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Without Escape Review (PC)

We check out PC horror adventure Without Escape, which has hit Steam after an initial release on Xbox Live.

Without Escape is a first-person adventure game in the vein of the Dark Fall series and the rather brilliant Scratches. Most of this indie title is presented as a static slideshow, with the occasional spot of animation to liven things up. You can click around each room to explore and interact with hotspots, or pick up items. When you wish to move to a fresh vantage point, that’s also achieved by clicking a hotspot.

Sans parents

The game’s plot is rather simple, or at least it is to begin with. You get home from school to find your house deserted, and no word on where your parents have vanished to. Come nightfall there’s still no sign of them, so you toddle off to bed. Only to be rudely shaken from your slumber at some ungodly hour by a troublesome noise. Was it just some dodgy dream brought on by that cheesy feast, or is something altogether more sinister going on?

At first there are little hints that something is amiss. An unsettling painting that you’ve never seen before appears in the hallway, for instance. This also conveniently allows us to save our game, incidentally. And even worse, someone has nicked the batteries from the telly remote. However, Without Escape quickly cranks the craziness levels right up to eleventy stupid, and it’s here where the game really gets interesting.

Grisly visuals

You’ll occasionally be treated to a slick looking cut-scene, although these are few and far between. Thankfully any old school or indie adventure fans will be perfectly used to this style of presentation anyway. Besides, for an indie title, the visuals are pleasingly packed with detail and suitably grisly in places. Of course, the limited animation might put off some less forgiving adventure fans, especially anyone who’s used to fully rendered 3D environments and complete freedom of movement.

Similar adventures such as the aforementioned Dark Fall managed to put the willies up us with little more than a well-placed creepy sound effect. Often, the power of suggestion is far more effective than throwing gore and nasty stuff in the gamer’s face. And Without Escape can certainly chill at times, thanks to its well-produced audio. The soundtrack is filled with atmospheric and haunting music, while sharp stabs punctuate any dramatic moments. Occasionally you’ll hear something unsettling in the background too. Nothing particularly original; an odd scraping noise or what sounds like a small child in distress. However, when played at night with headphones, it’s still an effective composition.

Short and sweet

Unfortunately Without Escape is rather short and simple to complete. My first playthrough only lasted 80 minutes, with plenty of time spent exploring. Occasionally you’ll have to click your way around to find a key that’s inexplicably hidden inside an oven, but for the most part the puzzles are logical enough. They certainly shouldn’t trouble any adventure game veterans. There are also some bonus hidden endings to discover too, if you want to replay the game.

Without Escape is on sale for its first week and if you see it available for cheap, we’d say give it a go. Although rough around the edges and very short, it’s still engaging and lovingly crafted.

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