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Without Escape

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Xbox One
Genre: Action/Adventure
Developer: EastAsiaSoft
Release Date: Jan. 15, 2020

About Joseph Doyle

Joe has been known to have two hands with which to both play games and write reviews. When his hands are not doing those, he will put books, musical instruments, and other fun things in them.


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PS4 Review - 'Without Escape'

by Joseph Doyle on May 27, 2020 @ 1:00 a.m. PDT

Without Escape is a point-and-click horror graphic adventure inspired by first-person graphic adventures with pre-rendered backgrounds from the '90s.

We've all woken up in the pitch black of night to a thump in the bathroom or a crash downstairs. "No, Joe, it must have been a dream," you tell yourself (if your name is also Joe). Perhaps you fall right back to sleep. Perhaps it takes you a couple of extra hours because being alone in the dark has always kind of been a thing for you. What if those noises weren't so kind as to respect your sleep schedule or general well-being? Without Escape dives into this dilemma, letting the imagination at Bumpy Trail Games soar into what could be lurking in the shadows of your home at night.

You awaken with a fright at 2:45 AM, and you're inexplicably driven to inspect your parents' room before your own. You turn on the lights and see a pristine room with many shades of brown, a single alarm clock on the wardrobe, and a slightly off-kilter photo of a picturesque island getaway. You methodically inspect the room, calling on your point-and-click game skills, which have been untapped since the '90s or whenever Broken Age came out.

Your cursor flies across the screen at a breakneck pace! Click — you inspect the plastic drug store alarm clock stuck at 2:45 AM. Click — your parents' slippers are next to the wardrobe. Click — whoops, you missed! That's a quick cursor! Click — next to the lamp on the perfectly clean side table is a note with a number you're supposed to call. Does the note go into your inventory? No, you leave it by the bedside table for the added fun of memorizing seven numbers. Then you click yourself right out the door to the nondescript second floor, down the nondescript stairs and into the nondescript family room. You find a nondescript key that gets stored in your inventory, which propels you to click on every locked surface until you find the one that works with the key. While this is nice in terms of simplicity, it reduces this game to clicking around pictures, with small interludes of clicking around numbers.

Here is where Without Escape decides to start justifying its $5 price tag. Flash game websites of yesteryear were rife with these escape-the-room types of games. The Crimson Room, Mystery of Time and Space, and countless other free games passed the time of many a tween in their heyday. Without Escape attempts to earn its stripes through its atmosphere and puzzles. Without giving away too much, you find a few keys, solve a few puzzles, and end up going through a portal into a nightmarish hellscape version of your house, filled with the previously guaranteed blood and gore.

As you progress, your character doesn't seem too intrigued by their surroundings. You'll get the same indifferent tone whether you look at your parents' slippers or the — I kid you not — trash bag-covered corpse in the bathtub filled with blood. "Can't say I'm surprised anymore," remarks the character as they use wooden planks to cross over the lava. Hats off to the developer; this game certainly goes places narratively, but it ultimately falls flat due to overall tone of the writing. The puzzles are OK at best and misleading or archaic at worst. While we do live in the golden age of the internet, there should never be solutions that rely on critical information that isn't provided to the player in-game. Furthermore, that particular clue changes with each playthrough, continuing the necessity of outside information each time around. The world-building, puzzles, and even the cut scenes and multiple endings do little to serve this game. 

Without Escape boasts 3D graphics, and the developers want you to know it. Attention to detail is the key here, with every individual battery, key, and item carefully rendered. It's done pretty well, even though you only see these items one time in the game. Even when you zoom in on the alarm clock, you can see the reflection of the room bouncing off the plastic cover. Sadly, this all bolsters the rooms and their design, which appear basic. There's detail, but nothing gives off any character.

Before things go completely off the rails, Without Escape takes place in a half-dozen rooms in a house. The house looks pristine, with nary a speck of dust. The family room boasts a clock, a television, a phone, some sofas, and a table. Even as the setting becomes richer, the layout of each room is static and uninspired. They have the aesthetics of the CGI sample images of apartment complexes before they get built, which is incredibly interesting but gives the witness the idea of some architectural uncanny valley. Visually, some attention has been put into the game, but the backdrops are so lifeless (figuratively, and at times literally) that they end up incredibly flat and off-putting.

Sonically, Without Escape is sparse but effective. While it is understandable for such a small and short game to not utilize much music, it's somewhat grating for the same piece of music to play over and over for hours on end. The music isn't bad; it drives the suspense with warbling, waving synthesizers and sudden splashes of drums to catch the listener off-guard. Overtones from the synthesizers clash as they hum, creating a general sense of unease. It isn't bad, and it's effective, but it really goes on and on.

Ultimately, Without Escape is a sad shadow of a genre from the past. Point-and-click adventure games fell from favor years ago due to progressing technology. Some of the originals of the escape room genre may soon be lost to time (due to Adobe's support of Flash ending in a few months). Now kids can play Roblox with a quick download and Minecraft on a web browser. Perhaps if this game offered more in terms of narrative or visuals, it could be worthwhile, but it doesn't offer enough to be appealing. While some attention was given to the visuals and music, Without Escape largely feels dissatisfying and lackluster.

Score: 4.8/10

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