Without fail, every time I find myself in a mall and pass by some slapped together, hastily assembled “escape the room” experience, I feel this unnatural draw to throw my money at it in the hopes it isn’t completely obtuse and nonsensical. Usually they are and I find myself wishing I didn’t blow nearly $30 dollars on an hour of bad puzzles. That’s where The Escaper comes in. The The Escaper takes that rinky-dink mall escape room scenario, and let’s you enjoy it from the comfort of your own home.
I usually enjoy a nice puzzle game in this vein, whether it be a series like The Room or a game like The House of Da Vinci, but unfortunately The Escaper trades in too many of the tropes that puzzle and adventure games did in the past, usually requiring some obtuse or inane solution to progress. The puzzles nor their solutions are rarely ever clever or satisfying in a way where it doesn’t feel like you’re just bashing your head against a wall until the answer comes out.
There are currently 4 rooms to escape from in The Escaper. You progress through them one by one, with the exit to a room leading to the next one. The rooms initially appear to be fairly straightforward, with you starting in some vintage study with a locked door. Escaping this room is pretty easy for the most part, but just like every room in the game, there’s at least one extremely obtuse and vague puzzle to be solved.
I initially thought that maybe I was at fault here, considering that while I love puzzle games but am notoriously terrible at them. Then I reached the second level which was a boiler room. This is where it became apparent that some puzzles are just broken. For instance, there was a keypad on a door with 8 numbers that it needed to unlock it. These numbers are found together and presented in a certain order, something to the effect of 20, 35, 40 and 60. I punched the numbers in, and got nothing. I punched them in backwards and also was met with failure. The actual solution was just randomly punching in these groups of numbers until it opened.
There was nothing in the room that indicated that the numbers had to be punched in that specific way. And that’s the biggest shortcoming with The Escaper. It’s painfully vague and expects you to engage in a lot of trial and error in each level. Sometimes the technical aspects of the game can even hinder your progress. Early on in the first level, you need to find the right time to wind a clock to so some classic adventure game nonsense can take place. The problem I ran into was that the thing you have to read to find the time was in such a low resolution that I just assumed it was just part of the scenery.
There was even an instance where I had to punch in 1 of 6 solutions to a puzzle based off some markings on a wall. The game wanted me to just try them all, but thanks to a fun graphical glitch, I was able to see that a secret compartment was behind one of the markings. Wouldn’t you know it, that was the solution to the puzzle.
But despite all of this, I still pushed through and beat the game. Despite its many shortcomings, The Escaper did scratch an itch of mine, and being priced at 4 dollars certainly helped. But unless you’re really desperate for one of these games and you don’t want to play other, and frankly better options out there, I can’t say it was worth the 2 hours it took to beat.