This week we travel a bit back in time to visit Terminal House, a classic escape-the-room game that we've neglected for far too long. Developed by GUMP, Terminal House is the first of a series of four adventures that chart your oddly pastel-blue hero's quest to gain freedom from mysterious captors; perhaps the least sophisticated of the group, it is nonetheless excellent. Equal parts ominous and goofy (a strange combination that somehow works), Terminal House's only major flaw is its inclusion of multiple tough mini-games that can easily become tiresome and discouraging; while the concepts are great, the execution is a bit lacking.
Many escape games begin with the awakening of a confused protagonist. The hero of Terminal House, however, appears more baffled than most; first angry and then bewildered, he seems to be unsure of anything at all. His befuddlement is understandable, though, as his enemies must be diabolical indeed to construct such an odd room for him to escape from. Oh, it looks normal enough at first glance: a couch, a soda machine, a projector screen, nothing too weird. After a little exploration, however, things take a turn for the bizarre... a computer-like device that dispenses money in exchange for photographs of Santa Claus and cavemen? Sodas that increase your strength and reflexes? An arm wrestling machine? Strange, to be sure. But wonderful! I love the game's quirky sensibility, its commingling of surreal elements and standard escape-the-room tropes.
Unfortunately, some of those same great features are also the source of the player's potential frustration. While the game itself is fairly straightforward and not terribly difficult, a few of the necessary hurdles (most specifically, the arm-wrestling mini-game) can be downright confounding. I actually came pretty close a number of times to abandoning the game completely, but eventually my stubbornness won out. I'm glad it did; besides those few teeth-grinding moments, Terminal House is a really great game. The graphics are simple but well-made, the soundtrack is excellent and the puzzles creative and interesting; if you can muster up the patience and skill, you're in for a rewarding and fun experience.
If you like Terminal House, be sure to check out the subsequent games in the series, Rental House, Guest House and Boat House. Each installment improves on the previous ones in ways both small (i.e., adding a save feature) and big (retaining the quirk while reducing the frustration). The full four-chapter experience is one of the best of its kind, and it's absolutely a journey worth taking.