One fateful April day back in 2008 Tesshi-e debuted on the room escape scene with a simple game, Mild Escape. Ever since then on the anniversary of that first game the hapless player of Tesshi-e's games — our famous unknown protagonist -- goes back to that same town and opens that same door in order to reminisce about days gone by and of course escape another room. This year Tesshi-e marks their anniversary with the fantastic Mild Escape 4, now with bells and whistles you couldn't have imagined if you've ever played that first game.
Unlike with last year's anniversary game, Mild Escape 3, we now know the back story thanks to Idahhh's fantastic English translations. Change the language at the beginning of the game before you hit the intro and you'll feel a little nostalgic as the camera pans down a flat, two dimensional cartoony wall to the door that started it all. Once inside the space you must point and click your way around the room, investigating every nook and cranny, picking up everything you can find, and solving a few puzzles in order to escape. This is all classic Tesshi-e involving the use of found objects, the combining of objects, sharp observation, and puzzle solving.
Navigation is either by bars at the sides of the screen or clicking on certain areas that look interesting for a closer look. Inventory control is its usual marvel of efficiency and although there's still no changing cursor the clickable areas are pretty obvious which cuts down on the pixel hunting. Tesshi-e has added a new control called the "function" button, which allows the player to pull up a menu allowing them to save the game, restart, or even change the language mid-stream, very helpful for those who forget to change the language at the beginning and find themselves stuck in the Japanese version of the game (or vice versa). The puzzles are a nice mix of logic, math, and color and we can be very extremely grateful that the "wobbly picture" puzzle is nowhere to be found this time around.
Analysis: Tesshi-e games have improved tremendously from three years ago, when they were composed of fairly basic room escape components. Now we see all the bells and whistles of the larger escape games by designers like Neutral. With the addition of the function button to the mix Tesshi-e now has everything except a changing cursor, and frankly it's almost not needed.
The visuals just get more stunning every time you play a Tesshi-e game and Mild Escape 4 is no exception. Seriously, I want to live in Tesshi-e's world where beautiful spaces like this with fantastic nighttime views exist every place you go. The music is a rather familiar upbeat tune, but the handy mute button is always available. The puzzles are tricky and fun and a nice mix of different types. And of course you have the regular and the happy coin escape also so prevalent in their work.
Basically there are only two things keeping Tesshi-e from launching to the level of designers like Neutral or Place of Light: The puzzles while amusing, varied, and fun are still a little on the simple side; and although you hardly need the changing cursor one would be helpful in a couple of places. Some sort of floating text for the color puzzles to aid those with visual problems would also be nice. But these are extremely minor nitpicks indeed.
Frankly, though, you'd really have to search hard to find anything wrong with Mild Escape 4. Challenging, amusing, easy on the eyes and ears, with simple intuitive controls, you're looking at a near perfect classic one-room four-wall escape game, wrapped up in an anniversary bow. Perfect for the mid-week break, Mild Escape 4 is everything you could want in a room escape and more. So let's tip a glass to the past and enjoy the present as Tesshi-e takes us down memory lane with a fantastic anniversary present.