Classic room escapes are fun, certainly, but it's also nice when a designer stretches the boundaries of what we might call "escape". Sometimes you're not trying to get out but, rather, find answers. Thus begins Dad (Otoosan) by Robamimi, a sentimental journey through a room that you're not trying to escape at all.
You are playing as the titular father, who hasn't heard from his lovely daughter for a while and is beginning to get worried. What would you, as a parent, do? Well, you might go find your child's apartment and search for clues, which is what Dad is all about. A concerned father searching for something, anything to tell him what has happened to his missing daughter. There are no locked doors (at least, to the outside), turning what looks like a classic room escape into... something else.
Arrows and bars at the sides of the screen allow you to navigate this tiny, uncluttered space. Inventory control is easy; each inventory "slot" is split into two, each its own color. Click on the top (white) part of the inventory slot to view the item in close up, click on the bottom (pink) part of the inventory slot to use the item. Be sure to examine items in close up, there will be some combining involved. Thankfully, there is a changing cursor, so say good-bye to pixel hunting! There's also a volume bar to control the background noises and gentle, lilting music, and there's even a save button if you want to stop for a while and go back later.
Analysis: Robamimi, creator of such classics as Who Am I (Remake) and First Love (with Bianco-Bianco) tends to alternate between quirky, logical escapes and sweet, sentimental escapes that are really not escapes at all. Dad falls into the latter category; casual gameplay as an emotional experience. The game really seems to capture the feel of a worried parent desperately searching for clues to what has happened to a beloved daughter.
The space is done up beautifully in Robamimi's usual pastel-toned 3D. Accompanying the search for the lost daughter is a slow, sentimental guitar piece that perfectly enhances the mood of the game. There are two versions of the game, Japanese and English, so make sure the button says "English" before you start the game, or you will be immediately lost. Well, lost if you don't read Japanese, that is.
The only complaint is that the game is on the simple side. The puzzles flow together logically, but there are not many of them, and the main puzzle is completely color based, making it difficult for those with color blindness to solve the central mystery.
Dad is not a long game, nor is it terribly difficult, but it is one of those gems that really hangs together well. A gentle, easy, sentimental mid-week break. Slow down, relax, let the soothing tune lull you into a serene place, and logic your way through the search for answers. Just remember, it's not easy being a Dad.