Hip, hip, hooray! T2B Escape 4, a new installment of one of our very favorite escape-the-room series, has just been released. It offers all the complexity, creativity and whimsy that we've come to expect, with the difficulty ramped up a generous handful of notches. This is, by no means, an easy game and probably is best suited to veteran escapers, those with at least a basic idea of how these games operate; while newer gamers are of course encouraged to play as well, some might become very frustrated, very fast. Heck, I write a column about escape games, and I was still confounded a fair number of times.
Like the three previous chapters, T2B Escape 4 places you into an odd, rather charming little room and then tasks you to escape. The graphics are very nice, minimalist enough to simulate a real room without becoming boring, and the cleanness of the interface bespeaks the professionalism of the developers. The real star of the show, however, is the multitude of intriguing and diverse puzzles that inundate the room. We've got simple puzzles, complex puzzles, puzzles that cannot be solved until the very end, puzzles that can be cracked with nothing but a little clever thinking... the number and variety are really amazing. What's even more impressive is that a few are ones that I've never encountered before. After playing enough escape games, a certain number of types of problems emerge, and about 90% of puzzles encountered will simply be variations of those themes. For that reason, the uniqueness of a number of the puzzles in T2B Escape 4 is both refreshing and exciting.
As great as this is, however, I do feel that the game has some significant (but very fixable) flaws that, if ameliorated, could substantially improve the experience. For one thing, the lack of a save feature after four games seems inexcusable. This is especially true considering how long and involved T2B Escape 4 is; playing the entire game in one sitting might be unrealistic for some, not to mention that it's dangerously easy to accidentally hit a link and be transported away from the page. My other major gripe is the amount of pixel-hunting involved. Many of the game's secrets are revealed by looking under, behind and around various objects, and it can be very difficult to find the appropriate hotspot in order to change viewpoints. This can become extremely frustrating. If the cursor could perhaps change from an arrow to a hand whenever the player moused over a usable item or hotspot, it would make a world of difference without diminishing the inherent challenge or fun of the game.
So, some advice: examine everything. Even if it seems unusable at the time, most of the room's objects come into play at one time or another. Make sure to look at the close-up view of the various items you collect, as a fair number can be combined or manipulated. Be ready to click anywhere and everywhere. And finally, have fun! The game's a challenge, to be sure, but a good one...I know that y'all are more than up to it.