Doodle Escape: Room Escape Game can do one. It can take the 79p that we spent on it, and it can royally fudge right off. We don’t care what it does with our money. Bah humbug!
We’re not going to get sympathy from around these parts – this was entirely self-inflicted. We agreed to pick it up, after all. The clues were there: these 79p games are almost proud of their shoddiness. Hand-drawn store card? Check. No achievements? Check. A title that sounds like some shuffled fridge magnets? Check.
Yet, we weren’t quite prepared for its over-ripe awfulness. It’s so offensively, aggressively terrible, that we were kind of taken aback. It had us on the back foot and we hadn’t put up our defences in time. It found our weak spot.
It’s a simple premise. There’s a room, and you’re in it. The room has a locked door, and there’s a key on the other side of the room which opens it. Your task, should you choose to accept it, is to get the key, open the door, and leave. This plays out as a simplistic 2D platformer, as you jump on blocks and onto platforms to nail your goals. An escape room in the ‘Riddles of Tutankhamun’ sense this is not.
But wait! There are enemies. And not any old enemies: these are some of the worst enemies ever committed to a scripting language, for they are coded to move about the level RANDOMLY, rather than on any given path. They might chase after you one minute, turn tail and then dry-hump a series of crates before chasing you again. They’re a perfect example of why random AI, with no predictable paths, should never be in any game. Ever.
It’s chaos. No matter the best laid plans that you have, a rabid blob might decide to headbutt them. All you can do is run for it and hope that the gods of RNG shine on you this day. You can play a level in exactly the same manner as your previous attempt, and there’s every chance that you will succeed where you had previously failed.
Doodle Escape: Room Escape Game clearly wants you to use the blocks about the level to hem in the murderous blobs. It lays these crates about the level and beckons you to – go on, go on! – block in the blobs. Except there’s a kind of crackpot physics in play here, so the blocks won’t do what you want them to. You will mount the blocks, spin them away wildly, or emerge on the other side of the block and die at the hands of the blob. And even if you do manage to block the blobs, they might randomly push them aside and come after you anyway. We imagined Ian Malcolm from Jurassic Park giggling away in a corner about chaos theory and life finding a way.
But Doodle Escape: Room Escape Game is playable in the sense that, just as it can randomly kill you, it can randomly give you a free pass, too. The blob might moonwalk into a corner and stay there, giving you a cheesy free reign of the level. So, Doodle Escape: Room Escape Game is not difficult, exactly. Just inconsistently awful.
There are twenty-eight levels here, and they have no sense of difficulty curves. Some of the latter levels are astonishingly easy. They could have merrily served as tutorial levels. But some of the early levels are demonspawn, giving you no real way of trapping or avoiding the blobs, leaving you exposed. It’s a design mess with no sense of escalation. The blocks you see in the first few levels are the ones you see in the last few.
There are people who will be suckered into Doodle Escape: Room Escape Game, like a moth to a 79p flame. We get it: they can barely feel the money leaving their bank account. But we worry about them: we worry about their wellbeing, should they play it, because it achieves a level of frustration that causes physical pain. It’s gaming tinnitus.
What can we say? Donate the money to charity. Just – please – don’t bring any more suffering into the world.
You can buy Doodle Escape: Room Escape Game from the Xbox Store