Heads up: This week’s Egg McMuffin’s Morrowindian Adventures will be streamed on Thursday. Same time as usual. Assuming construction workers don’t show up to stomp on my roof again.
Anywho, ESCAPE is a browser game that was recently repurposed for android phones and iPhones. This seems like a perfect opportunity for me to play it on my BRAND NEW SMARTPHONE!, but as it turns out, that version costs money. So I’ve been playing it on my laptop instead.
It’s not exactly a complex game. In fact, as far as control schemes go, it’s about as simple as you can get. You only press one button; fittingly, it’s the Escape key. You press it to jump, and you hold it for longer to jump higher. You’re jumping from wall to wall to escape from a red laser beam that’s rising up from the ground for … some reason. And there are spikes on the walls that you have to avoid touching.
As you can expect from arcade-y games like this, there’s no story whatsoever. You’re just jumping to get as high as you can before your inevitable demise.
So why have I been playing this game so much that I’m in danger of breaking my Esc key?
Well, what it lacks in context and complexity it makes up for in a carefully crafted challenge and a wonderful sense of flow. On the surface it might look like the player is just mashing the esc button over and over, but you have to be careful about your timing to avoid jumping into spikes. Holding the button down for a split-second too long can result in death. You can’t be too slow and steady or else the rising laser will get to you, but if you try to rush through you’re pretty much guaranteed to jump face-first into spiky failure.
It reminds me of Canabalt in a good way. It tosses the needless cruft of upgrade points and concept-art cutscenes that we generally find in flash games and gives us a fast-paced and engaging test of speed and reflexes. I’d still rate Canabalt as better, since it actually has atmosphere and a setting that looks relatively cohesive and interesting, but this game is still fun for a good few minutes of jumping, dodging, dying and retrying.