Prisons are not, generally speaking, meant to be the most luxurious or comfortable of environments. In furnishing its new escape game Rougoku, however, Japanese developer Bianco Bianco may have gone a wee bit overboard: four gray walls, a foreboding door and a sad-looking pallet are all that there is to see in the game's dismal cell. Well, ok, that's not quite true. Anyone familiar with the escape game genre knows that such rooms are invariably filled with all sorts of nooks and crannies, secrets to be found and puzzles to be solved...but still, what a depressing place to be stuck in! Definitely an incentive to escape as soon as possible.
In keeping with the game's minimalist aesthetic, Rougoku is generally simple and straightforward: there's no backstory, no music, no frills whatsoever, just a handful of puzzles and a door standing between you and freedom. Rougoku falls into the category of more "realistic" escape games, those that concentrate in large part upon collecting and using items in practical ways (with, of course, a few genuine puzzles thrown in); considering the game's environment, this makes sense. The puzzles themselves are not very difficult, and the game will most likely not take you terribly long to complete.
Despite the cell's spartan appearance, Rougoku's graphics are rendered very nicely and lend the game an appropriately desolate atmosphere. At no time is there pixel-hunting (yay!), but the game does lack a save feature (boo!). Unlike most room escape games, Rouguku's inventory can be closed or opened at the push of a button, which affects the experience neither positively nor negatively. Navigating the room is easy and intuitive.
The one element of the game that I found to be truly irritating was the unfair "surprise" at the end. Without giving too much away, it seems nearly impossible to succeed on your first play-through without some sort of precognitive ability; this, particularly considering that the game lacks a save feature, is very poor form. I don't want to entirely spoil the end, but I'll offer a piece of advice: before rushing out of the room, consider what might occur if a real prisoner were to somehow open his or her cell's door. With this in mind, act accordingly.
That criticism aside, Rouguku is a nice, solid room escape game. While hardly the most polished or complex example of the genre (and not Bianco Bianco's greatest work), it's nonetheless perfect for a coffee break or to satisfy that occasional, gnawing escape game hunger. Enjoy!