Room escape series can be a tricky thing, no doubt about it. Each new offering must be a link in the chain; continuing the mood and feel of the original while simultaneously upping the ante to keep the whole thing feeling fresh. GUMP has managed that balancing act in Saturn, the third in a series of room explorations featuring a strange pink-haired boy lost in a very compartmentalized house. Welcome to Weekday Escape!
The series began with our hero entering a mysterious house. Now as he solves each locked room he journeys further and further into the unknown, mimicking a journey from the outer planets to the inner solar system, starting at the farthest (Neptune) and working his way inward (Uranus, and now Saturn). Where will the journey end? Will we see the blaze of the sun close up? Is this a metaphor for delving deep into the human psyche or just a cool conceit for a series of rooms that will end up at the core of this mysterious house? Only GUMP knows and they aren't saying.
In fact, the entire series plays out in near silence, other than a few sound effects and the chilling music to accompany the young man as he journeys further and further into the unknown. There are no helpful notes telling a story, merely a series of puzzles and the occasional strange companion. Yes, the flying... well... let's say tentacle from Uranus is still there, and actually proves to be surprisingly helpful (as well as just plain surprising).
In the stark room there is not a lot of navigation, and what there is is directed by arrows at the edges of the screen. Inventory items can be examined by double-clicking, and can be manipulated while in close up. There's no changing cursor, so be prepared for a little pixel hunting, and there's even a save button if you wish to leave and come back later. GUMP has even brought back their signature puzzle. Yes, the magic square is back again. Feels like old home week.
This is all pure logic and use of found objects. No color puzzles (easy where there's practically no color), no construction, just a simple escape. On its own not terribly difficult, but when played in conjunction with the other two the atmosphere of the continuing story radiates with a subtle sense of wonder mixed with dread, enhanced by the surreal animated sequences. What could be waiting beyond the next door?
There's something unsettling about these stark, washed out sterile backgrounds, very typical of the whole series. Yet the look only adds to the sense of mystery as the player works their way closer and closer to the denouement, whatever that may be in the end. Brace yourself for some strangeness, and join the journey to the center of the house, the solar system, or the human soul. You decide.
Note: Please don't send comments about the metaphor being incorrect because Pluto is the outermost planet of our solar system. Pluto is no longer considered a planet, didn't you get the memo? If you have problems with that take it up with the International Astronomical Union or Neil deGrasse Tyson, I'm sure they'd be thrilled to hear from you.
Thanks to Chiktionary, Corey, Emilia, Martha, and Cyberjar88 for sending this one in!