PostCurious: Light in the Mist | Review

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Light in the Mist Review | Your friend’s mysterious disappearance results in the discovery of an unusual item, leading you to embark on a journey through time and memory. In this narrative puzzle adventure by PostCurious and Jack Fallows, an intimate coming-of-age story is told through an object that serves as a tarot deck, a puzzle game, and a work of art.

Number of Players: 1 – 4
Time Taken: 6 Hours
Date Played: May – June 2023
Difficulty: Medium

Why, oh why do I leave the very best games to play very last on my to-play pile!? If I texted any of my puzzle friends right now and said “Hey have you played Light in the Mist? It’s really good” I’d be laughed out of the WhatsApp chat. To be honest, I think it’s because I either buy them and keep them on my shelf for years waiting for the perfect opportunity to play it, or don’t purchase them at all thanks to extortionate extra-EU shipping fees games have these days *wipes tears with the UK flag*

Light in the Mist is one of those really good games I played very late. But in this case, it wasn’t me but a friend who bought it. And little known to me til I ended up chatting to the creator, PostCurious actually has distributors in the UK so shipping fees are… Surprisingly affordable!

Hey, better late than never, eh?

I first got my hands on a copy when my super lovely friends at Escaping the Closet and I boarded a ferry from Hull to Rotterdam en route to play a weekend of escape rooms in the Netherlands. We were sitting lazily on the top deck of the ship, listening to the drone of a singing-dancing-castanet playing ferry performer, when Ash suddenly reached into her bag and brought out a little box. “Oh hey, I brought a game! Shall we play?” She plonked a copy of Light in the Mist down on the slightly sticky plastic table, brushing aside the remains of dinner. And, as the boat left the port and sailed off into the deep water of the channel, we all started playing Light in the Mist.

 

Light in the Mist Review

 

I didn’t get a chance to finish the game until a month later, when I bought myself a copy and, completely forgetting where we’d ended up on the ferry, I started again from scratch in the comfort of my own home. So in short, at the time of writing, I’ve played Light in the Mist not once but twice… And you know the strangest part? Both playthroughs felt completely different. I understood the story in a different way. Different things happened to me. I collected different items. I learnt different things. Wow!

 

There really is something weird about these woods, you know?

Light in the Mist can’t be described as a game so much as it is described as a “puzzletale“. It’s a character driven narrative story, but the medium isn’t pages and ink, it’s told through a deck of tarot cards.. And of course, puzzles. As you work your way through the deck you choose which cards to draw in an almost choose-your-own adventure flow of the dreamlike meandering story. To navigate through the tarot cards, you solve each tarot card’s puzzle. Each solved puzzle will take you to a new page in the book and you’re encouraged from there to go at your own pace and follow your intuition. You’ll collect items, loop back on yourself sometimes, and uncover more and more with every metaphorical step you take through the woods.

With each puzzle solved you, the players, get a glimpse into the life of your friend Sam. You see, Sam is missing in these woods and the only item you have to guide you back to her is this deck of tarot cards. What follows is a story that unfolds non-linearly. It’s compelling, intimate, and in some parts quite upsetting.

Over the course of the game, which is around 5 or more hours (but I think I came in at at least 6), you’ll build up a complete picture of Sam. There are some trigger warnings at the start of the guide contained in the box, but it’s all handled gracefully and with respect. I believe somewhere in the trigger warning it mentions the intention of the game is to help tell painful stories, so nothing is in there for fun, it’s all essential to the story.

 

 

The woods are lovely, dark and deep

I don’t know why but the whole time playing this game I had this poem going loops in my head. I love this poem. I also have a tattoo inspired by the poem, which features a little path curving through the woods (DM me and I’m sure I’ll be happy to share it the tattoo, haha). But all this to say, I had ~ that vibe ~ in my mind when playing the game. Not in a small part thanks to the illustrations by the ever fantastic Jack Fallows of Cryptogram Puzzle Post, who was PostCurious’ collaborator on the project.

On each new tarot card a new scene loosely inspired by the usual tarot imagery. Yet Light in the Mist takes place in a deep and dark woods, and Fallows has rendered these scenes absolutely beautifully. Dark trees rising from the mist, a shining moon hanging in the sky, and soft lights that glow from the depths in colours more vivid than I thought possible to print on the card.

These woods for sure are lovely, dark and deep.

DIAMOND BADGE awarded to the most visually appealing experiences!

Given how beautiful this game is, we’ve also decided to award it a special “diamond badge”, awarded to puzzle games which are beautifully visually amazing. You can read more about our award badges here.

 

 

Last but not least, the puzzles

It says a lot when it takes me this long into a review to even mention the puzzles. But what can I say? There’s just so much else about this game I wanted to talk about first.

The puzzles in Light in the Mist are varied. As a designer myself I usually like to mention some kind of “puzzle arc” or the overall “gameplay flow” in my review, but Light in the Mist presents a peculiar challenge in that it’s a non-linear game. Meaning players can tackle the puzzles in any order they want to. They might encounter a difficult one first, followed by an easy one. They might ramp up logically in terms of easy – medium – difficult. Or they might do something else entirely. I can’t say.

But what I can say is that players can expect to encounter a range. When I played in a team of 4, we seemed very well matched to play together, as different puzzle types played to our comparative strengths. However when I played solo, I had much more of a challenge. At least, with the ones I had left to solve. Without a second person or two to rely on for support, I found myself spending more time looking at the hints and mulling over different theories before I’d eventually crack the codes.

Nothing felt too insurmountable. There were frustrating moments, and other moments where the puzzle just clicked the moment I flipped the cards out. In the end, it balanced out to be satisfying across the course of the game, and with each puzzle being so surprising and varied never once did I ger bored or feel like I’d already seen something similar.  But it is a unique aspect to the game in that people might end up playing it in an order which isn’t necessarily conductive to satisfying gameplay. Notice I said MIGHT. My gameplay experience was fine, but it’s just something to watch out for.

 

 

A Mystical Convergence of Puzzles and Palms

When we were done – on the ferry I mean – I grabbed the deck of cards and started to read everyone’s tarot more traditionally. There’s something super cool about having a game that also doubles as something else when you’re done. In Light in the Mist’s case, it’s a deck of tarot cards that yes, you can read as a tarot. Not only does this give way to some lovely arcana imagery, but it also means you’ll be able to keep and treasure the deck once you’ve completed the game.

For the purposes of this review – not that I really know what I’m talking about – I decided to do a card reading for you. Yes, you reading this! I thought really hard about the type of person who might be reading our review. Who you are, what your hopes and dreams are, and where you’re going in live. Then I asked the special Light in the Mist tarot deck if they had any special message I should share with you. I drew:

  • The Queen of Swords (upright)
  • The Three of Cups (upright)
  • The Knight of Swords (upright)

The Queen of Swords generally refers to independence, perception and organisation in one’s life. The Knight of the same suit usually means ambition, haste, and communication. Inbetween these two cards we have the Three of Cups, which indicates groups coming together to focus on a common emotional goal – a sense of community and the sense of getting involved emotionally. When the Queen and the Knight of swords appear together it seems pretty significant. Court cards usually mean specific people, and because the two in the suit are side by side it probably means two connected people.

 

 

Now I’m not sure I really believe in this tarot stuff, but there’s a clear message shouting out to me in these three cards, and that is: Get together your two people, your real people-people (friends, family, whoever they are to you) and come together for a common goal – such as solving a puzzle together, and you’ll all grow closer together emotionally. If I sit back and think about that for myself then yeah, I do have two people I usually play puzzle games with, they are connected, and one of them is more perceptive and one is more the ambitious type. We usually play games together and it does bring us closer together emotionally. They’re my community. It’s nice to think of it in that way.

I’m not gonna say the cards are saying to go out and buy this particular game – but if you are here for a recommendation. Well then. This one ain’t bad.

 

 

Light in the Mist | The Verdict

There is a really good reason PostCurious and Light in the Mist are so well known for their puzzle games. Sometimes the pressure of expectation can make a game fall flat, but somehow Light in the Mist avoids that and still pulls itself off as a perfectly well-rounded, beautiful and thoughtful experience.

I would recommend this for, well, pretty much anyone. It’s not traditional in any sense, but with the rules it breaks, PostCurious and the team have executed it near-flawlessly to create a compelling experience. Part puzzle, part story. A round of applause and a standing ovation from us at The Escape Roomer.

Unlike many other games, Light in the Mist is regiftable – though I’m equally sure you’ll want to keep this one for yourself. There’s one destructible element, however this element is provided twice just in case you want to regift it and keep it pristine. At a price point of around £30 GBP (£37 with UK shipping), it’s on the slightly expensive side for what is essentially just a deck of cards. But as someone who has spent close to that on a particularly pretty deck of tarot cards that doesn’t contain any puzzles, I think you’re getting an excellent value from Light in the Mist. There is also a collectors edition available for £90. Do with that information whatever you will.

 

Light in the Mist can be purchased by heading to PostCurious’s website here.

All photos in this article belong us at The Escape Roomer for the purposes of this review. Please seek permission before using them.

 

Wolf Escape Games: Hallows Hill | Review

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Wolf Escape Games: Hallows Hill Review | Can you solve all of the puzzles and unlock the dark secrets of Hallows Hill? Gather your team and play at home or over video chat!

Date Played: May 2022
Time Taken: 63 minutes
Number of Players: 4
Difficulty: Medium

Sometimes I play digital play-at-home escape rooms and I finish them thinking “wow, why wasn’t this made into an actual video game?!”. That’s not to say video games are anything ‘better’ or something designers should strive to create. Far from it. It’s just every single thing about Hallows Hill looked and played like a video game I’d expect to find on PC or on console. When they describe their game as “cinematic”, they’re not wrong…

From the beautiful 3D sets, to the point-and-click style of adventure with stylish cutscenes between it, to the music, the high fidelity, and general high budget feel of Hallows Hill, I was super impressed. In fact, it’s a wonder that Wolf Escape Games has completely flown under the radar as much as it has. We’d heard of it, because we make it our mission to hear about and play as many escape rooms as we possibly can. But by and large since the game launched in 2021 it hasn’t got the attention I think it deserved. So, lets go onto why!

 

 

About Hallows Hill

If you like ghost stories, you’ll love Hallows Hill. With a slight “choose your own adventure” twist, you find yourself plunged into an eerie mystery set in the old Hallows Hill household after, in our case, a patient under our care went missing. We chose this option, so I’m not sure if everyone will have the same reason to have to go and explore the old and clearly haunted house, but for whichever reason, you find yourself standing on the creaky porch of a dilapidated building. Your goal: Get in and get out quickly!

Throughout the way we were anchored to another character by a slick text-message interface. Harriet took the role of gentle GM, an automated series of messages that provides guidance and eggs you on through scarier moments. There were plenty of those, and plenty more where I was like “damn this job isn’t worth it lets just leave guys and find a new job”, but nope, on we ventured through the creaky house.

The further and further you go, the more restless the spirits become. Before long a mystery begins to unravel before your eyes over a series of ‘chapters’. A ghost story, a tale of children from decades ago, and a mysterious fire. But to achieve our goals (in our case, recover our patient), we had to push on.

*shudder*

 

 

Follow the Leader

The game has an unusual setup in that the leader must share their screen and other players can play along second-hand. We’re not the biggest fans of this style of gameplay as it always leaves one person feeling like they’re doing everything and everyone else more like passive observers. Without the freedom to click around yourself, it’s difficult to be as fully engaged with the person hosting. This time round, I was the ‘host’.

Mostly, it worked well. The technology was fairly seamless and anything I discovered on my screen would immediately populate into my team mates “backpacks” to take a closer look at. Occasionally there’d be a puzzle or two which only I could do. For example, a jigsaw. At these moments my team mates either watched me rapidly solving on screen, or moved on with a different puzzle. In another moment, a sound puzzle could only be controlled by me and the sound-sharing didn’t work as well as it might have done meaning it was a lot harder to solve than it might have been. But really those two things were just details in an otherwise smooth and logical puzzling experience.

One thing Hallows Hill did do really well was interweave the story into the puzzles. I love it when I see good Game Design done well like this! The solutions to puzzles told us about the characters and the ghostly happenings occurring in the building. It wasn’t the kind of game you could ignore the story in. The story was fundamental to the experience and handled very well.

 

Cinematic Level Graphic Design

Another thing Hallows Hill did really well was that ‘cinematic feel’. I literally cannot emphasise this enough, this game was absolutely beautiful. Maybe the most beautiful non-video game digital game I’ve ever played, and heck I’ve played a lot. The team really outdid themselves on the beautiful set design, atmospheric effects, music and cut-scenes. From the start to the finish I felt utterly immersed and seriously impressed.

 

For this reason we’ve decided to award Hallows Hill the Diamond Badge. This badge is awarded to games that were visually stunning and it’s a no brainer. *chefs kiss* for gorgeous set design. If this were a video game company and you told me it was a triple-A studio, I’d not be surprised in the slightest.

 

 

The Verdict

We had a lot of fun playing Hallows Hill and the best part? We finished 18th on the global leader board. Yay! I’ll take that with pride! We used one hint on a puzzle that indeed seems to stump most people judging by reading other reviews. It was a classic sound puzzle, and I’ll take the hit on that one – I’m just not that great with sound puzzles.

Now it is technically a scary game. Think spooky ghosts and eerie moments of tension. But even if you’re no good with frights, I’d still encourage you to try Hallows Hill out. There are no jump scares and it’s well worth it for the visuals and graphic fidelity alone. From fun puzzles to an immersive atmosphere, Wolf Escape Games have totally outdone themselves and I’m now eagerly awaiting to see if they’ll create any more games.

 

Hallows Hill can be booked by heading to Wolf Escape Games’ website here.

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.