Escape Series 4: The Bathroom: A point-and-click mystery with echoes of 'Saw'.

I can't claim to speak for everyone, but I can state with the strongest of convictions that I don't very often enter into a situation which results in waking up in an unfamiliar bathroom feeling disoriented and confused; luckily, there isn't a door blocking the exit but, less fortunately, there are several laser beams preventing your escape. Similar situations have presented themselves in the past as a result of fairly rowdy and disorderly parties, mainly in my university years.

Escape Series 4: The Bathroom

Most of us can say that perhaps we have all been there (minus the lasers, though this depends how dedicated your university friends are to the art of practical jokes), but those of us who are not actually Bear Grylls or MacGyver cannot say that they have been forced to escape their unexpected bathroom predicament with only use of various objects available to them in the vicinity. 'Escape Series #4: The Bathroom' will change this for you, and may very well entertain you in the meantime.

Since the game contains scenes of gratuitous water flow, it is able to claim that it belongs (very loosely) under the category of entertainment known as 'water games'. I would say that it fits more readily into the genre of hygiene-themed mystery puzzle mini-adventure; I say this because it begins by instantly presenting you with a bathroom scene without further explanation, and leaves it up to the player to show themselves the ropes and become acquainted with the whys and hows of the situation. I know that the above genre is incredibly specific and isn't a widely-recognised one to begin with, but it is difficult to properly label the game due to the unusual nature of its premise.

At its most basic (and it is very basic), the game is simply a point-and-click mystery exercise where you use the mouse to perform all required actions in the game. Hovering of the cursor over various points of interest within the bathroom allows you to navigate firstly around all four walls of apparent sanitary mysteriousness. Clicking on particular items of further curiosity will then take you closer to the item in question, providing a more detailed view of your surroundings. You will find that this then allows you to use your shrewd skills of reasoning and perhaps leading you to the conclusion that you must play with the objects that you feel are important to furthering the progress of your escape from this simply terrifying (or at very least, mildly inconvenient) situation.

Making a reference to the obvious 'Saw-like' format of the game is pretty much unavoidable, though the tasks here are a lot less conceptual and infinitely more humane than such scary escape games; you can rest assured that there will be neither bloodshed nor even the mildest of panic over the situation. After all, you are trapped in a fairly well-lit, spacious bathroom with plenty of sanitary provisions and an ample-sized bath should you wish to have a gentle soak while you ponder your escape.

The only real pressure you are subjected to comes from the incessant ticking of the progress timer, which is no more frightening than a standard egg-timer counting down to the final moments of the completion of your favourite oven-cooked meal. Fear not, since the timer doesn't count down to an ominous 'zero', it merely quantifies your progress through the space-time continuum using the man-made concept of seconds and minutes; if it gets to hours, you're doing it wrong.

As mentioned above, the gameplay is really as simple as 'point and click' ; navigating around the room effectively explains itself (the arrows change as you hover over different potential views) and performing actions with the various objects is no more than a click of your mouse away. Beginning with a general view of the bathroom including the toilet and the mirror, you must use your own initiative and begin to investigate the situation, determining which objects are most useful to you and bearing these in mind when you explore other areas, since you must return to a few of the locations in order to use items that were previously acquired.

The game follows a standard inventory system whereby any item you click on is picked up and placed into a scrolling inventory across the bottom of the screen. Some of the first few items include a toilet plunger, some baking soda and the instructions from the box. Reading the instructions allows you gain the vital knowledge that it should be mixed with warm water. Based on this information, you would (or should) most likely conclude that you must zoom in on the sink and fill it with warm water, making it possible to use the baking soda. It is often the case that you must use the items in conjunction with each other for the full effect; the purpose of crating the baking soda solution, for example, is to be able to dip toothbrush (which was acquired previously) into it and use it to clean yet another object across the room. Logic is your friend here, and a short supply of it will get you nowhere.

Escape Series 4: The Bathroom

Being the fourth in a long line of games belonging to the 'Escape Series' saga, the game isn't hefty in length or demanding in difficulty. For example, you don't often have to perform long sessions of complex thinking in order to realise that you must for example, use the wrench to twist a few valves and smash the mirror with it to acquire a reflective surface for yet another purpose. It is really a game of common sense, requiring little imaginative thinking, only a small amount of will power and the desire to kill some time. Do not take this as a heavy criticism of the game itself, however; it is deliberately simple in nature and doesn't apologise for being so. The number of titles in the series itself speaks volumes about its success as a flash game and its longevity as an idea in general.

The game won't soon be winning any gaming BAFTAs or even receiving any notoriety amongst critics for its crude artwork, which at best can be described as 'drawn with flash'.This isn't a detriment to the game, however; I really enjoyed the ten or so minutes of gameplay that I got from it, and am now sufficiently intrigued to play the rest of the games in the series. The game's appeal is as wide as flash games can offer since little investment of time is required and minimum effort needs to be exerted to play. Picking it up is self-explanatory; what's not to like?

Conclusion

I entered into Afro Ninja Games 'Escape Series 4: The Bathroom' with suspicious eyes and judgemental heart and left feeling quite guilty for my doubts. In my defence, the title doesn't exactly shower the game with glamour or even the promise of some challenging, good-natured, logical fun but that can be said about many of Afro Ninjas games such as Escape the Phone Booth and their popular Minecraft Skin Editors - www.minecraftskineditors.com. On the other hand, the existence of three previous titles and a further two more are themselves testament of the game's popularity and I enjoyed working my way through the various objects in the bathroom, with each one being a bite-sized mystery in itself. I'm just glad it didn't take a dark turn and end up with a blood-stained corpse on the floor and six terrible sequels following it.