Dawn is a wonderful time of day. The first hint of light after the darkest night, it banishes nightmares and vampires alike. Odes have been composed to it, many pagan religions anthropomorphized it into various goddesses, and quotes abound, like "It's always darkest before the dawn." But what about that period before dawn, when it is indeed the darkest hour? No light, no hope, smothering all in a blanket of black velvet. Okay, that's a bit poetic, but not a bad intro for Place of Light's latest room escape, Loom Dawn.
You begin in an absolutely dark room, and the dynamic is more about lighting the space inch by laborious inch than it is escaping the room. Look around carefully, because you might miss the tiniest glimmers of light in this stifling, gloomy space. Bit by bit you uncover small light sources, which lead to more light sources, which lead to...well, one heck of a cool game and one of the neatest fake-out endings ever. The object, you see, is not to escape so much as to turn on the lights.
Navigation is through gray bars which appear at the sides and bottom of the screen when hovered over with the cursor. Inventory (what there is of it) appears in the right hand side of the screen. Not that you will have much to carry, since most of this little gem involves pure brain-stretching, puzzle solving goodness. Unfortunately, however, there is no changing cursor to be had, so brace yourself; pixel-hunting ahead! The game is Japanese, but no knowledge of the language is needed. This is all pure logic.
The space, well... since you see so little of it, small bits here and there highlighted by faint lights, there's not a lot to say about the space, other than it is competently rendered in 3D. However, the persistent gloom definitely adds atmosphere, making you wonder, exactly what kind of room you are wandering around in. There's no music, but frankly that might be a distraction from the puzzles, and what a bunch of brain twisting puzzles are there to be had! This room escape is not for the faint of heart, nor is it something that you might clear in 5 or 10 minutes. Be prepared to spend some time, perhaps a lot of time, fumbling around in the dark. Fortunately, there's a save button if you need to take a break.
Analysis: Place of Light, creator of such classics as Loom Above and Room Fake has knocked this one right out of the park. Seriously absorbing, tricky, mind-bending, and a joy to play, Loom Dawn is one of the best room escape games to come out in a long time. Be warned, there are some wicked difficult puzzles enclosed in this elegant little room escape. Some sort of headgear or other protection might be advisable, due to the head banging that is sure to occur.
Loom Dawn may be the best of the Loom series of games, and that is saying something considering the quality of anything produced by Place of Light. Challenging, fun, mysterious, the puzzles flow from one to another in a beautiful logical procession. Most of the enjoyment is in that wonderful feeling and happy sigh as you unveil one more tiny point of light, pointing to yet another puzzle and another point of light. If there is a downside, the final reveal is a bit of a letdown. After you (spoiler!) get out of the room and go back to light everything up, it would have been nice to have a second ending, or at least a more interesting space to reveal. This is, however, a minor quibble in what is otherwise elegant, challenging casual gameplay.
Pencil and paper? Check. Tasty beverage and salty snack for endurance? Check. Thinking cap on? Check! Convenient soft surface to slam your head against? You're ready to go! Let there be light.