I don't remember what happened, but somehow I have awoken in a strange room. In the room with me are several desks, atop of which are several computers. There is no apparent exit.
Each one is displaying a Room Escape game! If it weren't for the fact that I am trapped in this room with amnesia and a headache, I would find this development delightfully postmodern!
Play Room Escape 1.
That did not take very long. The puzzles were obvious, the narrative facile, and judging from the art I'd say the developer is heavily fond of the line tool in MS Paint. What a disappointing Room Escape game!
Play Room Escape 2.
This game is at least attractively rendered, but I am at a loss for what to do next.
Examine behind sofa.
Again, nothing happens.
Examine next to sofa, just where the shadow intersects the floor and baseboard.
GAAH, nothing, GAAH!
It says I should click just to the right of the sofa's shadow, below and to the left of the potted fern, but just outside the shadow of said fern. Really, Mr. Developer! This persistent, persnickety pixel-hunting has put me off this particular program, permanently!
Play Room Escape 3.
I have collected a glass of water, a scrubbing pad, a pair of nail clippers, and a stuffed toy capybara. What now?
Click about randomly.
Combine objects randomly.
Oh for criminy's sake on a rusty pogo stick! I'm supposed to plug in the toaster on the counter, shear the wire with the clippers, pour water on the wire, then scrub the resulting burn marks from the formica to reveal the code to unlock the icebox?! This insidious, ill-formed illogic insults my innate inductive intelligence, indeed!
Hey I recognize the developer, Neutral, responsible for such gems as Sphere, Vision, and other classics of the Escape the Room genre. Perhaps this new game, Lights, will live up to the standards of its predecessors.
Continue playing Lights.
Huzzah, this game is all I could hope for and more! Warm, inviting 3D environments! Clever puzzles that don't rely on excessive pixel hunting or bizarre leaps in space-logic! Even Full Motion Video footage of an adorable Papillon! This computer title calls out its so-called competitors and, uh, okay, this one is getting away from me.
Examine just-opened secret door, revealing green fields, sunshine, daffodils, and two ponies.
Maybe in a second, after I find the secret ending.
Analysis: I do like me my escape games, bite-size portions of adventure gaming that they are, but while I am a little more tolerant than our alliterative protagonist, I do share some of his frustrations with the genre. It's a type of game whose creation is easy to execute but difficult to master, and even the best games often suffer the same pitfalls. It's tough to come up with puzzles that are at once difficult enough not to be boring but logical enough not to be frustrating. The remarkable thing about Lights, and Neutral's games in general, is that they walk this line with aplomb.
The trick is that the game keeps no undue secrets. What I mean is, all the items and locked cabinets are apparent either from the wide shots of the room, or from looking closely at things you were likely to look at anyway. You never stall because you weren't clicking on the right place to open the proper drawer, so the challenge is not in finding these secrets, but in figuring out what to do with them. What's more, the puzzles are interconnected, so you never feel like you are hopping from one discrete puzzle to another. This overall sense of momentum accounts for a large part of Lights' success.
Another area where Lights succeeds is in instilling a sense of exploration. New areas are constantly opening up, so just as you have exhausted one part of the room, a new part is made available to explore. One of the best parts of classic adventure games is the feeling of making new discoveries, and it is great that Neutral recreates this sense in micro-form.
Plus, even though I'm a cat person, I really do like the Papillon. Or is it a Pomeranian? Either way, it's totally unaccountable.
I should note what might be a small quibble for some people. There is a reflex-based mini-game that you must beat to progress in the game, and while I had no problem with it, it might not be what some are looking for in an escape game. There is an easy mode for this game, but this has the downside of taking much longer to complete.
Quibble aside, Lights is easily another grand success for the Neutral development team. If you like escape rooms with logical puzzles, exploration, and cute, tiny dogs, then I highly recommend it.