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Let’s Play Freaky Friday

Let’s Play Freaky Friday

Way back circa 2001, when KeyMaster Ryan was working at YTV, he made a Maniac Mansion-inspired escape game called Freaky Friday (a couple of years before the completely unrelated Lindsay Lohan Disney remake). It’s very interesting to see the similarities between Freaky Friday and Escape the Book Club Killer! Here’s a Let’s Play video of...
Puzzle Autopsy: Submachine 1

Puzzle Autopsy: Submachine 1

It’s time to discuss another online room escape game! Here’s how Puzzle Autopsy works: go play the game or watch a walkthrough (or don’t), and then read on for a critique of the puzzles (or don’t). Where and who am I (again)? Like Crimson Room before it, 2005’s Submachine 1: The Basement by Polish developer Mateusz Skutnik kicked off a popular series in the “escape the room” genre of online games. Sticking hard and fast to the first-person escape game credo popularized years earlier by MYST, your character is an amnesiac who wakes up in a strange place, and must escape. Why? Because. Stop asking so many reasonable questions. If these games are heavily influenced by MYST, I wonder how many online escape game designers made it off the first island? By the end of the game, MYST does actually develop a story, and there’s an explanation as to why you’re there and what you’re trying to accomplish. Early escape game designers rarely added that kind of detail to their games, resulting in titles that had just a bunch of stuff to click on until a door opened to a picture of The Outside (which has a blue sky and trees … that’s how you know it’s The Outside). Submachine 1 predictably fits this mold. Crowdsourced Creative For whatever reason, enough players found the atmosphere of Submachine so compelling that they collectively invented a backstory for the game on Skutnik’s message boards, says Wikipedia. Depending on where you sit, you can either spin this as a triumph of a creator who sparked the imaginations of his group of loyal...
Puzzle Autopsy: Crimson Room

Puzzle Autopsy: Crimson Room

This is the first entry in our Puzzle Autopsy series, where we dissect the puzzle design in a video escape the room game. The game we’ll be discussing is Crimson Room by Toshimitsu Takagi, from 2004. Play the game here, and when you’re finished, come back and read the article. NOTE: Crimson Room is currently unsolvable because one of its puzzles relies on a webpage that is no longer online. I was able to finish the game using the safe combination “1994,” but I haven’t been able to repeat my success with copies of the game hosted on other sites. A Study in Scarlet Some people consider Takagi’s Crimson Room to be the forerunner of the online escape game craze from back in the aughts. These games were almost always free to play, developed with Macromedia/Adobe Flash, and playable on the myriad online game portals powered by the MochiMedia game distribution and monetization platform. To call Crimson Room the progenitor of the genre unfairly dismisses the vast wealth of computerized puzzle adventure games that came before it, which is one of the reasons why I don’t actually like online escape games. Because Flash made it easier than ever before to develop and share games, everyone was doing it, including younger first-time designers who didn’t necessarily have a pedigree of puzzling to reference. All of the puzzle games that preceded Crimson Room had slowly been working out the kinks over a trial period of decades. By 2004, there were some very concrete “Don’t Do” design decisions which, if they appeared in commercial puzzle games, would be called out immediately by...