Whenever someone reminisces about the “escape from a locked room” genre, their first thoughts are usually of the Nonary games, 999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors on Nintendo DS and its follow up, Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward on Nintendo 3DS. They were defining releases on their respective consoles, and for good reason, but they weren’t the only ones taking a bash at the genre. In the background was the Escape Trick series, which consisted of three entries all released within the space of a year in the US. Escape Trick: 35 Fateful Enigmas marks the return of the relatively uncharted franchise with a Nintendo Switch release that has once again done little to drum up any hype.
Escape Trick comes packaged with two different stories, The Escape From the Sealed Room and its sequel. The first novel details an unnamed protagonist on the search for his father, who left behind a single key upon his mysterious disappearance. Its follow-up finds the main character locked up in prison with a serious case of amnesia. With just a mobile phone and note in hand, they bump into Kei, who helps to turn the plot on its head.
The two stories appear completely unrelated at first, but as things progress, you slowly learn how they intertwine. The mystery and intrigue behind the connecting dots of the two stories is one of the clear driving forces behind the overall experience, and thankfully it’s a quality one. As separate narratives they’re fine, but some genuine surprise can be found within the links between the two. It’s nothing truly mind-blowing, but it’s more than enough to keep you pushing ahead.
The other half of this package is, of course, the act of escaping from some locked rooms. Whether you’ve been locked in there by someone else or sealed it yourself in order to find a secret the four walls are hiding, you’ll always end up behind a bolted-shut door. Carrying out your escape is done by cycling through various viewpoints throughout the room, and searching through each one of them for clues, items you can use, and objects that can be taken advantage of.
Anything of use can be stored within your inventory, which when accessed within the user interface, enables you to inspect every object with a rotation or open up items such as books to discover a possible hidden use. Certain things can also be combined to create something new, which is done via a simple drag and drop mechanic in the menu. The game actually does an excellent job of telling you when two components can be combined with the quick press of a button. This is something a lot of games seem to gloss over all too often, and so we appreciated this greatly as it’s a fairly common action you need to carry out.
Another neat little feature is the memo. This aids you in solving puzzles by taking a picture of whatever is in front of you, along with a note that can be attached to the image. The memo can only hold one photo at a time so the benefits are somewhat limited, but it comes in great use if you need to remember a code, for example, or a certain sequence that is pivotal later on in the brain teaser.
Navigating each environment is done via dragging the cursor around the screen, or making use of Nintendo Switch’s touchscreen. We opt for the latter as it makes navigating menus a much quicker task, while the simple act of just playing the game is achieved in a much faster manner. Thanks to a rather slow cursor, using the analog sticks is just an inferior way of interacting with the game.
Besides the plot, Escape Trick thrives or dies based on the quality of its puzzles. With 35 stages spread across the two campaigns, there’s clearly a lot of content here, but some levels are certainly better than others. You’ll have a fun time in the beginning, feeling like a genius as you manage to escape each room, but eventually you’ll realise that the title refuses to innovate or introduce any new mechanics towards the later stages. Because of this, the levels start to feel a little too repetitive.
Matters are made worse by some of the puzzles themselves. They can at times be a bit illogical in how they’re solved, as well as too many steps being completely baffling when you break down their sequence. We’re not entirely sure how someone is meant to figure out some of the things the title asks of you, as we had to resort to randomly trying to combine items and spamming the cursor interaction when we got stuck. It’s here where the frustration kicks in, with a further kick in the teeth coming from the fact that some of the items you pick up are completely useless when it comes to figuring out how to actually escape the room.
The graphical presentation doesn’t fare much better either. Dated visuals hold the experience back with poor texture work that honestly wouldn’t look too out of place on Nintendo Wii. With a constantly looping soundtrack in the background too, it’s fair to say your senses aren’t in for much of a good time.
Escape Trick: 35 Fateful Enigmas offers a decent puzzling experience, but its refusal to innovate or even introduce anything fresh into the game long past the halfway mark seriously dampens things. There is fun to be had here, but expect things to get repetitive and frustrating all too quickly.