Review: Without Escape Gets Nowhere Fast

Image courtesy Bumpy Trail Games One of my most memorable gaming experiences was when a friend introduced me to the 90s PC Sierra title, Space Quest 4: Roger Wilco and the Time Rippers. It was a point-and-click adventure where you explore every nook and cranny and combine collected items to solve a series of environmental puzzles. It was a simple design, but what I liked was how titles like Sam & Max Hit The Road, The Dig, Full Throttle, and even more bizarre entries like Neverhood and Dropsy used the mechanics of puzzle-solving to focus attention on a unique art style, a compelling story, and even a sense of humor. I bring these past titles up because Without Escape, developed and published by Bumpy Trail Games, claims players will 'reconnect with the past through classic point-and-click exploration.' Unfortunately, Without Escape plays less like a classic point-and-click and more like a higher budgeted re-release of an escape-the-room title, which would be fine if it wasn't so mired in by-the-numbers scare tactics, and more busy work than puzzle-solving. Image courtesy Bumpy Trail Games It’s so strange, considering how popular escape-the-room games have become lately, with both numerous mobile titles and real-life puzzle rooms like Escape The Room Chicago, that Without Escape seems be stuck in the worst habits of the subgenre. Typically, the escape-the-room premise involves solving a puzzle to find a key to open a door, which usually leads to a new puzzle to find another key for another door, and you get the idea. And while there are moments of genuine challenge when it comes to solving some of Without Escape’s puzzles, they’re too far in between moments of simplistic item fetching, and more than a few moments of random pixel hunting. At one point a mistaken click on my part inadvertently acquired me an item to progress further in the game, which led me wondering how I was supposed to know where that particular item was with little to no cues. Additionally, where other titles would use their art style or story writing to fill in the gaps of gameplay, Without Escape is also trapped by convention. The title claims to have disturbing images, but that only means a few pools of blood, Lovecraft-style implications of long sleeping gods, and a spikey, rust-coated Silent Hill style dark world, all wrapped around what is supposed to be a haunted house, but it feels more like browsing through a Halloween City pop-up store. Image courtesy Bumpy Trail Games There’s even a few moments of creepypasta style game glitches meant to take you by surprise. But it only reminds me how Undertale and Five Nights At Freddy’s already did that to death and how long ago those games came out. I wish I could say more about Without Escape, but there isn’t much else to say. Even if you love escape-the-room titles, this one will do little to challenge you. Otherwise, it doesn’t go much beyond solve A to get to B, and does so with little to no originality.  At this point, what Without Escape considers horror isn’t disturbing, or creepy, or even unsettling. It’s now shtick, it's old hat, and needs to go the way of the jump scare and quick-time event. Without Escape is available on Steam today. A copy of this game was provided to us for review purposes
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David Lanzafame