The Pillar: Puzzle Escape
Remember the days of leaving the house? I do. One of my favourite pastimes was visiting escape rooms. You know the ones; you pay a stranger to be locked in a room for an hour and you have to solve obscure puzzles in order to get out. Over the last year, no matter how much you pay your spouse to lock you in the bathroom, there’s nothing like the feeling of achievement of breaking out of a room themed around the zombie apocalypse. Developer, Paper Bunker have tried to replicate this feeling with The Pillar: Puzzle Escape albeit minus the zombie apocalypse.
At A Glance
|Visuals||5 / 10|
|Sound||5 / 10|
|Gameplay||7 / 10|
|Overall||6 / 10|
|Positives||+ Puzzles that challenge
+ Good difficulty curve
+ Pleasant environments & ambient music that’s not intrusive
|Negatives||– Over before you know it
– Puzzles can become samey
– Platinum trophy pings half way through the game
As the name suggests The Pillar: Puzzle Escape is a puzzler that puts you in a strange world in which you have to escape. It’s great when the title of the video game explains what you have to do. What sets this apart from other puzzle games is that it is styled after the escape room format. Set in a first person view, you have to explore the environments to find triggers to activate pillars. These pillars then have different types of problems attached to them which need solving in order to progress.
This premise might sound simple but as the game progresses, the problems get harder and activating pillars becomes more elaborate. Puzzles are presented in an electronic grid full of squares. They start off simple, the first one has you completing a line of coloured squares, but they soon progress to path finding and repeating multiple sequences. The drawback with these, is that the types of puzzles are limited and can be repetitive despite the rising difficulty.
The environments you traverse also form part of the problem solving. They hold clues, such as a combination to a door or a random pattern that you’ll need to memorise. You’ll also need to work out how to trigger the pillars. Again, they start relatively simply such as finding a pad on the floor. They then work themselves up to you having to carry out a complicated set of actions. On one of the game’s later levels, there was a 25 minute period where I was certain I’d solved a particular part of a puzzle when it transpired I didn’t walk through a doorway in the correct way. Once I’d finished swearing, the rest of the level clicked into place.
It has to be said with The Pillar: Puzzle Escape there’s no hand-holding. Even button prompts such as pressing “X” to activate a puzzle screen are missing. You’re left to your own devices and it’s up to you to make the game work. Luckily, the puzzles don’t get too difficult and unlike the real life escape rooms, there is no time limit on completing each level. This is a godsend if you make silly mistakes like the one in the last paragraph, however there is a caveat. The Pillar: Puzzle Escape is an incredibly short game.
I managed to finish the game casually within about 3 hours. There are elements of unlockables to go back to, but that won’t extend the game past the 5 hour mark. Don’t get me wrong, I fully enjoyed my time in the strange worlds that were presented in front of me. The graphics, while not groundbreaking, served a purpose and were pleasant enough. The accompanying ambient soundtrack didn’t intrude or overstay its welcome and provided a relaxing atmosphere. It was just over a little too quickly. Of course, a short runtime isn’t necessarily a bad thing. When compared to most escape room experiences, they cost a lot more than the game’s £8.99 asking price and only last a third of the time, but it struck me that when the game finally gets into its stride, it is all over.
The short runtime isn’t the only quirk I found with the game. I played the PlayStation 4 version and I had to double take when just over half way through my playthrough, the platinum trophy icon pinged. Much like the length of the game, this is by no means a bad thing. In fact, for trophy hunters this is a quick win as it only took an hour and a half to get to. But after the platinum was collected was when the game really started to kick into gear and the difficulty really started to ramp up. I can see gamers stopping at this point and moving onto another game. It seems strange that Paper Bunker would effectively encourage their audience to not play the game to completion.
The Pillar: Puzzle Escape does exactly what it sets out to do. It’s a puzzle game that takes the escape room experience and presents it as a video game. Some puzzles are easy, some are frustrating but it never feels unfair. The short run time is unfortunately a big drawback, especially as there’s not a lot of content post game. The lack of any clues whatsoever, including the controls, also might put some people off. However, if you’re in the market for a game that gives you the feeling of an escape room without leaving your house, you can’t go wrong with The Pillar: Puzzle Escape.
In the interest of full disclosure, the publisher provided VGamingNews with a copy of the game in order to conduct this review.