one another. Collaborative puzzles are a theme throughout the game, and on many occasions we had to work together with two, or even three of us split between different screens. As such, we’d recommend it for at least a team of three!

There was one puzzle which didn’t gel particularly well with us, but we were lucky to be playing an early access version of the game and could ask the creator directly what the correct solution and method to solve it was. Once explained, it made a lot more sense!

The Verdict

Overall, we really enjoyed playing the Sword of Drakul. It’s also one of the prettiest Telescape games we’ve seen in a long time – for that reason, we’re awarding it a Diamond Badge (left) reserved for the best looking games in their genre!

This would be a fantastic game for anyone who is a fan of the fantasy genre – or anyone who simply wants to be impressed! There’s something for everyone in this game and we were delighted with it from start to finish.

The Sword of Drakul can be booked on E-Scape’s website here.

Ratings

Manifold Garden | Review

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Manifold Garden Review | Rediscover gravity and explore an Escher-esque world of impossible architecture. Witness infinity in first-person and master its rules to solve physics-defying puzzles. Cultivate a garden to open new paths forward, where an eternal expanse awaits. 

Developer: William Chyr Studio 
Console Played On: Steam 
Number Of Players: 

Do you like optical illusions? Check ✅

Would you like to manipulate gravity? Check ✅

Do the thought of digital trees, pique your interest? Check ✅

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

Rediscover Gravity 

What is Manifold Garden about? It involves a nameless, voiceless first-person character attempting to cultivate a visually-inspiring garden through the power of mastering puzzles that defy and manipulate gravity. If like me however, you didn’t look at any blurbs and dove straight into the game; I wouldn’t criticise you for not being able to answer that question. 

The game straight-up, throws you into the fray with only some on-screen control pointers to assist you. Looking around, the first thing that comes to mind, is the art direction is simply wonderful. Heavily inspired by the artist M.C.Escher, it’s an absolute feast for the eyes and brain.    

Witness Infinity

The music is minimalistic yet fits the tone perfectly. It is a well-balanced blend of calmness and tension; which reflects the overarching ebb and flow of the gameplay progression.  

Whilst, the theming and visuals work together hand-in-hand, I was not all that immersed; I very much felt like I was in an art gallery, looking at pieces from the outside. I never imagined myself inside the environment. This is highly likely because there is ultimately no story or characters to bring the player into becoming fully immersed. I was constantly nodding my head at and buying into what I saw, but I was always conscious that it was me doing so. 

Explore Impossible Geometry

The controls work splendidly. On steam, players have full choice between using a keyboard and mouse combination or using their gaming pad of choice. The full customisations of button mapping and sensitivity controls are present to suit all player types. No complaints in this department whatsoever. 

Cultivate A Garden 

The puzzles are incredibly clever, especially when gravity is a primary factor in the mechanics. That aside, it needs to be said that Manifold Garden has only one major core game loop; you manipulate gravity to solve puzzles and progress further. The depth of the core game loop ie: the variance and freshness is certainly there, however many escape room fans might tire of the repetition.  

There is no explicit hints system, however the game does have one tool from the beginning that is a constant hint in itself; the dot/cross-hair in the middle of your screen changes colour based on certain aspects! It took me longer than I care to admit to realise this (at first, I was all “ooooh pretty colour change!”), but it is an integral part towards gameplay success. This alone however, is not always enough to prevent players from getting well and truly lost. Despite this, there are plenty of sectioned walkthroughs online, to navigate from any potential spoilers. 

An External Expanse Awaits 

The price point, is around the £16 mark for all consoles. Manifold Garden will keep players busy for around 5-10 hours based on a single playthrough. There is some opportunity for replay; less so for the puzzles, but more to revisit the stunning visuals. 

As always, because it is an indie games company, I feel the amount of content presented, justifies the price tag.   

For The Growing Seed Or The Established Tree? 

Fair warning; this game requires a fair amount of lateral thinking. The learning curve however, is well implemented; the difficulty increases on a fair and well-realised gradient over the course of the gameplay lifespan. 

I got caught by my wife on one or two occasions exclaiming “ooooooooooooooooh!” whilst wearing headphones, as I managed to solve certain puzzles presented that were particularly tricky. There are many opportunities here for headspace payoff and reward.  

Ratings

Apparently, this game took 7 years to develop. Now here, it is an aesthetic feast for the eyes. Aside from that, as long as you have the patience for it, there is a solid collection of puzzle set pieces that will be greatly enjoyed. If you are looking for a game with painstaking and breath-taking artistic direction, then look no further than Manifold Garden. 

If you want to purchase Manifold Garden on your platform of choice, head to their website here.