So, just what is the mystery inside the Mystery House in Japan? I guess we could ask Japanese designer Bianco Bianco to let us in on the secret of its newest escape game. Or, conversely, we could just go ahead and play. Yeah, that's probably the better option.
You begin the game in darkness. After fumbling around long enough to locate a source of light, you'll find yourself in a small room appealingly decorated in a traditional Japanese fashion. But wait...with closer scrutiny, you might notice something strange. The pattern spreading like a Rorschach blot across the double doors of the room's exit looks disconcertingly like a face, and not a human face, either. And are those handles on the doors, or are they eyes? What on earth is going on? It looks like escaping this mystery house may involve more than just finding the right key...
All mysteries aside, MHIJ's handful of puzzles are well-designed but fairly standard room escape fare, mainly involving combining items and solving codes. Nothing fancy here, but nothing illogical either. One puzzle uses Japanese characters, but another item will help you to easily decipher them and come to a solution; the other Japanese text in the room (which can be found on various objects you collect) is not crucial to completing the game. I do wish that the game was a bit longer and more substantive; veteran escapers will probably be able to finish MHIJ in 10 minutes or less. Still, what is there is quite well made (and with a fun ending!), and in my opinion a short, well-executed piece is highly preferable to a longer, mediocre game. Quality over quantity, right?
MHIJ's graphics, while hardly photorealistic, are nonetheless quite nice and professional-looking. The game doesn't have any sort of soundtrack, but in this particular case the silence meshes well with the room's spare decor and general ambience. There's no save feature, which is always a little bit irritating, but for a game this short it's not such a big deal. Navigating around the room is easy, and I only counted one instance of moderately annoying pixel-hunting (hooray!).
While not the magnum opus of the escape game genre, Mystery House in Japan is fun, quick, and indisputably well-designed, perfect for a brief break in your day. While Bianco Bianco may not be the most stunningly original designer out there, it can always be counted upon to provide a solidly constructed and entertaining experience. Enjoy!