Ah, the Orient Express, doesn't that conjure up images of mystery and intrigue? Depending upon your generation it might evoke a long forgotten glamour, a fleeing vampire, a kicking spy fight, or a dastardly murder (quick, name those novels or movies). For over 100 years the Orient Express has meant a certain luxury in train travel, the rich and famous in their fabulous clothes embarking to places exotic and far away. Orient Express Night by Tomatea is a room escape that tries to evoke that glamor and mystery at a time when they were at their height, during the '20s and '30s, when the rich and fabulous still traveled first class, but first class on the most luxurious train running.
As the game opens on the first scene in a stateroom you see immediately what set the Orient Express apart. The fabulous wood paneling, the rich appointments, everything screams first class. Hopefully though, unlike in "Murder on the Orient Express" this is not the prelude to finding a body. Maybe. The second thing you'll notice is the roaring '20s jazzy soundtrack, further evoking a long bygone era. Eventually you may even notice that you are locked into said stateroom. Now we're talking! Explore the area and solve some puzzles and you'll make it out into...well, more of the Orient Express. This is not a simple single room scenario we're talking here. More exploration may be involved.
Navigation is simple if a little tricky to get used to at first. Turning right or left will turn you completely around 180 degrees, rather than the usual 90 degree turn. Navigation bars appear at the sides and bottom of the screen as necessary to show where you can go when the cursor is hovered around. Click on items to see them in close up and a simple back bar at the bottom of the screen will return you to your original position. It's all pretty simple and intuitive. The main problem you may encounter with this navigation is the same problem you will probably have with the entire game. It is the bane of the room escapers' existence, the foul and terrible thing that strikes fear in the heart of escapers everywhere! Yes, brace yourself, pixel hunting ahead. The lack of a changing cursor can sometimes mar what is otherwise quite an enjoyable experience.
Other controls are simple and easy to master. Click on an object in your inventory to use it, pretty standard. The game even gives us a nice orange ring around the object to show that it is highlighted, which shows up fantastically against the dark background of the inventory section. Unfortunately, pulling up an item for close up is not so intuitive. When you click on an object in your inventory or even hover the cursor over it a small icon will appear in the upper right of the object. However, this little icon is pretty dark, and fades against that dark inventory background, so you might have to squint to see it. The only other control you might find is a "music" button which is handy for muting the jazz age repeating clip when it becomes annoying, probably about 3 minutes into the game. A save feature would have been nice, but is not included.
That's not to say that there's not a lot of enjoyment to be had with Orient Express Night. There's some fun object finding, some challenging puzzles, and the use of combined objects that you expect from a decent room escape. Add in the atmosphere and the visuals and you have one fun ride, destination Istanbul (or a place more enigmatic).