There are often questions (or complaints) about the fact that we tend to stick with certain game designers for Weekday Escape. While we are always looking for something new, it is true that we go back to certain designers again and again for our room escaping pleasure. The reasons for this are two-fold: (1) Most of the designers we feature heavily are good designers, which means that you'll get a fun escape for your mid-week pleasure, and (2) It's nice to see the progression in a designer's work as they create more and more. This week's room escape is by Tesshi-e, a name that should be familiar to our regular readers. Escape from the Lodge marks yet another milestone in the development of Tesshi-e's design, and it's a cracking good way to take a mid-week break.
While some great designers have only managed a handful of games (Place of Light), and a few more have managed more than a dozen or so (Neutral, 58 Works), Escape from the Lodge is Tesshi-e's 56th escape game effort. That's a staggering number, you have to admit. You would think that with so many games, each coming out so quickly (for a room game designer, that is), that the quality would suffer but au contraire! The thing that impresses most with Tesshi-e's designs is that while the difficulty level may fluctuate from game to game (from light to complex), the game design itself constantly improves. The first 30 or so games in Tesshi-e's oeuvre are barely worth looking at other than for curiosity's sake; they're all pretty standard, simple room escapes, not much to distinguish them from the crowd. But they have progressed and improved. And then, a breakthrough came with Escape from the Dome Room, Tesshi-e's first big foray into three dimensional space (although there were previous games in 3D, those were very simple in scope). The space became pretty nice to look at, but along with the new graphics came a new appreciation for puzzle design. Ever since then although we have seen some puzzles recycled (and that "wobbly picture" puzzle has been seen in dozens of games, not just Tesshi-e), Tesshi-e has put a lot of effort into creating new and improved ways to cause a casual gamer to bang their head in frustration at yet another new type of puzzle.
Along with the improvement in visuals and puzzle design Tesshi-e has come a long way in terms of the basic structure of the games themselves. The originals were all in Japanese, so you had to solve without verbal clues, depending entirely on logic. These days, with the fantastic translations by idahhh, the games are accessible to everyone in the English-speaking world as well. Now Tesshi-e has included an entirely new feature: the ability to switch to either an all Japanese or all English version of the game. You just have to remember to make the switch before you start the game, or else you might get stuck in a version you don't necessarily understand.
The setup is, of course, typically Tesshi-e. Worn out and exhausted from all of the recent escaping shenanigans, you the escaper have decided to take a little vacation to a quaint lodge where you can sit back, relax, and enjoy the stunning views of the stars at night. Unfortunately you have managed to get yourself locked into the space, and once again you have to figure your way out if you want to commune with the night sky. Poke around the room, pick up and examine objects, solve a lot of puzzles (some of them color based), and see if you can find one of the four escape scenarios (two involving the standard "happy coin" escape that Tesshi-e games feature). Navigate around the room by bars at the sides and bottom of the screen, use your imagination with a bit of MacGyver-like construction, and soon you'll be enjoying the stunning views from the outside porch.
Analysis: It's nice to see a room escape designer that doesn't rest on their laurels, but who continues to improve and expand with each game that they put out, and Escape from the Lodge is no exception. This is not "Tesshi-e light" by any stretch of the imagination. With lots of puzzles, keys, and other objects to find and solve, this is one of Tesshi-e's longest games, especially if you go back and see if you can find all of the various escape combinations available. This is the reason why we keep featuring Tesshi-e, the games just keep getting better and better.
Not only do the visuals and puzzles keep improving, but Tesshi-e has evolved one of the best control structures around in room escape games. There's the new ability to switch between the Japanese and English version along with a save button, the ability to mute the very familiar music or sound effects, and a very easy and intuitive inventory control. Escape from the Lodge still doesn't feature a changing cursor, but frankly you almost won't miss it, as there is very little pixel hunting this time around. Every clickable area is pretty obvious visually without the need for a changing cursor indicator.
Okay, it has to be said, Escape from the Lodge is Tesshi-e's best effort to date. Complex, amusing, gorgeous to look at, and with easy to understand and use controls this is one fantastic room escape, perfect for the mid-week break. Join Tesshi-e on their vacation from escaping and be prepared for...more escaping fun than ever before.