The Room of Riddles (Escape the Room and being present in a game)

In a little town called Amsterdam, in the heart of Holland, just outside of the busybody-ism of its downtown by Amsterdam Centraal Train Station is a building with many floors. On the top of those floors there are many rooms. But of these rooms, there was one in particular designed for people to find solutions to get themselves out of the room. You’ve found the Room of Riddles.

Room of Riddles Logo

Room of Riddles Logo

Escape the Room

Pictures are  strictly prohibited since it ruins much of the surprise for new players to try to escape, but this kind of space is a reminder of the old flash games on ArmorGames or Newgrounds where you’re dropped into a room with no knowledge about why you’re there or the context of the game, but clicking around to circle the room and the various items precariously placed on the walls and cupboards of the room to find items that you can use in that room to escape the room.

Escape-the-Room-300

You find a flashlight. With the flashlight, you look around and find something shiny underneath the bed, which gives you a key. With that key, you try every lock that you can find in the room, but nothing works. You look up and notice there’s a lockbox on top of a bookcase, so you try the key and receive a photo album for your troubles. And so on, and so forth until you find a means of getting out of the room that you’ve been trapped inside for the past 15 minutes.

The concept was inspired by the older generation of Point and Click Adventure Games like Escape From Monkey Island, King’s Quest, and Leisure Suit Larry. Collect X, Y, Z, use X to bribe a guard to go to a new area and collect XX, use Z to trap villain sidekick looking character and collect new item YY and so on.

 

King's Quest 3

King’s Quest 3

monkey4_001_l

Escape From Monkey Island 4

King's Quest 3

King’s Quest 3

The actual room that you find at Room of Riddles is more number/lock oriented but the concept is the same. You have a room and given only a flashlight and walkie-talkie. You have 60 minutes to get out of the room and no other knowledge except for what are valid/invalid mechanics that the player can perform. From there, you are given clues by your RiddleMaster, similar to a dungeon master except their job is to guide the player to the solution when they are stuck, and depending on how well you’re doing in solving the current set of puzzles then you’re given more clues or less clues as the game goes on. Think of it like auto-balancing the difficulty of the game based on the player’s performance. This particular room is set-up to accommodate 1-6 players so large groups can try to divide and conquer the room’s puzzles.

The bigger picture

With being a few generations removed from the early iterations of the Flash game “Escape the Room” scenarios and many more past their predecessor, the Point and Click Adventure Games, it’s interesting to see the translation to the tangible world being done. I talked about this in a GameIdea post earlier, creating a space where game’s scenarios can be enhanced by allowing more senses to be present in the game.

Being “Present” in a game.

What I mean by being more present is by giving more senses of the player agency in a gamespace. When you play a game on a traditional console platform, you generally only have 2 senses present in conjunction to the game, Sight and Sound. The sound is questionable because background sounds used to be non-existent and Sound Design wasn’t really pioneered until the PC and the later 3D era of console gaming demanded it for a better push to realism. Peripherals and large elaborate arcade setups helped the immersion process by adding Movement into the experience of gaming by making more of the body present in the game and having other agency of the body exist in some isolated pocket of the real world but not being present in it nor being present in the game world. The more senses being given agency makes the presence of those senses a part of the game-space.

With the Oculus you have your sense of Sight disappear from being present in the real world and transported into whatever visual-landscape was designed by the game-developers, but more importantly you also have the information of your head’s movements transcoded into the gamespace, as well. Before, it was just your eyes being present in the game-space. With the Oculus you now have your whole head present in the game (minus the mouth, nose, skin, hair, neck-hair [worse than hair if breathed on heavily]).

Back on topic

Room of Riddles having a space available to live-out a scenario gives you the ability to allow more senses to be present in the game which added to the sense of immersion that is held while playing the game. Instead of having a handful of my senses present and the others detached from the experience, the room allowed all of my senses to be present throughout the game making the game easier to feel immersed within the game. Though all of my senses weren’t all exercised throughout the experience, they were still noticeable because of the coherence in signals that the different senses coalesced together because they were all present at the time.

I think this idea can be used as inspiration fuel in enhancing our idea of what games can be, not just designing how experience will be just visually, but also audibly or touchually (tactile-y). While the experience isn’t always portable, it is an enhanced experience. Universal Studios, Disneyland and other amusement parks sell these kinds of experiences on a large scale, but having these large space isn’t always necessary. These space become more obsolete with hardware like the OculusVR being able to instantly transport you to whatever visual-quest that you want to be in.

Escape the Room – New York City, New York, USA plug

Room of Riddle – Amsterdam, Netherlands plug

Let’s Talk About: Super Time Force Ultra

STFU

Game: Super Time Force Ultra

Genre: Action Bang-Bang Platformer

On: XBLA, Steam: http://store.steampowered.com/app/250700/

Everything about Super Time Force Ultra (STFU) is be taken with a dash of fun, from the combat, to the setting, to the dialogue from Commander Repeatski.

The Gameplay

(Live – die – repeat+ghost)

S1

What STFU brings to the table is simple. You get to reset time up-to the start of the level and pick another character the next go around. Jump off of a platform getting a face full of bullets? That’s a reset. Causing too many explosion and you stood around like an idiot? That’s a reset

reset

But there’s a plus side to using the time reset. Your past actions get repeated, like a ghost in a racing game. That means, anything that you’re ghost shoots at get’s hit this cycle. Need some extra firepower to kill a mecha-tyranasaraus? That’s a reset. But anything that your past-self collects also carries over to this cycle, as well. Need to side-track and get a shiney new collectable? That’s a reset. As a bonus, if you happen to save your past-self from getting blasted in the jaw, you can use them as a second hitbox and a powerup for your charge attack.

S2

The difficulty with the reset-cycle is that you need to manage your time as well. You only get 60 seconds to get from the beginning to the end of each level with some additional time added by in-level collectables, and with only a few dozen resets allowed per level (also expanded with in-level collectables) you have a set number of blunders that you’re allowed. So the player has to juggle getting collectables, killing all enemies and resetting to get some time back consistently throughout the game. It can be hectic at times, but there’s always a tool for every situation, whether it be using your shield, your explosion, or your wild-jungle kid.

Where the gameplay comes together is during the boss fights. The boss’s movements and fight mechanics aren’t the hardest to pick up, but the time constraint is a biggest shot-clock against the player. You need to kill the boss in such a small window of time, that you’re constantly juggling resetting to help out bring the lifebar down a bit faster. But then the boss switches phases and now your past selves are shooting at the afterimage of the boss that they thought would be in front of them, so you have to build up another army of ghost drones to help you take on the boss. This is where the fun happens, gameplay-wise.

S3

The only regret I had playing the game was not seeing more mobility mechanics being tried out. There was only one at the end of the game where I was forced to going down one path, reset to go down another path to unlock a door for another path. Granted, this type of mechanic is probably a bit played out from Braid, but the time constraint, the enemy management and the maybe a different creativity involving precision shooting from the various ghosts would have really brought the game to feeling on another level. But I can understand it being too much to try and balance, much done well, for a new game. Having the one instance of it in the end just made me want more of it in the game.

The Word-slingin

STFU never takes itself seriously, to the chagrin of a piece I wrote in August, and that is the game’s best quality. Using SyFy science, our setting jumps from the Land Before Time where we get to blast dinosaurs in their mouths, to the distant Future where a Fifth Element car hop foot-chase begins. It’s filled with enough pop-culture jabs from Jedi to the Thunderdome as to make the game feel grounded in our history, but doesn’t make the these references the overt center-of-attention as to not make the alienate those who don’t recognize where each reference is directly from. It just gives the player a bit a of chuckle anytime they recognize what the source material is from. Similar to how Super Meat Boy reference the classic games between stages but not making these references the set-piece of memorabilia.

S4

Super Meat Boy - Castlevania

What a night to have a bandage-girl

STFU is probably one of the better written games that you can not take seriously, and that’s ok. The reasons for going to each time period are ridiculous and probably against some rules of the using time-travel for personal gain. The only two characters that talk are the Commander and the Dr Infinity, but dialogue between them tends to come out like the King of the Cosmos (Katamri Damacy series) with purpose at the best of times and the King of the Cosmos on mission select at the most of times.

Katamari

Repeatski2

The ridiculous lines never detract from the setting. They always keep the game’s lightheartedness in mind. Even at the most tense of situations, the silliness is present to remind the player that the tension is never real because there you’re always a time-travel reset away from fixing it. This philosophy comes up in any tragedy in the game and is a reminder to never take the game completely seriously. “Oops, the planet blew up. Let’s fix that whenever we feel like”

Repeatski1

Super Time Force Ultra is definitely worth picking up. If not for the reminder we don’t always need to not take life, gaming, or story so seriously, then for the interesting dynamic of resetting yourself so you can help yourself to not die. Mmm Time-Traveler’s Wife self-blowjob… Such a timely reference to a terrible book. Thanks CAPY GAMES for the atemporal masturbation fanfics to spread across the net!

group

If you’ve played the game, let me know what you think in the gackity-yak (comments). And follow on Twitter @GIntrospection to stay up to date on new posts.