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About the Story
For a thief, being arrested is an occupational hazard. While you can't exactly plan out an entire escape in advance, having the right skills and tools can let you improvise one without too much trouble.
25th Place - Casual Gameplay Design Competition #7
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Number of Reviews: 3
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"Short" is a bit misleading. The walkthrough contains only 20 commands. However, the puzzles can make the game take a substantial length of time.
Generally, the puzzles are fair and since there are few objects to manipulate, a simple trial and error will begin to put you on the right track for solving most of them. However, the parser does create troubles, and since I've never programmed a game I don't know whether they are the fault of the author or of the system. (Spoiler - click to show)The big trouble comes from the verb "throw". The game recognizes "throw at" but not "throw to" and the general verb "throw" results in the pc simply dropping things. I was fortunate that I tried "throw at" immediately after "throw to", otherwise I never would have solved one of the puzzles. After encountering this trouble, I spent a heavy amount of time fussing with alternatives for "drop out" in an attempt to solve another puzzle. Such parser issues can definitely throw even a seasoned player off track.
I had to consult the walkthrough to solve one of the puzzles (Spoiler - click to show)(the puzzle of how to get the prisoner to talk to me), and although the solution is something that seasoned players might try, it's definitely not something that a first-time player would think to do. I *might* have tried it eventually, but consulted the walkthrough instead so I could get on with the rest of the game.
And upon consulting the walkthrough I discovered that there wasn't a "rest of the game". I generally don't mind short games. I just wish the game had told me in the introduction that it was short. There is nothing noteworthy about the game except for the puzzles (with the exception of the response to xyzzy). Thus, the fun of the game lies solely in solving the puzzles, and if I had known this I would have stuck with the game longer before turning to the walkthrough.
For what it is, Escape in the Dark is fine -- a low-key, almost spartan, escape-the-room type game, done with style and a hint of atmosphere. The puzzles are challenging, but not brain straining, and they all make sense. I felt the atmosphere was a bit lacking, and the ending was just kinda there -- it didn't seem the adequately reward the player for making it through.
It's short and it's better than most escape-the-room setups; serviceable is what I'd say, and that's neither a slam nor praise.
The title says it: You are in a dark cell, having been captured by guards, and must escape it.
As far as difficulty, it's not too hard. My first try I got out in about 100 moves. There were some minor nitpicks with the parser, and one of the puzzles, but not much.
(Spoiler - click to show) You pick the lock, but can't open the door, something else is holding the door shut. Part of the puzzle is learning what that is. There is another cell with a prisoner opposite you. It seems like you could just look at HIS door to see what the problem is, but the game doesn't recognise his door. Further, you can't seem to ask the other prisoner about the bolt, you need to see it yourself. You also must use "GIVE [x] to [person]" instead of "THROW [x] to [person]"
The writing is appropriate, I noticed no glaring errors.
Now the puzzle itself is beautiful. Unfortunately, because of the nature of the puzzles, I can't say too much about them without giving something away, but suffice to say it isn't quite as easy as using your lockpicks to get out. (Though lighting up the room is very easy and straightforward). The game does provide a false hint. (Spoiler - click to show) It suggests making a projectile to share items with the other prisoner, though no projectile is needed, you merely tie items up for safety and throw them, which had me wasting time trying to make a slingshot or something . I'll be fair and say I'm generally not a fan of IF escape games: I've played plenty of flash based ones that were garbage, and plenty of text ones seem to involve trite tropes or nonsensical scenarios, but this one makes even the done-to-death escape a jail cell fun.
Once you escape the cell the game ends, though the endstory makes reference to the need to get past the guards and steal horses. It would have been nice to see this part of the story (either as part of this game or as a sequel).
In conclusion, the scenario is trite, but that was the contest: a one room escape game. And the author did this one beautifully.
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