A Puzzling Escape?

Review by hirakula on Friday, November 18th 2016
Click to play Escape: Puzzle

Escape: Puzzle is a game created by shadoq

Hi there - this is Hirakula, with his first official published review, even though this should have come years ago, but, alas, I am lazy. Please enjoy.

‘Up-and-comer’ is the phrase that sprang to my mind as I investigated the creator of “Escape: Puzzle”, who goes by the name Shadoq. Rather than talk the talk, he’s been walking the walk when it comes to quality game-making. Honestly, it’s surprising that an apparently new member could so quickly catch on to the intricacies of Sploder’s Classic Creator, but, whatever Shadoq’s history, his slate is clean, and he’s just served up two excellent, feature-worthy titles. I’ll be reviewing the second, more recent title, “Escape: Puzzle”, which has not yet been featured, but if I were an editor, I would feature this clever and engaging puzzle game.

In his review of “Desire”, Shadoq’s earlier game, m11dsauce mentioned that the title was fanciful, but had nothing to do with the game itself. It’s funny, then, to note that Shadoq’s follow-up would have the opposite problem. The title very directly and accurately describes the game, but is forgettable and dry. This is a puzzle game, that seems to concern escaping, but any more than that is lost on me. I soon got over the boring title though, as the game quickly proved itself a challenging foe that could not be taken lightly.

Starting out, our ship’s in a dire spot. From the get-go, “Escape: Puzzle” is not nice to us players. Personally, it’s a style I adore. I like to be challenged, and Shadoq perfectly mixes together slow, thoughtful puzzles with sudden moments of action and surprise that kept me on my toes. It also took me a long time to make my way through the game, as several parts either had me stumped, or were genuinely challenging and therefore required practice.

The game starts out with a staple of puzzle games – a seemingly unescapable trap. This sets the tone well, as the game that follows is unforgiving and punishing. If you, like me, are determined to get to the end, you’ll find yourself forced to start over many many times, because you failed to quickly take advantage of a fleeting opportunity, or you were too slow and a door locked you in. But as you keep playing, the big picture starts to form, and you start the understand each section and what you need to do … If you can persevere and keep working on it.

The game reminded me in several ways of my own first featured game, Monster, because it was a classic game, that started out with players in a trap (and both games had similar solutions to the trap) and the overall design of the game was about slim corridors with obstacles and enemies placed purposefully to be as impactful as possible, so every block, hazard, or item was exactly where it needed to be. Both games also had fully white backgrounds, which I like a lot here, as it gives the game a sterile, unfriendly feel that compliments the cold-heartedness of how objects are placed – always pushing the player to the limits.

The game is difficult to describe without spoiling the delightful puzzles. Suffice to say that you should expect much trial and error, and you will be very frustrated before the end. But, as I said, I adore this style, because there’s so much reward in finally figuring out how you’re supposed to get past that STUPID HOTPOLY!

One noteworthy criticism I have, however, is that, because the game requires much starting over, getting out of the first area quickly becomes tiresome. I can guarantee no one will beat the game on their first try. The trap at the beginning is a good opening, but when you have to do it twenty times in as many minutes, it gets annoying, and made it easier to lose motivation to keep trying.

That being said, I absolutely support giving players exposure to games that require more of them. This is far from the toughest puzzle game – in fact, I think it’s perfectly balanced to give every player a solid chance of success while still demanding they try hard at it. It’s a great puzzle game that’s easy to admire but difficult to complete, especially for those not familiar with typical puzzle game tropes. But the classic joy of Sploder shooter puzzles is unbeatable, and lives on today as it did when I first started on Sploder, thanks to creators like Shadoq, who’s future works I am very much looking forward to.