Massive genre review: Room Escape Games

My reviews here are usually about single products/ items, but today I would like to share with you one of my passions in life (ok, maybe that’s too strong a word; but it’s definitely one of my interests): room escape games! 

What it is

Escape games, which came from a genre of “point-and-click” games, is a type of browser games (usually made by Flash) which requires the player to escape from an environment (when the environment is a room then it becomes a “room escape game”) using the clues and tools hidden in the scene (or scenes).  The games may or may not come with a storyline, but usually involves the protagonist (“me”) trapped in an environment due to whatever reason.  The aim of the game is simple: to get out.  Some of the games come with elaborate introductions, cut-scenes and endings (like the wonderfully complex “Trapped”), but this doesn’t really change the gameplay.  What you have to do is simple in theory: find items, use them (or combine them for using), find clues, get out. 

A very short history

In room escape games, your aim is to exit the room.  In some other escape games, you have to escape more than that, so it’s like many room escape games combined into one (think “The Doors”).  The first escape game ever invented is probably MOTAS (which stands for “Mystery of Time and Space”), released in 2001.  It may be the first of its kind, but it’s not the easiest.  It also has an interesting storyline which captivates the player, and which sadly many of its descendants lack.  The game which popularised the genre, however, is definitely the Japanese game “Crimson Room”, created by Fasco-CS in 2004 in the US (the Japanese version was probably around earlier though). 

Developments

In the past, when the games were not written on Flash (sorry for my lack of computer knowledge), you could press the TAB button to find out all the suspicious bits in the room.  This was considered cheating but it was very helpful for players who could not escape the room.  Nowadays, much more sophisticated programming means that TAB buttons no longer work, and players will have to resort to user-generated walkthroughs for cheating purposes.  However, these walkthroughs may not always work perfectly, as some games have randomly-generated content which changes in every game (usually safe codes, lock combinations or places where certain items are hidden).  The most user-friendly addition to many games though, in my opinion, is the “save” button, which proves extremely helpful in many of those elaborate games (completing 20 levels of MOTAS in one go is a luxury not everybody can afford). 

Elements

Elements in room escape games usually include (but are not limited to): alpha/numeric codes (which are either hidden somewhere, found on the back of photos/ paintings or deciphered from other codes), colour codes (which may be deciphered by observing colour combinations in the room, or words in books or random notes), rubbish bins (lots of goodies to be found under and inside the bins), keys (usually hidden in corners of carpets or paintings, or behind sofas and cabinets), screwdrivers (on many occasions found when “using”- opening up an umbrella/ walking stick once you collect it), and many other items which can be combined to form things you would never imagine in real life.  The games are called point-and-click games for a reason- you can click crazily at the screen and get items you never thought would appear there, then click some more to see how they can be used.

Recommendations

I have been an earnest follower of the genre ever since the MOTAS days.  Here are some of my favourites (not in any particular order, I suggest you to check them all out!):

 MOTAS

Mystery of Time and Space http://www.albartus.com/motas/

Where the genre began.  Worth playing if only for a pilgrimage purpose.  Besides, it is humorous and not too difficult, so it will give you plenty of encouragement to continue with the genre.

Crimson

Crimson Room, Viridian Room http://www.fasco-cs.com

The father of all room escape games, although the site is down at the time of writing.  Simple graphics, but sometimes that’s easier for gameplay. 

Neutral

Escape games by Neutral http://neutralxe.net/esc/

Pretty and soft graphics, pleasant gameplay.  I like how they have different difficulty levels for your to choose.  The games are rather puzzle/ code focused, which is good for those who enjoy IQ puzzles.

 Gotmail

Gotmail games http://www.gotmail.jp/

Dozens for very fun escape games (many with a storyline).  The site is in Japanese but you can choose English for most of the games.  My favourite is probably “JOBPICO”, which is basically a job interview/ escape and “The Daydream”, which happens in a child’s playroom.  Graphics are beautiful too.  Most of them are rendered in 3D.

Bear

Escape games by Robamimi http://robamimi.fuyu.gs/index.php

Absolutely beautiful escape games with touching storylines.  Like Neutral, their games have difficulty levels indicated, so you can choose it depending on how challenging you’re feeling up to.  I especially loved “Bear’s Life”, which has 2 endings depending on how you play the game.  The storyline brought tears to my eyes (and so do others like “Smile for me”).  Games of medium length but an awful lot of depth.

Trapped

Trapped series http://www.rabbittell.com/games/trapped_classic/part_1_white_rabbit.php

Technically speaking, this is not merely an escape game.  It’s an animated story which you walk through by escaping.  Gameplay is very different from other games, but the storyline is compelling and philosophical.  You move through a large amount of rooms and do an awful lot of things.  What can I say, it’s an amazing game.  And by the way, it’s got three parts.  Three very wonderful parts which come together to form a massive story.  So you have to start from the beginning.  How you play can possibly change your ending as well.

2keys

Escape games from 2keysgames http://www.2keysgames.com/

Fun but very annoying games.  Lots of them.  For some of the games you have to collect something like 100 pieces of jigsaw, then piece them together.  It’s fun if you have the patience, but I don’t think it has a save button.

Loom

Akarino-Arika escape games http://akarika.net/index.htm

Fun and beautiful, the games make a bit of logical sense.  The graphics are somewhere between the Neutral and Gotmail ones.  A lot of their rooms are called “Loom __”, which is odd, and which I suppose comes from the Japanese pronunciation of the letter “R”.

Night Before

The Morning After/ The Night Before http://www.mousebreaker.com/games/themorningafter/playgame#bad

You’re in a student dorm, there has been a party and you meet different people, complete different tasks while collecting things to leave the house.  Feels like you’re walking in an animated movie, lots of fun!  (But there’s some adult content involved)

… and that concludes this wordy genre review.  Hope you’re had a nice time trying out the games I recommended, and tell me which other ones you like!

Bursting with goodness- Innisfree Jeju volcanic pore clay mask

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This is a clay mask, but no ordinary clay mask.  The clay comes from volcanoes in Jeju Island in Korea, which is a scenic place with funky looking stone people (Google it for yourself.  I visited the place almost 20 years ago and I still remember the live octopus that we ate… anyway.  Enough of this.), or so I’m told by the packaging of this mask.  The tub looks kind of little but actually holds 100mL of product. 

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Judging from the appearance, it’s quite similar to most of the clay masks I have tried- slightly greyish tone, in a paste, slightly watery looking but undoubtedly will dry to a cracking texture.  But alas, I was wrong.

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The first thing that struck me when I first put it on was how smooth it is.  You’d think that volcanic clay would be slightly gritty, but it isn’t.  It feels really smooth and pleasant on.  It also doesn’t dry into a cracking mess.  I have used it several times, sometimes in a thin layer and sometimes I just slather it on.  It does dry up slightly but won’t overly draw water from the face.  It’s also easy to wash off.  All you need is a wet washcloth to wipe your face, and it comes off easily.  Finish off with water, and it doesn’t leave your face tingling and dry.  It does, however, draw out minor impurities.  I feel that my blackheads come out more easily after using this mask.

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And here’s the Korean written on the tub, for those of you who can read Korean (I can’t)!  For the price I paid ($110 HKD, which is about $14 USD), I think the mask is good value for the money.  Although it is a bit hard to scoop it out from a tub, I don’t mind using a spatula (or fingers… hehe), and I’d purchase it again, in a heartbeat!

Gino’s Gelato- grown-up goodness

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This gelato shop is located in Stanley, Hong Kong.  If you’ve never been there, it a place filled with tourists and expats and also locals on weekends.  As you can see from this photo of the shop front, there are already people with 3 different hair colours : )  The shop itself is tiny, with only about 8 seats inside and a teeny table outside, but in an area like Stanley you really don’t need to sit inside a shop to have ice-cream.image

My choice this time is a double scoop of hazelnut and rich chocolate brownie.  The scoops are quite expensive, but considering it is a touristy place, I suppose it is expected.  I don’t know whether Gino has another shop elsewhere, though (or if Gino’s a real person).

Both flavours are great.  The hazelnut is nutty but subdued- it doesn’t have the usual oily nut taste.  Instead, it tastes matte (I know matte is a colour tone, but I would say it’s a matte taste as opposed to a glossy one, if you know what I mean.  I suck at describing tastes.)  Let’s say it isn’t at all like nutella.  I feel like I can have 10 scoops of it without getting sick of the flavour.

The rich chocolate brownie lives up to its name.  It is really rich.  The chocolate gelato has a deep dark chocolate taste.  I believe it doesn’t have much added sugar since it tastes more like cocoa than chocolate.  The brownie, on the other hand, can be improved slightly.  It’s on the crumbly side, and not rich enough (doesn’t stand out against the chocolate gelato background).  Personally, I prefer a fudgy, chewy brownie in my ice-cream.  I guess a way to improve this flavour is to make either the gelato or the brownie  slighly sweeter, because now they’re too much alike, so it’s just the texture which is different.  image

And look!  Doggie gelato!  $8 (that’s HKD) gots to homeless dogs!  What a great way to market the shop, as Stanley is a famous place for dog-owners, and you can see dozens of them wandering about, having the time of their lives.  I haven’t seen the Doggie Gelato in the shop though, but I suppose it’s a good idea to keep it away from the human gelato… lemme guess, is that bacon flavoured?

So much time, so little done! Holika Holika Pig-nose Clear Black Head 3-Step Kit

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Today I’m going to review this blackhead 3-step kit from Holika Holika, which is one of the first products I tried from this Korean brand.  I got sucked into buying it because the saleslady told me this would clear blackheads much better than normal pore strips, so I figured, why not give it a try.  Did it live up to expectations?  Read on…

 

As the product name suggests, this is a 3-step system to clear blackheads off noses.  Each of the little nose masks stay on for 15 to 20 minutes a time, and you use them one after another, which means it takes a minimum of 45 minutes.  I’m not kidding you.  And that’s just the nose.  image

Step 1 is an essence-soaked mask sheet which smells a bit funny and tingles a little.  From what the saleslady today me, it is supposed to suck out the blackheads to make them easier to adhere to Step 2.  I have no way to verify what she says, as the packaging and every single word on the packet (except for the brand name) is in Korean, and I don’t read a word in the language.  So let’s pretend the beauty people know what they’re talking about.  This Step 1 took up 15 minutes of my time, but didn’t open up my pores or anything.  I can’t really tell what it did, to be honest.image

Now onto Step 2, which is basically a regular pore strip.  Nothing much to tell you, except that it doesn’t fit my nose that well.  It works like every other pore strip.  I don’t think it sucked out more blackheads than usual, even though I used Step 1 beforehand.image

The final Step 3 is a gel-like mask which is supposed to hydrate the pores and sooth (or something like that).  I can’t ascertain if it hydrated my nose, and to be honest, after 45 minutes, you just want to get the dang things off your nose.  You don’t really care anymore. 

I don’t have the end result here, but I can tell you I don’t look that much different than when I use a pore strip after washing my face.  But there’s a huge difference in the execution.  The cost of each Holika Holika pack (with 3 steps, single use) is the cost of one box of pore strips (that’s 10 uses).  In other words, for each use, you spend 10 times the money and at least 3 times the time.  I don’t mind spending that money if the result is amazing; however, the result is exactly the same.  So sadly, I don’t think I will be purchasing this product again.  The question now is what to do with the 9 remaining packs I bought…