Room escape designers work at their own pace, don't they? For some, like Neutral, you're lucky if you get one game a year. Others, like Tesshi-e, seem to design a game or two each month. Minoto seems to come out with one every week. However, sometimes the wait can be a good thing. Especially if the designer uses that time to ramp up everything about the game: backgrounds, puzzles, controls, and everything in-between. It's been a good seven months since we last heard from 58 Works. Now they've come roaring back with Kalaquli, their latest escape-the-room game. Was it worth the wait? Oh, heck yeah!
You begin Kalaquli with a simple directive. "This is a simple point-and-click game. Let's escape from the Ninja house." Wait, what? A simple game? A Ninja house? That should be the first clue right there that (a) this isn't going to be that simple, and (b) you might end up wounded or dead. But perhaps we're overreacting. After all, Ninjas are people too. It's not like they'll pepper their house with secret passages, hidden rooms, and try to assassinate you just for being there, is it? Uh, well...
Search this lovely Japanese style house and you will encounter lots of fun puzzles, sliding screens, and maybe the above-mentioned Ninjas. Navigate around using arrows (and bars) at the edges of the screen, click on things for close ups, solve the mysteries and see if you can escape with your life. Finding your way around is made tons easier by the fact that 58 Works has incorporated the holy grail of room escape games, the changing cursor. No more pixel hunting! Now if they'd just incorporate a save button.
Analysis: It's been a while, but it's definitely been worth the wait. 58 Works has gone all out on Kalaquli, incorporating fantastic background visuals, strong puzzles, amusing situations, and some lovely animations to boot. Once you escape you can even enjoy the fun animation of your character hot-footing it away with a Ninja hard on his/her heels. This is what good game designing is all about.
And although the game is quite beautiful, especially with the incorporation of the animations, this is not a case of style over substance. There are a variety of logical puzzles to solve, as well as items that can be taken, items that can be moved, raised, or slid around. There are also items in your inventory that can be examined, manipulated, combined, deconstructed, or otherwise be used (sometimes more than once). It is the sheer variety of things you can do that make Kalaquli entertaining casual gameplay.
Are there flaws? Well, yes, a few. Some background music would be nice, and the ability to save and come back later is one that 58 Works should definitely be adding to their escapes. The puzzles, while not terribly easy, are not terribly difficult either, so you shouldn't take too long to find your way out before the Ninjas get you.
Is Kalaquli fantastic mid-week escaping fun? Most definitely! A lively combination of scenery, puzzle design, manipulative ability make Kalaquli an entertaining break for the middle of the week. Not too easy, not too difficult, easy on the eyes, and the added bonus of charming animations make Kalaquli a must-play for any escape the room fanatic. Or anyone who just likes point-and-click adventures. Or anyone who just likes Ninjas. Okay, so it's fun for everyone!