Domino House

PC

I was very taken with Domino House when I played its demo back at the start of October. An escape game that is just plain bonkers. Not creepily unsettling like Rusty Lake, and not tiresomely random like most of the examples you’ll find on mobile. Properly outright peculiar.

The full game has just released, and I’m pleased to report it continues in exactly the same vein. I’m also slightly disappointed to report it doesn’t end up going anywhere else.

It was a very generous demo. A little too generous I fear, although very cleverly put together. Playing the full game, while there’s a lot that’s repeated, there are also some significant differences in the sections we’ve seen before. Rooms don’t join together in the same way, and puzzles aren’t always solved by the same route – I was very pleased about that. The majority of the challenges in this black-and-white oddity are based on observing patterns in one location, and applying them in others, very often by clicking on dots and shapes in the correct order. Along the way, you gather a concerning number of happy teeth, rooster statuettes and little toy houses for sad snails.

When it works, it’s packed with excellent “AH!” moments, as you realise how that hint there connects to this object here, and with a little bit of lateral thinking you can apply one to the other. When it doesn’t, it’s just a bit annoying.

I ended up resorting to a YouTube walkthrough on a couple of occasions, and both times was disappointed that the fault hadn’t been mine. Rather than thinking, “Oh, of course! Because that face is the same shape as that pattern…” I instead thought, “But how was anyone supposed to make that assumption?” One particularly egregious example has you clicking on two black circles in an order apparently indicated by a line of circles and, er, triangles. Bearing in mind most puzzles are made of circles and triangles, this is just incongruous.

Yet most of the time, it all clicks together and feels satisfying to plough through. It’s just that, perhaps unfairly, those couple of stumbling blocks (unless I’m being colossally thick and missing something) break the flow and really stand out.

My other disappointment is that it doesn’t build to anything. I was hoping its unreality would continue to break down, or that some notion of narrative would develop, or pieces from earlier would culminate in one big final puzzle. Instead it continues on in the same weird-eyed pattern until it stops. There’s no sense of an ending, or of finally piecing the last few clues together – you just run out of puzzles.

I think I’d perhaps be slightly less picky about this had I not enjoyed the demo so much. Demos need to tease, show you just enough that you’re intrigued, but not enough to leave you satisfied. Domino House does about three times more than it did in its demo, but it’s three times more of the same pattern. I suppose I was hoping for crescendo, but got a few more verse and choruses. And that’s on me, for sure.

This is by far one of the more interesting escape games around, if you’re looking for something silly and strange and relatively simple. It’s not trying to be the lofty intricacy of The Room, nor the Lynchian faux-narrative of Rusty Lake. It’s just goofing around, and that’s important too. And at this, it does very well.

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