|Sure thing Aaron Carter
|27 Sep 2023
Pretty Flash, eh?
When you first play Underground Blossom you'll notice that the game has a very minimalist point 'n' click interface with a simple art style and a low number of colours, reminiscent of the era of Adobe Flash games of the 2000s. There's a good reason for this because the developer, Dutch studio Rusty Lake, originally created games for Adobe Flash (although only a few years prior to Adobe retiring the platform). There are ten games that make the Cube Escape series and they were released from 2015 to 2020. Rusty Lake has continued to develop prequels and spin-offs based in the same universe and their most recent entry is Underground Blossom. In this game, you play the role of some kind of supernatural detective that travels a subway with multiple stops. Each stop reveals a bit more about the life of someone called Laura Vanderboom (who apparently features prominently in other Rusty Lake games) but you'll have to solve a lot of puzzles in order to progress the story.
I've always had a soft spot for point 'n' click adventures and similar games, so onto my wishlist it went. It was only there for a very short time though as my brother generously gifted the game to me as a Christmas present (thanks bro!). The game currently holds an "Overwhelmingly Positive" rating on Steam with a whopping 98% of the 4,472 reviews being positive so obviously a lot of people like it, but is it as good as everybody makes it out to be?
|During Laura's school days you'll have to question her classmates to figure out who is who
Another Brick in the Wall
While I understood the general gist of the story it's hard to tell what is real and what isn't. Weird things happen at every stop and disturbing figures come and go. Is the entire game just a reflection of Laura's troubled mind or is what is happening in the game, truly happening, yet in a realistic world mixed with magic and fantasy, like J.K. Rowling's Wizarding World? It's hard to tell considering this is my first Rusty Lake game and it's somewhat frustrating that there is so much ambiguity: it seems to be one of those games where you have to create your own meaning when it comes to the plot. Some might just accept it as a tragic story about loss and grief when a young child loses a parent but it's up to the player to determine if the way it's portrayed in this game is a metaphor or supernatural. The game seems to deal with concepts of trauma and hiding from the outside world (similar to Pink Floyd's "The Wall") and may even offer a light at the end of the tunnel (no pun intended) but again, it's up to the player's interpretation.
|The game often feels weird and unsettling
In terms of the gameplay it's described as an "escape room" game. I've never really played a game that has been branded as such but I have tried an escape room in-person and can confirm it is very similar. Across each room you'll find a number of puzzles but not all puzzles will be available to you from the start, and if they are they'll often be missing a critical clue in order to progress. Only by going around and attempting to solve the puzzles initially available to you will you make progress in solving the entire room. Once you do solve all the puzzles, you can "escape" the room and onto the next one. Puzzles were at the right difficulty for me: they offered some challenges but they're not so perplexing to make them impossible to solve (I'm looking at you old Sierra adventure games)! There's a good variety of logic puzzles, visual and aural puzzles so there should be something here to appeal to everyone in that department.
The game does have some "icky" situations that I did not care much for and they seem to be in the game for mere shock value, although that's actually what you have to do during one scene: torture someone for information via electrocution. It felt rather uncomfortable and unnecessary (despite the individual in question being an antagonist), although the developers probably intended for it to be a comical scene, and while I appreciate some players would find it hilarious, I wasn't one of them.
|The game contains visual puzzles like this one but there are many other types of puzzles too
Infrequent Yet Beautiful Music
In terms of audio, the voice acting could probably be better at times but overall, it's passable. The soundtrack is quite enjoyable despite it being a minimalist one where you'll occasionally hear the violin and piano playing (usually during subway stop transitions).
Underground Blossom has a hard story to follow that can either be interpreted as a metaphor for emotional trauma, loss and grief or something else entirely, something supernatural and a bit unsettling. In terms of how well it functions as an escape room game, I'll have to say it does exactly what it says on the box. The difficulty of the puzzles seem to hit a sweet spot too so almost anyone should be able to enjoy the gameplay, just don't try to question the weirdness too much.
If you like this game, you might like…