Hidden My Game By Mom [Review]

Weird A.F.

Platform: iOS & Android

Price: Free – ad supported

Overview & setup

Hidden My Game By Mom! and its sequel Hidden My Game By Mom! 2 were short, episodic escape room-style puzzlers with the same basic problem running through all 60 levels:

My mother had hidden my handheld video game console and I needed to find it.

It was utter nonsense. It was bizarre, funny, and entertaining.

Hidden My Game By Mom title screen features the main character, his mom, a couch, and a chest.

Puzzles

Each level took place in an exceptionally simple 1-room or 2-room structure. Within each room, I needed to find the items necessary to recover my beloved gaming handheld.

Everything was minimalistic, but the levels were filled with instant failure traps like snakes and of course… mom.

In game: Game over screen. The main character looks distressed after opening a closet and revealing his mother.

These puzzles ranged from predictable to some of the strangest lateral thinking that I’ve seen in any puzzle game.

Standouts

Many of the puzzle solution and failure states were hilarious. I actually laughed out loud at the crazy shit that went on in these games.

One of the puzzles in Hidden My Game By Mom! 2 might have had the most genuinely funny puzzle solution that I have ever encountered.

In game: The stage clear screen featues the main character triumphantly holding his gaming device in the air.

These were fast-paced, quick plays. Together, both games took me about an hour.

Both games were free.

Shortcomings

The music, sound effects, and some of the menus got a little annoying.

Some of the puzzle solutions felt repetitive.

A few of the puzzle solutions were a bit too out there for me.

Should I play Hidden My Game By Mom!Hidden My Game By Mom! 2?

I got a kick out of both Hidden My Game By Mom! & Hidden My Game By Mom! 2 when I played them on long flights. They were straight up strange and equal parts clever, annoying, and funny.

They were games of trial and error; level failure was inevitable. I was fine with this. In fact, as I got better at the games, I found myself deliberately failing levels when I suspected that it would achieve a particularly humorous fail-state… Hidden My Game By Mom! frequently made me giggle.

These were not high production value games, but they each provided a solid half hour of entertainment. I’m still amused that these games even exist.

Download Hidden My Game By Mom! &  Hidden My Game By Mom! 2 today.

Download iOS

Download Android

Sherlocked – The Vault Mobile App [Review]

An app to train for the real thing.

Platform: iOS & Android

Price: Free

Overview & setup

Created by the famed Sherlocked in Amsterdam, The Vault mobile app was a free iOS & Android game that served as a training/advertisement for real life The Vault escape room.

In game: An old safe's number dial with the Sherlocked cross-keys logo on the knob.

This short game was a heist-style escape room complete with puzzles and mechanical interactions. Most of these bore no resemblance to puzzles or interactions in the real The Vault escape room.

The game emphasized learning how to operate an antique safe. This set piece did play a role in the real life The Vault escape room where its operation was a serious challenge.

Puzzles

The puzzles were pretty typical digital escape room-style puzzles; they were neither great nor terrible.

In game: An old safe on a small table in the middle of a large room.

Standouts

The Vault was entertaining. It was also free.

While it was not required training for the real life game, it was great for getting in the right mindset and learning how to operate a particularly cumbersome safe.

In game: An invitation to play the game in real life. It reads: "Well done. You've passed our test. Your job awaits you in Amsterdam."

It may have been an advertisement… but it was a really good one.

Shortcomings

There was no hint system and a few of the interactions were not quite intuitive. When an interaction didn’t click, the game ground to a halt. At that point the only options were to:

  • Poke and swipe at every object until something happened.
  • Hand the game off to a friend and hope that that particular thing would be a little more intuitive to them.
  • Check out a YouTube walkthrough video

Should I play Sherlocked’s The Vault Mobile App?

I’d say so. Here’s my math:

If you’re going to play The Vault in Amsterdam (which I highly recommend), then it is a cute primer for that escape room’s most challenging input mechanism.

If you’re not going to be able to play The Vault in Amsterdam, then it is an interesting innovation for both escape room pre-game care as well as advertising.

It’s fun and it’s free. Why are you still reading this?

Download Sherlocked’s The Vault Mobile App today.

Download iOS

Download Android

Tormentum: Dark Sorrow [Review]

Point & click escape rooms had a baby with Iron Maiden’s entire catalog.

Platform: iOS, Android, & Steam

Price: $4.99 on iOS, $3.99 on Android, $11.99 Steam

Story & setting

Your mysterious cloaked protagonist began Tormentum: Dark Sorrow imprisoned in some sort of medieval fantasy steampunk inquisition dungeon. In typical escape room fashion, the goal was to escape.

The entirety of Tormentum was beautifully painted from the characters to the panoramic settings. The art had a Frank Frazetta heavy metal style about it that gave the game a unique feel.

In game: A dark dungeon with a menacing horned knight stating: "This place will purge you of all evil hatched within your bowels.
All of the character talk purdy.

Puzzles

Tormentum: Dark Sorrow was a point & click, pixel hunt digital escape room. It leaned heavily on searching. There were some entertaining puzzles, but they were not the centerpiece of the game; the art was.

In game: A dungeon with a woman trapped in a small cage that hangs from the ceiling. A strange looking demon statesL "But why am I telling you this. Leave and don't wassste my time, human!"
A demonic guard just casually forgetting his place and giving puzzle hints. The usual.

Standouts

The art was gorgeous. Everything looked like a bleakly beautiful hellscape. It worked.

In-game: The hooded main character in a room filled with mummies and sarcophaguses.
Book your vacation in the next 5 minutes to receive one additional night at no cost to you!

I enjoyed the fictional world of Tormentum. It felt like a heavy metal album had been turned into an escape game.

There were some great puzzle designs.

Shortcomings

While I liked a lot of the puzzle designs, I found myself wishing that they had leaned into their ideas, pushed beyond basic execution, and asked me to more thoroughly master those puzzles.

The pixel hunt searching overstayed its welcome. It was easy to completely miss critical things within the game’s elaborate art.

In-game: A massive demon stating, "It is easier for a thousand crows to fly through a fiery mountain than it is for you to pass safely through my entrails, wretched human."
And they squeezed in a few stage bosses from Contra for good measure.

On more than a few occasions I made critical in-game moral decisions, by accident, without any intention or understanding of what was about to happen. These moments kind of pissed me off. If I’m gonna murder someone, I want to know that I’m about to do it.

Should I play Tormentum: Dark Sorrow?

Tormentum went all in on the art. If you like point & click escape rooms and this game’s art direction appeals to you, then it’s worth a few bucks and a few hours to play it.

If both the game format and the art don’t speak to you, then I don’t think it’s worthwhile. There were some great puzzle designs, but they left me wanting more. I found Tormentum’s interactions were often too opaque, especially when it came to moral choices, which frustrated the hell out of me.

If Tormentum feels like a fit for you, it’s got a dark and twisted beauty about it.

Download Tormentum: Dark Sorrow today.

Download iOS

Download Android

Download Steam (Don’t play it on Steam, $12 is too much to pay for this game)

Haunted Rooms: Escape VR Game [Review]

Haunted with ads.

Platform: iOS & Android

Release date: November 12, 2016

Price: Free – ad supported

Story & setting

A self-described “escape the room” virtual reality game playable with Google Cardboard or as a standard point and click escape game, Haunted Rooms: Escape VR Game was straightforward: I was trapped in a haunted house and needed to escape.

In game: a ghost in a hallway holding a chainsaw.

Haunted Rooms: Escape VR Game was broken up into 6 episodes, each playable in less than 5 minutes.

It looked and sounded pretty good:

However, look and sound only carried it so far.

Puzzles

Calling Haunted Rooms: Escape VR Game an “escape the room” was a generous description. The puzzles were non-existent.

In game: a piece of paper reads, "5-30-7" above it a message displays reading, "This might be a clue!"
No kidding?

At best this was a virtual scavenger hunt. Items either screamed “USE ME! I’M BRIGHT RED!” or, on a couple of occasions, they required pixel hunting because they were the same drab color as the background.

If I touched a thing that needed “solving” it straight up told me what to do.

In game: a door, a message reads, "It's locked. Maybe I can try shooting it?"
I’m not sure what I should do. Could someone give me a hint?

Standouts

It looked pretty great, especially for a free game.

Shortcomings

There was no depth to the story, puzzles, or frights. It was staggeringly one-dimensional.

The puzzles were lame and would barely even qualify as puzzles.

There were jump scares, but they didn’t impress. These were seriously overused.

Every milestone triggered an ad. Exiting the game triggered an ad. Opening doors triggered ads. (Don’t get any ideas, escape room owners.)

Should I play Rabbit Mountain’s Haunted Rooms: Escape VR Game?

Haunted Rooms: Escape VR Game was not an escape room game. It was a reasonably pretty ad-supported tech demo.

This app got a lot of press, so I figured it would be worth playing at the low cost of free. I was wrong. It wasn’t worth my time.

The Room Two [Review]

The Room Two… It should probably be called “Many Rooms.”

Platforms: iOS & Android

Release date: December 2013

Price: $2 to $3 depending upon the platform (as of February 2016)

The Room Two logo depicting an old pocket watch.

Story & setup

Picking up exactly where The Room left off, The Room Two brings more.

Each stage is now a standalone room. Each room has multiple puzzle boxes that interplay with one another.

Just as the puzzles are bumped up in volume, so is the story. While The Room had a very limited story, The Room Two reveals a more complex, but still fuzzy plot.

Screenshot from The Room Two depicting a pedestal with a metal compass puzzle box, a letter rests beside the puzzle. In the background is another pedistal with a puzzle box.
Two pedestals, two different puzzle contraptions.

Increased scale, reduced intimacy

The Room Two brings more of absolutely everything: More puzzles. More puzzle boxes. More settings. More story.

More is great.

However, this comes at the cost of reduced intimacy.

The Room derives much of its exceptionality from its small size. Because you only had one puzzle box, everything was always right in front of you. The game had a plot that was so limited that it didn’t feel like the stakes were any higher than satisfying your own curiosity. The Room was refreshing because there was so little on the line.

An image of a room in an old ship. There is a lantern, a cannon, and a model of a tall ship that is a puzzle box.
That model ship is one of the early puzzle boxes.

The expansion of scope and scale in The Room Two is generally positive, but it comes at a price.

Should I play The Room Two?

If you enjoyed The Room, then playing The Room Two is an easy decision. It’s everything you enjoyed about the first one, with a lot more going on.

An open puzzle box depicting a complex metal geared contraption.
At their core, the puzzles still largely feel like the original The Room.

The larger game takes away some of what made The Room a special experience, while also adding new aspects to it.

It’s a grand puzzling adventure.

Download it on iOS, Android, & Amazon.

(Images via Fireproof Games)

The Room [Review]

Reviewing the video game that inspired my marriage proposal.

Platforms: iOS, Android, Steam

Release date: September 2012

Price: $1 to $5 depending upon the platform (as of February 2016)

An abridged history

Escape rooms are a real life reimagining of a video game genre.

While classic games like Myst, The 7th Guest, and many Flash-based games represent the historical origin of the escape rooms, the iOS and Android game The Room (2012), created by Fireproof Games, is arguably the most important point-and-click (or in this case, touch) puzzle game in decades.

The Room Logo depicts an elaborate and old lock on a door. Text states, "Discover where it all began..."

Story & setup

The three-dimensional puzzle game takes place in a single room of an old house. In the middle of the room is a puzzle box that houses more puzzle boxes.

It’s basically a Russian nesting doll of beautifully rendered steam-punkish puzzle boxes. Each level reveals a smaller, more detailed box.

In-game screenshot of a puzzle involving four glowing orbs and rune symbols.

The story is magically minimal. There are handwritten letters mixed in with the puzzles that are addressed to you, the player, and allude to a larger mystery.

The story never becomes heavy handed. Only in the end does it become clear that there is something larger afoot.

Because the story is executed with a light touch, most of the time it just feels like you’re tinkering with incredibly cool puzzle boxes.

Intimate and beautiful

You have full 360-degree control of the camera. It’s a first person game, but it isn’t dizzying.

If you want to move something, you touch and drag. If you need to turn a key, you spin it with your finger. Everything is responsive.

In-game screenshot of a puzzle involving a star chart and measurement instruments.

The extreme focus and strong controls make this game strangely intimate.

There are no other people in the game. It’s just you and the crazy contraptions you’re trying to solve.

The game can get tough, but it remains fair.

Should I play The Room?

I used to be a die-hard console and PC gamer. I haven’t seriously played a PC game since I gave up on regularly upgrading my machine back in 2004. I probably have logged less than 20 hours on a console since March of 2012.

Nowadays, if I want to get a bit of gaming in, it’s a puzzle game, and I’m doing it on a plane, train, or bus.

In-game screenshot of a puzzle involving a mechanical clock.

The Room is my favorite video game. It’s not too long. It’s beautifully designed, the controls are perfect, and the game is intimate.

I replay it every year or so. As soon as I can’t remember how to solve everything, I give it another go.

It is so deeply focused, simple, and elegant; I can’t help but return to it. I hold this game as a milestone in both video gaming and escape room history.

When it first came out back in 2012, it was a revelation in mobile gaming.

It’s also a game from which many escape rooms have taken inspiration. And honestly, I wouldn’t mind if a few more escape rooms riffed off of the brilliant design of The Room.

Download it on iOS, Android, Amazon, & Steam.

(Images via Fireproof Games)