Continuing my recent search for the more obscure and odd on the iOS store, Killer Escape has been unearthed. This is a point’n’tap adventure by Psionic Games that awakens you in a damp, underground cell. A tall man is stood on the opposite side of a barred prison door. His face hidden beneath a white mask, he offers some fevered warnings before laughing manically – as all psychopaths apparently do – and disappearing into the shadows. The realisation quickly hits that you’re not the first to have been here. There were others who most certainly met an excruciating end.
“Point’n’click adventure”Psionic Games has set out to create a decidedly old-school point’n’click adventure with its feet deep in the swamps of ‘90s horror titles. Expectations were initially low. The crackled laugh and boiler suit of the antagonist is less than inventive. Like a discarded early character sketch from some straight-to-DVD schlock it did little to captivate. What it did surprise with is a tight atmosphere seeping at the sides with a claustrophobic tension.
This atmosphere is in part damaged and elevated by how the it plays. Tapping on the side of the screen turns the static point of view left or right, or into a new area if selected. In a rip roaring disregard for modern design, points of interest are not highlighted; quite the opposite due to the murky colour palette.
Tapping on a lightly coloured loose brick in a wall displays text explaining that this could be removed with the appropriate object. This object is a screwdriver hidden upon a ceiling gas pipe. With the cell so dark and danky it is borderline camouflaged at first, only found when randomly tapping all over the place like a man trying to escape a kidnapper’s cell. Which I was. This is contextually sensible but mechanically lacks polish.
What you’re not informed on is how much easier discovery becomes when you hold your finger on the screen and move it around to look, text highlighting areas of importance. The fingertip becomes the eye. With this rather helpful mechanic unearthed through self preservation a possible escape formerly hidden in shadow was spotted.
“A sense of urgency”The playing environment should match that which would be reserved for horror cinema. Sound up and lights off. Headphones are a must. It’s strange to make this a point, but considering how much practically all video games benefit from the use of headphones over speakers, yet so few people entertain this idea, it’s worth making. The low thuds and simplistic sound design, though burdened with a low production value, do well to breed a sense of urgency as a timer continues to tick on, a constant reminder that he could return at any moment.
Upon loading several days later from the original session the opening cinematic rolled again. Perhaps the killer had discovered the detainee and added another victim to his list. Eitherway, progress was lost. Starting again, the story was completed in a single half an hour sitting. It’s an ideal length for what Psionic Games sets out to achieve and an episodic system would work well.
The flawed functionality and often obtuse environments are fortunately not detrimental to the claustrophobia, perhaps even strengthening it, and this is Killer Escape’s strongest suit.