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Okay, so I’ve probably talked your ear off about escape rooms over the last few weeks. But, if you’re curious like me, there’s a big reason behind everything I’ve explained so far.
I like to view the big picture.
I wanted to get to the point of speaking about these immersive adventures on a more intimate level because there are so many directions I can take when I’m able to reference my own personal experiences.
The escape room industry itself is evolving at an incredible rate and it keeps reinventing new ways to captivate audiences all over the world. Owners have greatly improved their alluring décor to increase the immersion aspect of their escape rooms. Puzzles are rapidly changing, gaining complexity and variance through integration with several forms of technology as well as creative execution.
With the rapid change of puzzle creation, it’s been a little difficult to keep up with the types of challenges you might be faced with during an escape game. Besides the actual video games that these real-life simulations are based on, there are other games that may prove just as helpful (if not more) than their clear, straightforward counterparts. The ones I’m about to mention are personal favorites of mine because they not only encompass the art of puzzle solving, but they’ve constantly taught me to think creatively and that some puzzles may have more than one solution.
When I first played Golden Sun on Game Boy Advance, I was in the 6th grade. I was very much into role-playing games (RPGs) with deep stories, having played several Dragon Warrior and Castlevania entries, and almost always felt compelled to sympathize with the respective protagonist’s cause.
I thought Camelot crafted a mesmerizing narrative with awesome music and challenging puzzles that I hadn’t seen in any game. The story of a band of young “adepts” (magic wielders) uniting to save the world from the destructive power of alchemy would’ve caught any RPG fan’s attention.
One of the best highlights of the game involved its unique puzzles, which were integrated in different settings (dungeons, caves, outdoor locales, etc.) As the Player, you are tasked with solving these puzzles by manipulating your surroundings, sometimes with the use of your elemental “psynergy,” which is short for psychic energy. Various psynergy can involve moving an object (Venus), freezing liquid water (Mercury), controlling flames (Mars), and revealing hidden truths (Jupiter).
I appreciated the use of special abilities or gadgets (outside of your own physical abilities) to creatively solve a particular puzzle. It allows you to think outside the box when coming up with a solution as well as understand the game designer’s mentality during the puzzle construction process.
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney
All rise. Court is now in session.
Though it’s not a fully accurate portrayal of law and court procedures, the Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney series is a visually captivating novel adventure, laced with witty banter and exaggerated humor. As defense attorney, Phoenix Wright, your main objective is to get a “not guilty” verdict for your clients.
The Ace Attorney series is broken down into two main phases: investigations and trials. During the investigation phase, you need to gather information by talking to various witnesses and key individuals involved in the case as well as collect evidence that could help you in exonerating your client. This evidence is especially useful during the trial phase when you need to cross-examine witnesses and answer questions from the prosecutor and judge.
Now, you’re probably wondering, ‘what does a law-style game have anything to do with escape rooms?’
I’m glad you asked.
Deducing a crime correctly shares similarities with solving a complex puzzle. You need to use various pieces of information at your disposal with logic to accurately come up with a probable solution. If your proposed solution has been ruled out, then you need to take a step back and look at the problem from a different perspective. That’s what problem solving is; considering all the options and disqualifying improbable ones.
Remember: the master sleuth, Sherlock Holmes, once said: “When you’ve eliminated the impossible, whatever remains must be the truth.”
Scribblenauts is probably the most unique game I’m mentioning on this list because it gives a lot of freedom to the Player, which is extremely rare. The game itself promotes a high engagement style of gameplay, allowing the player to (as its catchphrase suggests) “write anything, solve everything.”
Essentially, as Maxwell, you’re presented with different problems and have creative freedom to come up with solutions.
That’s right. There can be multiple solutions.
Here’s an example: I remember a puzzle that involved rescuing an injured person in less than ideal conditions. With the ability to summon any object from an encyclopedia of thousands, I inputted helicopter and rope, which actually worked.
Creative puzzle solving is something we’re hoping to incorporate in our future escape games at Brainy Actz. We want our customers to have some freedom in developing their own solutions using logic and reasoning.
Gone Home is not your typical narrative. It tells the story of protagonist, Samantha, through objects discovered by Katie (the peripheral protagonist that the Player controls). Through Katie, the Player is tasked with exploring her new house, interacting with certain objects in order to learn the whereabouts of her family.
Sounds a lot like an escape game premise to me, but more of a goal-based one than the traditional escape room.
As Katie, the Player comes home after being abroad only to discover that her family is nowhere to be found. She sees a mysterious note left by her sister on the front door. Immediately, the Player is thrust into this unfamiliar setting of Katie’s new house, interacting with objects and trying to figure out where her family went.
Over the course of the game, Samantha’s life events from the past year are revealed. She moves into a new house and attends a new school, where she is referred to as the “psycho house girl.” The Player learns that she’s having a rough time transitioning to this new life, especially when she begins to act out in school and with her parents. There are many notes scattered around the house that show hostility between Sam and her folks as well as the reveal of a budding relationship between Sam and a secret individual and, once the Player pieces together everything that’s occurred during their time away, the story culminates in a powerful, satisfying way.
The Legend of Zelda
The Legend of Zelda has been my favorite game franchise of all time ever since I was a kid.
The gameplay. The music. The story. Everything is nearly flawless.
Nintendo has stuck with a winning formula for The Legend of Zelda since its inception in 1986 and up to this year’s Breath of the Wild.
The never-ending battle of good versus evil. The rise of the hero, Link, courageously overcoming each and every obstacle thrown his way in order to save Hyrule from the brink of chaos and destruction.
Outside of its well-crafted story and stellar gameplay, fans have been captivated by The Legend of Zelda’s unique, intricate puzzles. Need to open a blocked or hidden doorway? I hope you have some bombs in your inventory. How about gaining entry to a town that outlaws men? Better learn to sneak around quietly or come up with a good disguise.
Similar to the Golden Sun series, The Legend of Zelda games combine Link’s physical and special abilities (with use of certain weapons and artifacts) and allows the Player to manipulate their surroundings in order to solve a particular puzzle. The biggest difference that sets these two puzzle-rich games apart is that, at times, Link must think on his feet, especially when faced with an imminent threat that could mean life or death. Golden Sun, on the other hand, usually induces puzzle solving in situations with mild to no immediate danger.
Although, escape game players don’t get to manipulate an escape room’s setting or use special powers to come up with solutions, just the thought of somehow incorporating the idea in the future is exciting and I believe it would engage players on a whole ‘nother level. The whole point is to keep developing new puzzle concepts so that the escape room experience remains fresh and relevant in this new era of fun activities.
What has been your experiences playing these games? What other ones do you think should be mentioned? Share your thoughts below.