Do you like escape rooms? Do you enjoy retro, 8-bit style-games? Then KHAN Games has created the puzzle for you. NEScape! is an 8-bit escape room challenge puzzle game. Done in the classic retro-style of the original Nintendo Entertainment System and originally created from a successful Kickstarter campaign back in 2020. The game was produced and released as a physical cartridge for the NES and emulators.
Trapped in a puzzle of pixels
NEScape! starts off with a bang. The player is faced with a cryptogram lock before even being allowed to start. This implies you are in for a tough run of complex puzzles. However, you can bypass this ‘lock’ screen if it proves too frustrating. The game begins and the player wakes up in a dark room. Upon switching on the light, you’re confronted by four different colored walls. You see a variety of objects, from normal to strange, around you.
The game utilizes old-school functions of the NES quite well. You only need a cross-pad or joystick to select object, and two buttons to control actions. A 60-minute timer becomes your chief antagonist for this game. Right away, this will be a detriment if the player didn’t take the time beforehand figure out how the controls work.
Faced with limited graphic power and space, the puzzles are still quite tricky. You probably won’t mange to escape the first time through. In which case, as you find yourself repeating the playthrough again and again, the puzzles will get easier. You’ll become the more efficient with each attempt. This creates a limited amount of repeated playability, which is a plus.
Low-Resolution perplexing challenges
Original NES era games didn’t have much memory to work with. Programmers made the games difficult so older gamers got their money’s worth from them. Players saw a “You Won” graphic, or they got to play a slightly different version of the game once it was beaten.
NEScape!‘s downside is that once you’ve finally beaten the game and escape, there’s not much left to challenge you into going through it again. Several of the puzzles are actually quite difficult based on the shading of the graphics, as a result, it makes them near impossible to figure out without some sort of help. Several items are a little confusing on what exactly they are. For instance, is the item a gun or a hairdryer? This is coupled with the difficulty in recognizing some graphics as interactive. In addition to that, the audio cues, while fun MIDI-sounding, aren’t easily identifiable.
Flashbacks of a simpler time
Even so, if you’re into late 80’s/early 90’s nostalgia, the game captures the mood, feel, and even the audio of that era. You can even add selectable borders, so the screen resembles an old cathode-ray tube television or the original NES design, just short of a lawsuit. If you’ve got an evening to kill or a few minutes here or there, the game is a good distraction and might even sharpen your skills for a real escape room.