"When you fall off a horse, you have to get right back on." "Every cloud has a silver lining." "It's always darkest before the dawn." The English language has tons of sayings and clichés to serve as reminders that perseverance in any task is the way to accomplish a goal. This is something that we — as escape gamers — must internalize if we are to succeed in getting out of whatever room, building, or other tight spot we find ourselves in week after week. In Japanese culture, however, the concept is embodied in a strange, red, roly-poly figure known as a Daruma Doll, or Dharma Doll. Keep at it, keep trying, eventually you'll get there. What a coincidence that this week's game is also called Dharma Doll. Go figure. Perhaps not so coincidental as you might notice that the aforementioned figure sits front and center in one of the scenes of Petithima's lovely new escape the room game. Is the Dharma Doll there to encourage you to keep trying, or is it just a common object in a Japanese household? Why can't it be both?
Dharma Doll is not a long or complex game, although it is certainly meatier than Petithima's usual fare. Two spare scenes in a room, and a third space if you can figure out the secret to finding it, are all that is contained in this delightful little exercise in escaping. Yet so much is packed into this pint-sized game that it feels much bigger. Pick up objects, manipulate things, and reason your way out the door in yet another winner from a very talented game designer. Navigation couldn't be simpler, as you can only move back and forth, no turning involved. Hard to get lost or turned around with such an easy way of moving about.
What is it about Petithima's little escapes that make them so good, in fact, better than some larger escapes? Is it the cute graphics? The bouncy music? Although they add to the atmosphere, they are not what make a good escape game. There are two basic things that make a great game: logical puzzles that flow together well; and the basic controls to make the game enjoyable, like changing cursors to indicate hot-spots, an easy to handle inventory, and a save feature if you have to stop in the middle of the game. Puzzles and controls can make or break an otherwise distinguished game, and Petithima's are top notch. Larger, more complex games with more complex puzzles can be fun, but illogical puzzles (why would I use that on that?), pixel hunting, difficulty figuring out which way is which, or not being able to control what is in your inventory can sour the experience so much that you don't even want to finish the game. These are not flaws you will find in Petithima's games.
There are a few minor things that keep Dharma Doll from being a perfect game. Color based puzzles are fun, but difficult for some folks. And the cultural significance of the Dharma Doll makes the solution of one puzzle a little obscure. However, even without knowing the culture or the dolls, most folks can figure it out pretty quickly.
Dharma Doll is a highlight of Petithima's rapidly growing oeuvre. More complex than the last one featured on Weekday Escape (Choc-Mint), showing a progression of more puzzles and more difficult puzzles without losing the charm and design that make the games so great. Sort of an appetizer, where Choc-Mint was an amuse-bouche. Frankly, I can't wait until Petithima starts making a main course! In the meantime, what are you waiting for? Dig in!