NEScape is the latest release from Khan games, who are no stranger to this sector — with NEScape being the 10th NES title released by Kevin Hanley.
The Nintendo Famicom is 36 years old. Just let that sink in for a moment. I was just one year old when the NES was released in japan (the UK had to wait over three years for the system to hit it’s shores as the Nintendo Entertainment System). I never had one growing up. As weird as it may sound today, the NES was not very popular in the UK, and as such I did not have one when I was a kid. However, a few of my friends did, so I do have fond memories of it, even if I did not get one until I was thirty. So to see games like NEScape still being made for this system is incredible.
NEScape, as the name would suggest, is an escape room game in which the goal is to eventually, open the door and leave. But there are many puzzles between you and that goal, just like many a real life escape room.
It will be hard to review this game, as it is based on puzzles and giving even a single one away will ruin the overall experience, or give you a boost, as you are playing against a timer. Even the title screen is a puzzle. The game starts you in a dark room — I mean literally a dark screen — with nothing but the little eyeball cursor, the timer in the corner and nothing pointing you in the right direction.
You are on your own.
In my initial playthrough, I was here for about five minutes. The far left and right of the screen turn to arrows pointing in the respective directions, which is later revealed to be how you move to the four different walls of the room you are in, but initially, you have no clue what’s going on and this is a frustration. Eventually, this strange puzzle makes sense. (Spoiler: You need to find the light switch and that will be the last spoiler of the article.)
This game is hard. And its puzzles are hard as well as obtuse.
But the reason for that and the time limit is clear. NEScape is a speedrun game. The replay value comes from the fact that you will not get through this your first time, possibly not even you first ten times. But you will get closer and closer, and then when you finally do get to crack it, you will want to do it again but faster. The puzzles within NEScape do not change and there is no randomness to them, so this is where that challenge lies. Do not take this as a negative. It certainly a positive and do remember what platform you are playing this on — the NES. The puzzles in NEScape range from finding keys, to a ball maze, to using object in odd ways to continue — just like the puzzles of the past.
Graphically this game is rather impressive, with visuals reminding me of Shadowgate, but full screen, with a small portion of the screen allocated to inventory at the bottom. Each wall is a vibrant colour to help you recognise where you are at all times. However — and the only negative I have to say about this game — is that the game will be harder for those playing on original hardware. As opposed to those playing digitally via ROM or a newer system, like the Analog NT (it relies on being able to recognise the graphics of certain things, which can be hard on original hardware, even when blown up onto the wall via a projector like I did.) But it’s one of those things whereby once you see it, you will not unsee it.
Controls are as simple as they need to be, with generally the D-pad moving the cursor and the a button selecting. This will occasionally change within certain puzzles, but generally, it’s all you need. An added bonus which I unfortunately did not get to experience, is that using the correct adaptor, the game can be played with the SNES mouse, which I am sure will be required to get some super fast times.
The game is currently on Kickstarter and was funded in under a day! There is certainly an appetite for a NES game of this quality, but get yourself over there and pick NEScape up because I highly recommend it, but cannot really say more without spoiling it for you.
Go. Go Get it.
NESCape is currently on Kickstarter.