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Nescape


Hoskat

315 views

Screen Shot 2019-09-01 at 2.31.26 PM.png

hearts-5.5

Genre: Puzzle

Publisher: Khan Games

Total time played: 3 Hours

Short review: A point and click adventure in the vein of Shadowgate where your only job is to escape!


Interesting links related to Nescape


A New Game!

It has been 25 years since the NES had an officially released game but since then dozens, if not hundreds of “homebrew” games made by small teams, or in some cases, a single person are still coding out and releasing new games using antiquated assembly language. Seeing what these developers can do to push the boundaries of the NES hardware is pretty incredible.

What is it?

NESCAPE, developed by Khan Games takes a simple point and click formula and combines it with real life escape logic to create a new and unique puzzle game. The game, at first seems pretty simple, you are trapped in a room and must escape. The room is full of puzzles that must be solved in a specific order to get out. Although the entire game takes place in a single room there are 4 screens that you click between, each represents a wall in the room. And, there are 4 phases for each of the 4 walls so there is definitely more to do than you see at first.

maze

Every kid I knew had one of these, but, this is the first time I’ve seen one in an NES game.

Eww, a bug

The first time I played the game I accidentally turned on my flashlight and then traveled in a specific direction causing the game to lock up. Luckily it happened 2 minutes after I started so a simple reset wasn’t a big deal. A quick search online let me know that I wasn’t alone, the games developer didn’t know about this bug until the game shipped. He has agreed to fix all copies of the game if you want to ship back to him. But, since it requires such a small specific group of steps that is easily avoided, I’ll probably just keep my copy with the bug in tact.

Even with the bug, the game is still much more polished than a lot of officially released NES games.

How Do You Know What To Do?

You don’t, and that is the point. The game starts you off in a pitch black room, all you can see if your cursor which is an eyeball. Luckily the answer to the first puzzle, where the light switch can be found, is in the instruction manual. If it wasn’t you would spend a lot of time poking around in the dark.

At the start of the game my advice is just to click on everything and see what you find. There are several puzzles scattered along the 4 walls and the game gives you just enough information to be able to deduce which puzzle requires your attention next.

piano

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t play The Simpson’s theme song on this thing.

Fast Paced

The game itself isn’t fast paced but because it is a new game it was able to avoid all the programming pitfalls that slowed down older games. Playing some older games is tough today because of how slow the cursor moves or how many extra steps are needed to complete a simple task. With 25 years of programming from the last official NES game the new developers can really make new games more fun for newer audiences and streamline the commands needed to complete tasks.

Across the bottom of the screen is a spot to hold up to 8 items. To select an item you simply click on it to highlight it. Until you click the item again or click another item you have the item in hand. This saves some time when trying to figure out which lock a key belongs in. Select the key once and try all the locks, older game would have made you select the key before testing each lock.

books

These symbols have to mean something.

Gross, A Slide Puzzle

As a kid it seemed like every restaurant, toy store or friends bedroom had some form of a slide puzzle game. I was never any good at them even though I’ve probably spent dozens of hours of my life trying to figure them out. When I saw one pop up early in Nescape I was afraid this would be the end of my journey. The puzzle is a 3×4 picture of a mask.

I actually solved the puzzle my first time (it took 15 minutes) but even so I spent an hour or so laying in bed that night watching videos on YouTube of strategies to solve slide puzzles that I hoped would make solving the in game slide puzzle easier. Unfortunately I never found a video for a 4×3 slide puzzle so the tips I found only went so far.

slide

The dreaded slide puzzle!!

Of all the puzzles in the game this is the one that took the longest to get past every time I played. Luckily the game is pretty short (if you know what to do) and I only had to complete the puzzle 5 times as that is how many attempts it took me to escape.

Why Do The Lights Keep Going Off?

Throughout the game the room goes through 4 transformations. I think of these as 4 different stages. Once you solve certain puzzles all the lights turn off and you are taken back to the pink wall where you must again find the light switch (it is in the same spot every time). Each time this happens there are subtle changes across the 4 walls and new puzzles are revealed.

Impossible

There were 3 times in the game where I had to rely on the internet for help. None of these were things I couldn’t have figured out on my own, in fact, I knew exactly what to do, I just couldn’t deduce something because of hardware limitations.

I played this game on a real NES on a tube TV that is pushing 25 years old. I didn’t realize it at the time but apparently the color on the TV isn’t as good as it once was. There was a puzzle in the game that featured some colored lights on the wall and some candles with different colored flames. One of the flames and colored lights on the wall was red but it looked gray on my TV. So, I was confused why there were 2 gray lights and candles. When I looked up a screenshot online I noticed right away that my TV was the issue, not my brain.

Screen Shot 2019-09-01 at 1.59.59 PM.png

That second row is red…it looked dark gray/black on my TV.

The other item that messed me up was the walkman. At three different times in the game you find tapes for the walkman that play a single word that you must use to solve a puzzle. The first word came through pretty clear but the second and third words were impossible to decipher through my crappy tv speakers and the NES’s crappy sound chip. So, again, I knew what to do I just couldn’t understand the word the game was yelling at me.

There were a couple of other graphical limitations that made some puzzles harder than they needed to be, but nothing impossible.

Final Thoughts

I’m a big fan of escape rooms. I have done 9 different rooms and as of now I have never not escaped. This is not because I’m great at them, but because I make sure I play with smart people who are easy to work with.

This NES game feels very similar to an escape room. It takes elements of other point and click adventures like Shadowgate and cleans up the things that slowed that game down. It adds a clock that makes it the perfect game for modern speed runners to try to keep besting their high score.

But, the game isn’t without its issues. The biggest one being what I mentioned above with the bad sound chip and color/graphical limitations of the system making a couple of the puzzles harder to solve than they need to be. Also, once you figure out what to do the game can be beaten very very quickly making subsequent playthroughs less satisfying (this is also true of real life escape rooms). Also, there wasn’t really much of a story other than you need to escape the room. Honestly, I am not much for stories in older games but having just a little something more would have really made this game stand out.

But, the game designers should be very proud. They made a game that is highly playable in 2019 and is much better and more polished than over half of the games from the NES library. I will definitely pull this one off the shelf to show friends when we have a game night.

Nescape.jpeg

Spoilers (Walkthrough)

If you get stuck and need a little guidance I have a rough layout of how to navigate through the puzzles below. Highlight the text to reveal. But, please, try to play through the game on your own. There is nothing more satisfying than solving puzzles on your own. Plus, the developers put a lot of time and effort into making the game and cheating makes their effort less valuable.

  • Turn on light (located just to the left of where your cursor starts the game)
  • Pick up flashlight and hairdryer on white vanity
  • Use the flashlight on all 4 walls to reveal shapes on the photos hung on the wall.
    • Find the order that makes sense for the pictures and enter the shapes into the blue box
    • get key, paper and walkman from the blue box
  • use key on desk with statue sitting on it
    • get extension cord
  • combine hairdryer, extension cord and use on the outlet on the wall.
  • use hairdryer on the statue to reveal a key.
  • use key on the chest by the clock to reveal the dread slide puzzle
    • solve puzzle and pick up tape and paper
  • combine two papers together
  • use the code on the paper to move the grandfather clock hands
    • pull lever inside clock
  • Turn on light (switch is in the same spot as before)
  • pick up the 4 paintings and place them on the wall where the frame outlines can be seen.
  • putting paintings on the wall reveals a panel in the wall with 4 buttons each with 4 positions. Listen for the note in each column that is different.
    • Play those notes on the piano 
    • get the ball from the piano
  • Use ball on maze on the left side of the pink wall
    • Get key
  • Use key on blue wall desk
    • Get batteries
  • combine batteries, walkman and tape
    • select walkman and press anywhere in the room to hear a word.
    • enter the word in the typewriter (YOU)
  • turn on the lights (switch is in the same place)
  • pick up matches inside typwriter
  • arrange newly visible wall switches to where each row has a white light
  • light candles in the order of the white light switches (using the color behind the light where it matches the light of the flame).
  • When all candles are lit and stay lit examine the tree
  • get symbols off tree branches (notice how many leaves on each branch)
  • Pull books out of shelf where the symbols match what you saw on the tree.
  • Play game located above white vanity where you find the differences in photos.
  • Pick up key near grandfather clock on the wall.
  • Use key on white vanity
  • pick up tape and play in walkman
    • enter word you hear in the typewriter (SHIVER)
  • Turn on light (switch in same spot as before)
  • rearrange the pic over the phone (not a slide puzzle)
  • pic up hammer on shelf
  • use hammer on piggy bank
    • pick up 3 coins
  • look at typewriter and solve the fiddle (look at first letter of each word)
  • use 3 coins in phone
    • enter number from typewriter
  • view the rearranged pic with the flashlight to reveal morse code alphabet
    • decode message playing over phone.
  • enter decoded word in silver box with word lock
  • Play simon says (write down the order as it is about 10 sequences long)
    • get tape
  • enter word in typewriter (WARMS)
  • turn on light (switch is in same spot as before)
  • use key in lock in the door on the pink wall
  • The end

 

 


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