Are you sunburnt? Tired of the sounds of laughing children, ice cream trucks and blaring beach-weather anthems? You're in luck! Toybox, a new escape game from Polish designer Lukasz W., is here to inject a little darkness into your summertime. Okay, to be more accurate, a lot of darkness.
The game's scenario is not a pretty one: you wake, cold and alone, in a room lit only by a single, faint candle... that gleams off of the links of the chain connecting your leg to the wall. Uh-oh. From there, believe it or not, things only get worse. You are trapped in a house of horrors, and must solve puzzles and face supernatural terror in order to regain your freedom. Of course, there's also the matter of your murderous captor... where could he be? You might just find out.
The game's puzzles are on the whole only adequate, mainly of the standard "collect item A to solve code/open door B" type. One puzzle involving a piano struck me as being a bit dubious, though a quick Google search allowed me to proceed without too much difficulty. A lot of backtracking is involved, so be prepared to run back and forth between rooms quite often. It's important to note that at certain points of the game, new clues appear in previously-visited locations; so, if you find yourself stuck, retrace your steps. The game has multiple endings: a "good" outcome, two slightly different "bad" outcomes, and a bonus ending that I've yet to discover. Getting the good ending hinges upon finding a specific item, so be sure to pay close attention to your surroundings!
Without doubt, Toybox's most impressive aspect is its ominous, sepulchral atmosphere. This is a horror game, through and through: blood drips thickly from the walls, severed hands festoon the ceiling, nasty surprises wait behind every door. While the game's graphics are more than adequate, it's the additions of a handful of well-made, chilling cutscenes and a genuinely spooky soundtrack that elevate Toybox above mere goriness. All of these elements meld wonderfully together to produce an immersive, entertainingly grotesque ambience that is just cartoony enough to avoid crossing into true gross-out territory. In this respect, the game is outstanding.
While it's clear that Lukasz W. put quite a bit of time and effort into Toybox, a few small additions and alterations could have made the game better and more user-friendly. First and foremost, a save feature would have been nice (particularly when trying to discover the different endings), and a mute button would also have been appreciated. Although the game's inventory system is a little clunky, there is no pixel-hunting (yay!) and navigating around the house is easy. All in all, improvable but not bad.
As you might have gathered, this game is not suitable for the little ones; though the graphics are not realistic, the game is gory and frightening enough to upset the easily-spooked. For everyone else, especially fans of all things macabre, I'm sure you'll enjoy this very creepy and stylized, if not always substantive, escape game. Next time around, perhaps Lukasz will combine his obvious talent for creating an atmosphere with equally-fabulous puzzles; if so, we're in for some truly amazing fun.