M9 Games: Vereda | Review

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

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

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

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

 

 

Meet the Developer, Chris at M9 Games

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

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

 

 

Enter Vereda, a Noir World of Secret Agents…

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

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

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

 

 

 

Secret Agents, and Puzzles!

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

 

The Verdict

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

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

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

Behind the Frame | Review

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Behind the Frame Review | Guide brush strokes and solve a variety of puzzles to help an aspiring artist complete her masterpiece amid her brusque neighbor’s gaze and his pesky cat. As her painting starts to take shape, uncover an emotional tale of chance and artistry revealed behind unrelated yet familiar moments.

Developer: Silver Lining Studio
Date Played: December 2021
Console: PC
Number of Players: 1
Time Taken: 1 hour

From the moment I first heard the phrase “escape room puzzles in a Studio Ghibli-esque world” I was sold. A game like this deserved my full attention, so I patiently waited until Christmas 2021 when I’d have more time to spare before downloading it. The cosy evening of the 23rd of December was the perfect time. A time when the wind and rain howled outside, for me to make a big mug of tea and dive behind the frame into a peaceful and wholesome world.

A Picture is Worth 1000 Words

The story centres around you, an aspiring young artist living in a small studio apartment who dreams of of exhibiting her work in New York. Opposite, an elderly painter living with a tabby cat is occasionally glimpsed in a series of dream-like animated sequences. Each day you rise, make eggs on toast, pour a cup of coffee, and work on your painting. To your dismay, each time you power on your laptop you find your application to go to New York has been deleted, and your painting seems further from completion than ever before.

Your goal is to solve enough puzzles to discover more colours to finish your painting in time for the exhibition. But oddly, the details around you never change. The calendar on the wall displays the same date. But, as you play through this short game you quickly discover there’s a greater story unravelling around you in the stillness of art. Your life flits in and out of reverie and darker secrets bubble to the surface.

Who is the old man who lives opposite? More to the point, who are you?

Puzzles in Paintings

Behind the Frame is a puzzle game – and a point and click escape room at that – but it’s also a very narrative, emotionally heavy story. With each new chapter you learn a part of the whole story, but each time it feels like you’re scrambling to recover memories of the bigger picture.

In the escape room world really good storytelling is often missing from physical rooms and puzzle games. With just an hour’s time limit, it’s hard to write detailed narratives. The developers of Behind the Frame on the other hand have started with the story first, and then woven the puzzles throughout the game to support and advance the narrative – and it shows! It’s an incredibly moving story told through satisfying art-based puzzles.

In terms of puzzles, the setting dictates a lot of what can and cannot be done, and most puzzles centre around memory. Players will be shown a detail, and will later need to recreate it in their artwork to progress. In other sequences, players will encounter something in their environment and will need to recreate it on a wooden block puzzle they find in their home. In both cases, the game requires you to pay attention and use your artistic skill to solve the mystery.

At other times, you’ll discover hidden objects around your room and sketch or assemble them like jigsaws in your handy notebook. At no point during this game did I feel any of the puzzles were particularly challenging – but that’s part of the beauty. Behind the Frame is best played in one sitting, and each puzzle will take seconds to solve as not to disrupt the flow of the story.

Studio Ghibli, Eat Your Heart Out

…Haha, I’m kidding. Nothing can surpass a Ghibli film. But Behind the Frame comes close.

There’s a good reason this video game keeps being compared to the infamous Japanese film producer, despite the two having nothing to do with each other. Behind the Frame uses a combination of animated sequences and point and click gameplay. both of which feel lovingly hand drawn and perfectly in place with the style we see in many vintage anime films of the Studio Ghibli era.

What’s more, the story is heartbreaking and full of a sense of loss for a time we aren’t sure we ever knew. Players are encouraged to find the joy in every day life through the peaceful sound of coffee cups clinking and brushstrokes on paper. I am at once immediately at home playing Behind the Frame.

The Verdict

Behind the Frame is a magical puzzle game like nothing else I’ve ever played. It’s a marriage of my two favourite video game genres: escape room and wholesome, and this is a game I’ll be returning to over and over whenever I need a break from reality.

The game is available on PC, Nintendo Switch, and mobile devices – however I’d recommend playing it on PC or Nintendo Switch to get the most out of your artistic journey.

The only issue? it’s far too short. At six chapters long, the game is playable within 30 to 60 minutes. I went back and played it twice in order to collect 100% of the Steam achievements – another unchallenging pursuit – and still felt I needed a little more. More paintings, more stories from the girl’s life, more of everything. I need more of the magical whimsy Behind the Frame sprinkled into my life on a cold December evening.

To play Behind the Frame, head to the developer’s website and choose your platform here.

Ratings

Retrospective Holiday Special: Portal | Review

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Portal Review | Set in the mysterious Aperture Science Laboratories, the game is designed to change the way players approach, manipulate, and surmise the possibilities in a given environment. Players must solve physical puzzles and challenges by opening portals to manoeuvring objects, and themselves, through space.

Developer: Valve
Console Played On: Steam
Number Of Players: 1

Disclaimer! This is a retrospective review. This means it is reviewed based on the gaming expectations of the present day and the relevancy for escape room enthusiasts.

Do you enjoy silent protagonists? Check ✅

Are you enticed by mind-bending physics? Check ✅

Do you prefer your comedy to skirt the line between hilariousness and existential dread? Check ✅

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

Well, You Found Me. Congratulations. Was It Worth It?

If you saw my introductory interview with Mairi, I mentioned Portal 2 as being one of my favourite puzzle games. After playing it, I spoke to friends about how much I enjoyed it. My “PC gaming” friends often responded something along the lines of…

“It’s good…but not as good as the original”.

After many, many of these encounters; I vowed to find a copy of The Orange Box (a Valve compilation of games including Portal), on the PS3 (I didn’t own a decent PC at the time); however it was sold out everywhere. When I eventually found a copy, it was at an extortionate price. That was in 2011.

10 years later I still find myself, never having played the original title. Well dear TER friends, that ends today – it can be bought on steam; on it’s own.

So welcome, to my retrospective holiday special.

A Complimentary Escape Hatch Will Open In 3… 2… 1…

You play as Chell, a silent protagonist who is a test subject for Aperture Laboratories. You wake up from your isolation pod and are instructed by GLaDOS, a dry, shade-throwing AI system, to undergo various physics based puzzles using the portal gun, an experimental tool used to create two portals through which objects can pass. As a concept, the theming is simple but still to this day, highly effective. Furthermore, it can’t be ignored that it has inspired the theming and narrative of many other games; puzzle and non-puzzle alike. We owe a lot to this.

The visuals are simple but polished, and successfully project the image of a cleansed, futuristic dystopian world. There are no other human characters to interact with, just a series of mechanisms and a sassy AI with a frenemy attitude. There were many times where I found myself chuckling away at GLaDOS’s insults via deadpan delivery as I progressed further and further.

Let’s Be Honest. Neither One Of Us Knows What That Thing Does.

Is Portal an immersive experience? I’d be inclined to say yes. Its not hugely story-rich, there isn’t any narrative to initially invest you and the character dialogue is one-sided. But the theming and puzzle-depth allow the player on many occasions to forget themselves and subconciously dive into the minimalistic elements presented.

Do Not Submerge The Device In Liquid, Even Partially

You’ve really got to hand it to Portal for their puzzles and overall innovative contributions via Valve’s physics mechanics; through the use of the famous portal gun. It blew player’s minds back then, and even now it’s still very strong in both areas. The learning curve is brilliant and wholly organic, each puzzle set piece has thematic, visual signposting (see below) to help you progress and the puzzles themselves are still impressively innovative and satisfying to complete. During the back half of the game, there are puzzles that involve the player to be dexterous with their control input. This can be frustrating for some, but because there is no penalty for trying and trying again, once you do accomplish a tricky set piece, you are rewarded not only by the accomplishment, but the visual stimuli of gracefully flying through the air in the first-person.

Quit Now And Cake Will Be Served Immediately

I’ve noticed that if a game from the 2000s is remastered/re-released for present day, it’s highly likely that the controls require some from of standardisation. This can be the ultimate difference between a playable, nostalgic dream vs an unplayable mess and waste of money. Thankfully, Portal utilises a keyboard and mouse set up that is futureproof and still allows great playability in 2021. I am disappointed however, that considering how popular and iconic this game is; gamepad compatibility has not been patched in. Especially, when I can believe that many players including myself, was introduced to the series via the sequel on a console that would use a gamepad, subsequently love the experience, and then be forced to use a different control method when playing the original.

When The Testing Is Over, You Will Be Missed

Originally, Portal was only available as part of Valve’s The Orange Box; available on PC and 7th generation consoles such as Xbox 360. Now it can be bought on steam by itself for £7.19. For that, you will get around 2 to 5 hours of game time plus bonus maps outside of the main campaign. Valve are one of the biggest game development companies out there, therefore I’d argue that this is at just about the right price.

Rating

Initially, Valve considered Portal to be merely filler for The Orange Box; unexpectedly gaining wide spread popularity and acclaim when released in 2007. Fast forward to 2021 and its still a highly playable, engrossing puzzle challenge that is poignant and comedic. It’s a shame there isn’t gamepad compatibility, but there is more than enough here for escape room enthusiasts to get stuck into, during this holiday (or any) period.

Portal can be purchased on steam here.

Inspector Waffles | Review

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Inspector Waffles Review | A detective story reminiscent of the old school classics, Inspector Waffles provides plenty of peculiar mystery, a story full of intrigue, and a slew of characters to interrogate, all wrapped into beautifully simple pixel-art. Will you be able to sniff out every clue and nab the murderer?

Developer: Goloso Games
Console Played On: Steam
Number of Players: 1

Do you like cats and dogs? Check ✅

Do you like associated puns and dad jokes of said cats and dogs? Check ✅

Do you yearn for the return of teletext and ceefax? Check ✅

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

Before Any Gameplay Has Begun…

I’d like to commend Goloso Games for providing a significant element of differentiation. Right after you click on new game, you have the choice to play with or without yellow, highlighted dialogue text to signify clues. If you’re feeling smart, maybe go without the highlights? Can’t decide? Don’t worry; you can toggle your decision in the options menu as and when you please. It’s little features like this, that can really encourage players to continue their journey, should the learning curve be too steep at any given point.

On The Scene And Looking Like A Stray Cat As Usual…

In Inspector Waffles you play said title character, who has just arrived on the scene of a murder. Specifically, Fluffy the cat; CEO of Box Furniture (their main seller being cardboard boxes; which every cat in the game professes to loving them). Task one is to find out what happened at the crime scene and the story unfolds from there…

Goloso games is made up of one developer, Yann Margan (alongside a few friends in the credits for testing, amongst other roles). How this game has been made by such a small team is incredibly impressive. The visuals for example, are a feast for my 30-something eyes (age, not amount!); an attractive, colourful, pixel-fest harking back to my days of playing Bamboozle!

The music is a treat too. It flows seamlessly when moving from one scene to another. Each scene or place has it’s own theme that augments the gameplay. There were times when pondering upon a conundrum, I was thankful for the background audio keeping me immersed.

Most notably, Inspector Waffles is a genuinely funny game. The script is full of great jokes and observations of cats and dogs in real life. There’s even a cat that looks suspiciously like Donald Trump called Maple; an obvious commentary on the former president’s skin tone!

All of these elements combined, really drive the theming towards premium territory.

Chilling On A Beach, Sipping On A Pina Colada…

As you’re reading this from a site called The Escape Roomer, all reviews have to be considered from the point of view of escape room enthusiasts. First off let me be clear. The puzzles are good, in some cases very good and very satisfying to solve; particularly the interrogation\clue presentation set pieces. The core game loop however is quite repetitive. This might put escape room fans out, who are looking for their usual fix of puzzle variance.

Another factor to consider is the amount of searching done by the player throughout the game. There is a lot of it and search fatigue may kick in. In a few cases, particularly during the final third of the game, some items blend into the background a little too well, feeling a little unfair for the player. That being said, the puzzles on the whole whilst sticking to the core game loop, are still exciting and fun to do.

I’m Not Asking My Mother For Help, Patches

Let’s talk about the hints system; it’s not often I’m this excited about one! The system manages to successfully put further positive aspects on the immersion and the overall fun of the gameplay. If you get stuck you can call Waffles’s Mum. Mum is a former inspector who was this ace solver. Waffles is initially not keen to call her. This is probably because she likes to playfully embarrass him (in the most Mum way) before she actually helps him. The help is presented with a direct clue towards what you need to do next. A useful and highly charming hint mechanic overall.

WE ARE THE LIONS!

Have I mentioned that Inspector Waffles is a genuinely funny game? Warning, it is rife with dad jokes. As a dad myself, I found these to be hilarious and excellent comic relief from some of the more difficult puzzle set pieces. The references to cat (and dog) lifestyles throughout the game (eg: the main victim’s job role and a dog named Pavlov) are also rewarding to experience.

Gimmie… That… Coin…

Inspector Waffles is priced at around the £12 mark for all consoles. For that, you get a main campaign that will last around 4-8 hours. There is also an optional side mission that changes the ending of the game, depending on whether you complete it in it’s entirety. If you’re like me however and did not finish it, you’ll be disappointed to know that there is no way to complete the optional side mission without starting the game right from the beginning. I know completionists won’t care and do it anyways, but it didn’t motivate me enough to play through the entire game again; knowing what is going to happen for the sake of an optional side mission.

Aside from that, and considering Inspector Waffles was made (mostly) by a lone developer, what you receive for your money is well worth it.

For The Focussed Feline Or The Crazed Canine?

Because of the differentiation mentioned at the beginning of this review, alongside a well-crafted learning curve; I’d recommend this game to inexperienced and experienced puzzlers. There is enough for the inexperienced, to be motivated all the way with the form of motherly hints and yellow highlighted text. Whereas for the experienced/hardened, they can refuse to utilise them for street cred points and local bragging rights…
(wow, I’m such a dad….).

One thing to mention control-wise, is that there is no gamepad compatibility on steam. This is a minor criticism however, as the mouse controls work perfectly fine. But it is something the developer may consider adding, in any future updates; increasing their already robust, differentiation factor.

Ratings

This is certainly one of the strongest games I have reviewed this year. Outstanding theming, visuals and a heavy emphasis on fun and player inclusiveness, have created an engrossing and entertaining game in Inspector Waffles. Black Friday isn’t far away either, and if it does appear in the sale (or even if it doesn’t), there are all kinds of reasons to play this gem.

Inspector Waffles can be played on Steam, support the developer here.

Hermitage: Strange Case Files | Review

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Hermitage: Strange Case Files Review | This gripping paranormal horror adventure revolves around Hermitage, the sinister bookstore that attracts most unusual customers – all of whom seem to be involved in mysterious cases bordering on the paranormal.

Developer: Arrowitz
Console Played On: PC
Time Taken: 20+ Hours
Difficulty: Medium
Number Of Players: 1

Hermitage: Strange Case Files is a really unusual game to review here on The Escape Roomer, and for this review we have to put on our “detective” hat rather than “escape room hat”. Of course, there’s a big argument to say that they’re both very transferrable skills. But Hermitage: Strange Case Files, although an interesting game, is definitely more suitable for an audience who enjoy length murder mystery novels.

In the words of my co-writer Russ, who normally reviews video games:

Do you like lengthy detective novels?

Do you prefer to deduce than solve puzzles?

Are you interested in the paranormal?

If so, then this game might be for you.

Welcome to the Hermitage Book Shop

The story centres around the Hermitage Book Shop, it’s owner who never leaves, and the curious customers who visit. Broken up into several chapters, each chapter offers a new case to investigate. Along the way you acquire more books that hint at the occult, Lovecraftian world beyond the book shop’s front door…. Absolutely magical!

The elephant in the room is that this game is well over 30 hours if you want to complete the whole thing. It’s not a puzzle game sprint, it’s a narrative marathon.Thankfully the game helps you out by highlighting the most important parts – the clues – in red which you can add to your notebook. But even with this, buckle in because you’re in for a long game!

Inbetween the dialogue, we get to the juicier part of the game: the investigation! Whether looking online for clues, communicating with characters via your phone or, you guessed it, checking in the books – this game is all about solving a series of mysterious cases. As the game unfolds we also learn more about the manager, and the owner of the shop.

There is also an element of choose-your-own-adventure to this story. Occasionally different dialogue options will be presented that change the way the case, or even the whole game pans out, which is an interesting addition too. Choose badly and you’ll get a bad ending, but save regularly and you can always go back and replay segments if you wish to try again.

The Artwork

Story aside, my favourite thing about Hermitage Case Files was without a doubt the moody artwork and atmosphere. For a visual novel, this game is *chef’s kiss* The art style is similar to an anime film, or manga book, yet it still evokes a beautiful feeling of noir dark academia. There’s something really wonderful about working in a dusty old book shop filled with otherworldly books and each new character that joined the story expanded the rich world even further. There was something a little Studio Ghibli about the game that I can’t quite put my finger on, but I loved it.

The Verdict

Overall, it’s a really hard game to judge. In conclusion, I did personally enjoy this game but we (since a few of The Escape Roomer team played parts of Hermitage: Strange Case Files) struggle to recommend this to your average escape room audience. Like a lengthy detective novel, this game will last a long time and take players through thousands of lines of dialogue before the end credits roll. If that’s something you enjoy, then give it a go! But if you’re expecting more puzzle solving, then this game might not be for you.

Hermitage: Strange Case Files can be played on Steam, PlayStation, Xbox, Switch, iOS, Android.

Ratings

Between Time: Escape Room | Review

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

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

Do you aspire to time travel? Check ✅

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

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

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

We’ve Been Here Before…

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

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

BRB Changing My Name To Richard O’Brien…

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

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

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

Am I Doing This Right?

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

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

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

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

Take Control Of Your Journey

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

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

An Ending Kubrick May Well Be Proud Of

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

So…

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

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

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

Trading Treasures In Time

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

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

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

Ratings

The Eyes Of Ara | Review

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

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

Do you like abandoned castles? Check ✅

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

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

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

One Man Did It Alone… 

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

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

Take Me Back… 

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

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

I had the same desktop background on my Windows 95!

A Puzzling Affair! 

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

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

A Bonus Or A Burden? 

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

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

A galaxy’s worth of puzzles await…

Just Point… And Click… 

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

How Much Guv’nor? 

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

This poster has serious Mairi vibes….

For The Apprentice Or Master Technician? 

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

Rating

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

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

The Best Puzzle Game & Escape Room Video Game Deals in the Steam Summer Sale 2021

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The Steam Summer Sale is one of the largest annual PC Gaming events and this year it takes place from the 24th June to the 8th July! As well as hugely popular titles such as Destiny, Borderlands and Tabletop Simulator receiving discounts – it’s also the perfect time to bag yourself that puzzle or escape room game you’ve had on your list for years.

Yeah… You know the one!

Steam Sale discounts typically range anywhere from 30% off to 95% off. So… Without further adieu, here is a round up of my top picks and best discounts on escape room style games I’ve found this Steam Summer Sale.

Prices are listed in GBP £ but the discounts are usually the same internationally – so be sure to check your local currency!

 

I want to do an escape room, but make it digital…

You enjoy escape rooms and maybe you’re new to PC gaming but you want to see what they’d be like in a video game setting? No gimmicks, no tricky controls, these are some classic escape room style games!

THE ROOM | 75% OFF

A mysterious invitation leads to the attic of an abandoned house. In the room is a cast-iron safe laced with strange carvings and on top, a note from your distant companion. It promises something ancient and astonishing concealed in the iron chamber – you need only find a way in.

Read Our Review

New Price: £0.99

 

 

PALINDROME SYNDROME | 40% OFF

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

New Price: £4.31

 

ZERO ESCAPE : THE NONARY GAMES | 60% OFF

Kidnapped and taken to an unfamiliar location, nine people find themselves forced to participate in a diabolical Nonary Game by an enigmatic mastermind called Zero. Why were they there? Why were they chosen to put their lives on the line? And more importantly, who can be trusted?

New Price: £9.51

 

TESTED ON HUMANS: ESCAPE ROOM | 30% OFF

You are the test subject. In this dark environment escape room, you have to solve various puzzles to escape from the research center where you are trapped. Can you find out how you got there and escape???

New Price: £5.95

 

RUSTY LAKE (BUNDLE) | 58% OFF

Are you ready to serve the guests in the Rusty Lake Hotel? Solve all mysteries in this dark and eerie puzzle game. Rusty Lake Hotel is a point-and-click adventure by the creators of the Rusty Lake & Cube Escape series.

Read our review of Cube Escape Paradox

New Price: £6.52

 

 

MAD EXPERIMENTS: ESCAPE ROOM | 30% OFF

Mad Experiments: Escape Room is a multiplayer narrative escape game made for advanced players. Alone or with teammates, you have 60 minutes to explore, solve, and escape!

New Price: £7.97

 

TIN CAN: ESCAPE POD SIMULATOR | 34% OFF

You’ve barely managed to escape your exploding spaceship. Now in an old escape pod, you hurtle through space at the mercy of the cosmos. With no knowledge of the pod’s complex systems, your life depends on a technical manual and your own wits. How long can you survive?

New Price: £7.51

 

AGENT A: A PUZZLE IN DIGUISE | 90% OFF

A suave secret agent adventure game. Your mission (should you choose to accept) is to infiltrate enemy spy Ruby La Rouge’s secret hideaway and put a stop to her evil plans!

Read our review

New Price: £1.54

 

THE HOUSE OF DA VINCI | 70% OFF

Enter The House of Da Vinci, a new must-try 3D puzzle adventure game. Solve mechanical puzzles, discover hidden objects, escape from rooms and dive into the authentic atmosphere of the Renaissance. Use all your wits to find out what’s behind your master’s disappearance.

New Price: £4.49

 


 

I want to play with a friend…

Are there 2 of you? These 2 player escape room games are also available in the Steam Summer Sale – check it out!

 

TICK TOCK A TALE FOR TWO | 50% OFF

You and your friend are trapped in a mystical world. As time ebbs away you must solve increasingly complex puzzles to escape. Cooperation is key as neither of you have the full picture! Play on two devices, local or remotely, all you need is a voice connection.

Read our review

New Price: £2.49

 

WE WERE HERE TOGETHER | 50% OFF

As we explore these frozen wastes, misfortune strikes once again. Through the fierce blizzard, a flare lights the sky, followed by a cry for help over the radio – broken, dying… No one else can come to their rescue. Can we make it back – together?

New Price: £5.14

 

 


 

The classic puzzle games…

You like the classics! You’ve PROBABLY already played one of these – or at least heard countless people talking about them. Well heck! There no better time than the present to invest in them on PC!

THE WITNESS | 75% OFF

You wake up, alone, on a strange island full of puzzles that will challenge and surprise you. You don’t remember who you are, and you don’t remember how you got here, but there’s one thing you can do: explore the island in hope of discovering clues, regaining your memory, and somehow finding your way home.

New Price: £7.49

 

REALMYST | 60% OFF

It’s been 20 years since Myst became your world, and there’s never been a better time to revisit the Ages. This newly refreshed and rebuilt version of realMyst is all-things Myst, but amazingly more real. You can explore anywhere, unfettered, and in realtime! Pick your own path through the forest on Myst Island. Listen to the crickets as the sun sets in the Channelwood Age. Relax in the falling leaves in the Selenitic Age. Spin around for a full panoramic tour of Sirrus’ throne room. Seek shelter from the thunderstorm in Stoneship Age.

Read our review

New Price: £5.19

 

RETURN OF THE OBRA DINN | 25% OFF

Lost at sea 1803 ~ The good ship Obra Dinn.

New Price: £11.61

 

THE TALOS PRINCIPLE | 85% OFF

As if awakening from a deep sleep, you find yourself in a strange, contradictory world of ancient ruins and advanced technology. Tasked by your creator with solving a series of increasingly complex puzzles, you must decide whether to have faith or to ask the difficult questions: Who are you? What is your purpose? And what are you going to do about it?

New Price: £4.49

 

GOROGOA | 70%

Winner of Debut Game at the 2018 BAFTA Games Awards, as well as Best Mobile Game and the Innovation Award at the GDC 2018 Choice Awards, Gorogoa is an elegant evolution of the puzzle genre, told through a beautifully hand-drawn story designed and illustrated by Jason Roberts.

Current Price: £3.41

 


 

Actually, I want to solve crime instead…

For all the armchair detectives and budding sleuths, here are some of my top picks which involve detective puzzles. Actually there are thousands more on Steam, but I personally recommend the following:

HEAVY RAIN | 50% OFF

Experience a gripping psychological thriller filled with innumerable twists and turns. The hunt is on for a murderer known only as the Origami Killer. Four characters, each following their own leads, must take part in a desperate attempt to prevent the killer from claiming a new victim.

New Price: £7.99

 

LA NOIRE | 70% OFF

Amid the post-war boom of Hollywood’s Golden Age, Cole Phelps is an LAPD detective thrown headfirst into a city drowning in its own success. Corruption is rampant, the drug trade is exploding, and murder rates are at an all-time high. In his fight to climb the ranks and do what’s right, Phelps must unravel the truth behind a string of arson attacks, racketeering conspiracies and brutal murders, battling the L.A. underworld and even members of his own department to uncover a secret that could shake the city to its rotten core.

New Price: £5.39

 

CYBER MANHUNT | 20% OFF

Cyber Manhunt is a story-oriented puzzle game focusing on big data, hacking, citizen privacy, and social workers. It focuses on social issues such as cyber violence and privacy breaches.

New Price: £6.39

 

THIMBLEWEED PARK | 50% OFF

In Thimbleweed Park, a dead body is the least of your problems. Switch between five playable characters to uncover the surreal secrets of this strange town in a modern mystery adventure game from the creators of Monkey Island and Maniac Mansion. The deeper you go, the weirder it gets.

New Price: £7.49

 

HER STORY | 75% OFF

A woman is interviewed seven times by the police. Search the video database and explore hundreds of authentic clips to discover her story in this groundbreaking and award winning narrative game.

Current Price: £1.79

 

TALES OF THE NEON SEA | 70%

Welcome to a world of intrigue and suspicion. Where humans and robots contend with escalating tensions and mutual distrust. And where gangster felines scheme their way to the top of the food chain. Welcome to the Tales of the Neon Sea!

New Price: £4.04

 

 


 

I have a VR Headset, what should I check out?

Oooh! Lucky! OK so this opens up a whole world of possibility, here are some unmissable titles:

I EXPECT YOU TO DIE | 50% OFF

Play as a secret agent armed with telekinetic abilities on a mission to stop Zoraxis, a nefarious global weapons and pharmaceutical corporation.

New Price: £5.49

 

THE ROOM VR: A DARK MATTER | 33% OFF

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.

New Price: £16.74

 

ABODE | 50% OFF

Abode is an escape room puzzle game. You will have to find, combine and utilize tools and furniture in the room to unveil all its secrets.

New Price: £3.49

 


 

Less puzzles, more story!

You’ve solved the puzzles, now for a bit of gold old fashioned mystery! Explore these worlds, and uncover secrets at a leisurely pace.

WHAT REMAINDS OF EDITH FINCH | 65% OFF

What Remains of Edith Finch is a collection of strange tales about a family in Washington state. As Edith, you’ll explore the colossal Finch house, searching for stories as she explores her family history and tries to figure out why she’s the last one in her family left alive.

New Price: £5.24

NIGHT IN THE WOODS | 50% OFF

College dropout Mae Borowski returns home to the crumbling former mining town of Possum Springs seeking to resume her aimless former life and reconnect with the friends she left behind. But things aren’t the same. Home seems different now and her friends have grown and changed. Leaves are falling and the wind is growing colder. Strange things are happening as the light fades.

Read our review

New Price: £7.49

 

GONE HOME | 60% OFF

June 7th, 1995. 1:15 AM. You arrive home after a year abroad. You expect your family to greet you, but the house is empty. Something’s not right. Where is everyone? And what’s happened here? Unravel the mystery for yourself in Gone Home, a story exploration game from The Fullbright Company.

New Price: £4.35

 

 

FIREWATCH | 75% OFF

Firewatch is a single-player first-person mystery set in the Wyoming wilderness, where your only emotional lifeline is the person on the other end of a handheld radio.

New Price: £3.74

 


 

That was a bit deep, something more lighthearted please…

Okay, okay. Here are the funnies. Great picks for when you want to take a break from saving the world, solving crime, and escaping from locked rooms:

THE STANLEY PARABLE | 50% OFF

The Stanley Parable is a first person exploration game. You will play as Stanley, and you will not play as Stanley. You will follow a story, you will not follow a story. You will have a choice, you will have no choice. The game will end, the game will never end.

New Price: £4.99

 

 

DUDE, WHERE IS MY BEER? | 25% OFF

An old school point and click adventure game about finding a pilsner in the confusing world of unnecessary craft beers and snobby hipsters.

New Price: £8.54

JAZZPUNK | 75% OFF

Jazzpunk is a comedy adventure set in an alternate reality Cold War World, plagued with corporate espionage, CyberCrime, and sentient martinis. Gameplay is inspired by spoof comedy films and cartoons of yesteryear, with a focus on weird gadgets, exotic locales, and open-world style exploration.

New Price: £2.74

 

 

Surprise Me!

I’ve not played any of these yet, but they seem like really interesting concepts. They’re definitely on my to-buy list this year. Why not give them a go too and let me know what you think?

 

HYPNOSPACE OUTLAW | 35% OFF

Hypnospace Outlaw is a ’90s internet simulator in which you scour Hypnospace’s wide variety of weird and wonderful websites to hunt down wrongdoers, while also keeping an eye on your inbox, avoiding viruses and adware, and downloading a plethora of apps that may or may not be useful.

Current Price: £10.06

 

HACKNET | 80% OFF

Hacknet is an immersive, terminal-based hacking simulator for PC. Dive down a rabbit hoIe as you follow the instructions of a recently deceased hacker, whose death may not have been the accident the media reports.

New Price: £1.43

 

UNHEARD | 50% OFF

What if you could hear every word spoken at the scene of a crime? “Acoustic Detectives” wanted for testing our new device! Return aurally to crime scenes and use the voices you hear to identify potential suspects and solve the mysteries. What is it that’s connecting these seemingly unrelated cases?

New Price: £2.54

 

INFRA | 70% OFF

INFRA puts you into the boots of a structural analyst on a routine mission. Quickly though, your task turns into a fight for survival, all caused by deep-rooted schemes of the past. Your tools are simple: your camera and the wits to navigate a labyrinth of debris.

New Price: £7.13

 


 

Well, that’s a wrap! Did I miss any? Are you filled with anger that I didn’t include your favourite game – or worse, included a terrible game? Come fight me (not really) on Twitter or Instagram or by email at mairi@theescaperoomer.com

 

This article contains NO affiliate links and is based off the research and opinion of the author, Mairi.

10 Escape Room Video Games you can play for FREE during the Steam Game Festival 2021

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So here’s a bit of a life update for everyone who didn’t ask for it – in 2020 I transitioned away from working in the escape room industry into the video game industry. Does this mean this blog is now about videogames? Nahhh. Far from it. All it means is that my horizons have been broadened- no, that’s not right… More like they’ve been totally blown open with all the amazing ‘escape room’ video games I’ve been exposed to lately.

One thing I’m extra excited to talk about on The Escape Roomer is the Steam Game Festival. Why? It is absolutely PACKED with escape room games this year. The best part? Since this festival is the developer’s chance to put their best foot forward and showcase their games, you can play most of them for free.

The Steam Game Festival runs from the 3rd – 9th February and showcases a whole range of games from different genres (my company’s own game is there under ‘Racing’ – keep an eye out for Drive Buy!) If you spot any games you like the look of, you’ll be able to watch live streams with the creators, add to your wishlist for news, and in most cases – download a demo version of the game! Pretty much all you need to play them is a PC, and not even a particularly good one at that.

So without further adieu, here are my top 10 picks of Game Festival games for the escape room connoisseur:

 

Tested on Humans: Escape Room | mc2Games

You are the test subject. In this escape room with a dark setting, you will have to escape from the research center where you are trapped, by solving different puzzles. Will you be able to discover how did you get there and escape?

This game is a total classic in every sense of the world. A mysterious research center… Weird and wonderful puzzles… A chilling back story? Yep, it’s got pretty much everything you could possibly want from an escape room game. From just moments into the trailer I can already spot a whole host of tantalising puzzles. Are those secret button panels?Unusual light fixtures? Objects locked inside cages? I reckon if you’ve only got time to download one escape room game from the Steam Game Festival, give this one a go!

Download the Demo

 

Lacuna – A Sci-Fi Noir Adventure | DigiTales

A murder. A hack. A bombing. All it takes to plunge the solar system into war – unless you do something about it. Help CDI agent Neil Conrad make a string of increasingly difficult decisions in this modern dialog-driven adventure set in a gorgeous 2D sci-fi noir universe.I look up at the stars one last time before they disappear. They don’t provide any guidance. They don’t give a f*ck.

A “sci-fi”, “noir”, “detective” adventure?! SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY. What really draws me to this game is the moody 2D pixel art. This one is all story, all puzzle and has already bagged itself a bunch of awards. Sure, you’re probably thinking it’s not exactly an ‘escape room’ experience, but I can’t help but find myself drawn to this adventure. Escape room or not, it scratches the itch and I cannot wait to leap into the mystery and solve crimes. 2D pixel crimes. Heck yeah!

Download the Demo

 

Escape Simulator | Pine Studio

Escape Simulator is a next-gen escape room experience: pick up and examine everything, move furniture, smash pots and melt locks! Play solo or with a friend to solve cryptic puzzles and riddles. Remember to vote for the next location every month. ESCAPE SIMULATOR is a platform for immersive escape rooms. You can pick up and examine every object, drag furniture, smash vases and glass, burn things, melt locks – all of this in the interest of solving challenging (and fun!) puzzles.

Not a lot is known about Escape Simulator so far but it’s one to watch this 2021! Launching with 15 rooms to play – each in their own interesting looking environment, Escape Simulator takes the escape room experience to it’s logical conclusion. With local co-op multiplayer, there’s room for your whole team too. Since the start of the festival, they’ve made Escape Simulator free to demo and I can’t wait to get stuck in!

Download the Demo

 

Ghost on the Shore | like Charlie

An exploration game about emotional ties that transcend even death. Riley is faced with a headstrong ghost, urging her on an adventure across atmospheric shores, uncovering the island’s tragic secret. Choices in dialogue shape the bond between the two, ultimately deciding Riley’s fate.

With multiple endings and a super rich environment to explore, this one is visually (and narratively) quite ‘wow’! You play as Riley, wandering a lonely island trying to solve a mysterious death, retracing steps backwards in the sand and uncovering more than just the history. Whilst the Steam page doesn’t mention any puzzles explicitly, I always enjoy a game where there’s a mystery to be solved and items to find. Ghost on the Shore looks like a good’un.

Download the Demo

 

The Darkside Detective: A Fumble in the Dark | Spooky Doorway

Delouse your room with sage and pack up your travel-sized ouija board, it’s time to re-enter Twin Lakes – America’s 34th most haunted city. Join Detective McQueen as he puzzles his way through 6 chilling cases, risking life and pixelated limb to solve the macabre mysteries that plague the poor town.

You had me at “1 mail-in rebate per customer on exorcism services for hauntings resulting from play”. This game’s got humour AND style. It’s a point and click puzzle, adventure and exploration game that’ll have you travelling to a whole manner of spooky locations. Think of it like your favourite Scooby-Doo episode, but in 8-bit.

Download the Demo

 

Operation: Tango | Clever Plays

IT TAKES TWO to save the world in this Asymmetrical Spy Thriller. Pair up with a friend as a special agent or elite hacker, and work together to bring a high-tech global menace to its knees.

I love this! I’m getting real “Tick Tock: A Tale for Two” vibe from Operation: Tango as the crux of the whole experience is you need 2 players to complete the game. One player takes on the role of AGENT and the other HACKER. You’ll both have a totally different perspective and puzzles that require two heads than one. It’s a smart idea but I think Clever Plays might just have nailed it.

Download the Demo

 

Nine Noir Lives | Silvermode Studios

Stretch your legs, clean your whiskers, and dive into Nine Noir Lives. Enjoy a “point-and-lick” comedy-noir adventure, full of humour, crazy characters, and intriguing locations. Solve challenging puzzles and answer the immortal question: how many things need to be licked to solve a murder in this town? Welcome to Meow Meow Furrington, capital city of cats, home of the world’s biggest ball of yarn…and hotbed of crime. You are Cuddles Nutterbutter, feline private investigator and owner of two perfectly normal-sized paws, the doctor said so.

I’m not a cat person, but I’ve never wanted to be Cuddles Nutterbutter more than anything else in my life right now. Plus, I’ve seen a LOT of people VERY excited about this game which is always a great sign! It’s another classic point and click detective story on this list but the twist here is that Nine Noir Lives finally answers the question that’s been nagging at me a while now: how many things need to be licked to solve a murder in this town? Since I can’t go around licking real life escape room surfaces (thanks pandemic), this game’ll do the trick.

Download the Demo

 

Dr Livingstone, I Presume? | Vulpesoft

A letter from the messenger in which your friend Dr Livingstone asks for help makes you turn back to Ujiji. After crossing the threshold of the house, you immediately realize that something has changed. Explore a mysterious building full of locked doors and face puzzles to find it.

A self-prescribed ‘inverted escape room’ – rather than escaping, you’re called to the mysterious home of your friend Dr. Livingstone only to discover something is very wrong. You must search for clues, unlock locked doors, peer inside cabinets, finds items and solve puzzles in order to unravel the mystery. It’s also completely embedded in history which is awesome. You learn about the tumultuous period of European colonisation in Africa. I enjoy a history lesson with my escape room. This means I can skip school and play this game instead, right?!

Download the Demo

 

Kathy Rain: Director’s Cut | Clifftop Games

Award-winning adventure Kathy Rain returns in the Director’s Cut, featuring an extended story with more puzzles to solve and new areas to explore. Witness the rise of an iconic detective as you uncover a dark and sinister truth hiding behind the calm exterior of a small rural town.

The directors cut, in order words a more expanded version of the original. But why am I so intrigued? It has more PUZZLES TO SOLVE. *smashes download button*. Kathy Rain has won a LOT of awards, and I’m super pleased to see a Directors Cut making a return in the Steam Game Festival 2021. With it’s female protagonist and atmospheric artwork, this one is guaranteed hours of excitement.

Download the Demo

 

Tiny Room Stories: Town Mystery | Kiary Games

Find the answers of town mystery in the game with escape the room mechanics. You are a private detective. After receiving a letter from your father, asking for help, you go to the small town of Redcliff. The city is completely empty. Where have all the inhabitants gone? What happened to your father? This is what you have to find out. Explore the city, find clues, solve puzzles, open locks to advance your investigation. The game is a mixture of escape the room and classic quests.

With simple graphics, this one puts all it’s focus on a rich story and engaging puzzles. Another aspect of the gameplay which is unique to Tiny Room Stories is the ability to rotate the location 360 degrees – want to search behind the house, in the bins, or sneak a look underneath? Well go on and *gameshow host voice* SPIN THE WHEEL! It’s overall a really nice concept, and although I haven’t yet played this one despite it also being available on mobile – I’m sure it’ll be a hit for beginner and veteran escape roomers alike!

Download the Demo

 

P.S. After posting this article I spotted another FANTASTIC game that absolutely had to make the cut.

Slender Threads

Slender Threads is a point-and-click thriller adventure where unseen forces bind the fate of an unremarkable traveling salesman to the peculiar town he one day arrives in.

Download the Demo

 


 

With that, I conclude my list! This was a really exciting one to pull together and even though the Steam Game Festival only runs for 1 week, you can bet I’ll be doing my best to play each and every one of these before the time is up.

Don’t forget, if you enjoy a game please please ‘add it to your wishlist’ because it really helps small developers be found in Steam.

Have fun and escape that room!