CONTENT WARNING: This review contains graphic imagery that may not be suitable for all readers.
- Developer: Bumpy Trail Games
- Publisher: Eastasiasoft
- Release date: 16/01/2020
- Price: £4.49 / $4.99
- Review code provided by Eastasiasoft
Without Escape is a horror point-and-click adventure game where the main character is stuck within his house, trying to understand what is happening even as everything around him turns into a nightmare. It is up to the player to try and solve the mystery, and get him out alive.
While a port, Without Escape looks incredible on the Switch, though the rare cinematic scenes do look a little grainy. It also runs without any issues that I could find. I will note that in handheld mode it does not support the touch screen, a detail I will discuss in more detail later.
HELL IN A HANDBASKET
The game starts out slow. The player is woken up but is unsure what is wrong. After finding himself locked inside his own house, he must look around to try and figure out what is happening. This both builds tension and allows the player to begin to understand how the game works. Then, right as things become comfortable, the bottom falls out.
What was once the main character’s home, is transformed into a hellscape of blood and gore. Even expecting the horror elements I was taken off guard by the sudden, and drastic, visual shift. I found everything to be particularly unsettling, more so than the average person perhaps.
Without a doubt, this game handles it’s horror elements brilliantly. Between the visuals, the music, and the sound direction the game gives haunting imagery that stays with the player. Rarely, if ever, have I been as genuinely unsettled as I was during this playthrough. That is, until I got stuck.
One issue I ran into with the game is that, as one would expect in a game with puzzles, I occasionally got stuck. Usually, I was able to figure it out given enough time, but the problem was that time. When a solution was not obvious and I had to wander around the house aimlessly the feeling of foreboding waned. This is obviously not an issue for anyone that solves the puzzles easily, but for most I suspect it will happen at least once.
Which is not to say the puzzles presented are bad. When I solved a particularly tricky one, it felt good, and with a single exception do not require knowledge from outside the game. The one time it was involved scientific information some may have learned in school, and a simple google search found me the information I needed.
Otherwise, any issues I ran into was typically because I had overlooked a search item. In the hellscape especially I sometimes did not notice when something was important, because everything was so unexpected. I cannot say this is a bad thing though, as a good adventure game should not have obvious solutions.
Probably the biggest issue I ran into though was the ending, or rather obtaining a specific ending. Without Escape has several possible endings, and while the main two are not difficult to achieve, while research for the game I came across that there was a secret ending. It required reaching a certain point in the game in a certain amount of time.
Unfortunately, I was never able to obtain that ending. Because the game was built originally for PC, it has to substitute the quick mouse movements with slower analog stick controls. Even using a guide that gave me the optimal movements to beat the timer, I found myself unable to. The controls were simply too slow-moving across the screen.
This is where I wish there were touch screen controls. While I prefer when a game does not force touchscreen on the player, I suspect it would be a lot easier to get this hidden ending using the touchscreen. I cannot say it is impossible to get the ending on the Switch, perhaps my controller simply is not sensitive enough, but I certainly found the experience frustrating.
There is no doubt that Without Escape delivers on its promise of horror. It also offers strong enough puzzles to hold interest, even if on occasion I found the solutions difficult to figure out. Its promise of multiple endings also offers some replayability, though it might be difficult to obtain all of them.
- Effective horror presentation
- Highly detailed visuals
- Varied puzzles
- Slow controls with no touchscreen alternative
- Difficult puzzles can remove the player from the experience
A short adventure game that will appeal to fans of graphic horror. While it is not without flaws, its overall execution is well done.