Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Escape Lala 2 Is Short, Sweet, And Surreal

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So…this is a bit on the late side, I know. The game has been out for some time already by this point. That’s on me. But it’s still on Steam, so…might as well talk about it!

Escape Lala 2 is a pixel art point-andclick adventure game made by DuckbearLab, for Android, Windows, Linux, and macOS, released in July of this year. As you might have guessed from the term ‘pixel art’, or frankly from the genre, it’s a retro throwback as well, harkening to the old days of the late 80’s and early 90’s with a few allowances made for the modern gamer. Aesthetically it’s very similar to an old Sierra game, with sensibilities more like a LucasArts game (no dying, no accidentally making the game unwinnable), and a tone that’s more surreal than anything else. This last part does make parts of the game rather…unnerving, to be quite honest, but there’s nothing truly scary, just unsettling.

This is fine

The plot of the game is simple. You wake up in a cave system, below a castle but above the underworld, and must work to escape, by making offerings to statues representing water, earth, fire, and air. Throughout the course of the game you’ll get small hints at a larger world. References to a missing princess, wanted posters for some sort of wizard, the castle above the starting caves being under siege despite being seemingly abandoned, etc. Not much of this is fully explained though, merely hinted at, so the exact circumstances of anything are kind of vague. A worldbuilding method that is clever, but slightly frustrating.

If Escape Lala 2 has a major failing, that would be it. I have no real idea why the character was in the caves to start with, why they’re trying to escape, or how this world works. I just wake up in the cave and I try to solve the puzzles because…it’s a point and click adventure game, what else am I going to do? Though some slack must be given, as the game is a retro throwback and many of the old games would have been equally opaque without a manual.

Super easy to know what’s going on, right?

Gameplay is very simple and streamlined, even by point and click standards. Everything is done with the mouse, there’s no dialogue trees, no examining items, nothing. You find items, some of which get combined with other objects in your inventory, but most of which are solo acts, you mouse your way from screen to screen, and that’s more or less it. This isn’t a bad thing, it makes the game very streamlined as I say, but it’s a bit simplistic. There’s also a thankful lack of ‘moon logic’. No defeating a monster with a cream pie, or undoing a bolt using a monkey as a wrench, or anything of the sort. There’s one puzzle, involving a ballista that needs a new string and a makeshift bolt, that’s a bit odd, but most other things can be figured out by paying attention and thinking logically. There’s very little backtracking to be done as well, as the game implements a fairly flexible and very handy fast travel system, which keeps you from getting sick of the game’s screens and allows for some interesting puzzles to boot.

From a graphical standpoint, the game is very pretty, at least if you’re a fan of pixel art. It’s not the most complex designs, admittedly, but it’s still fairly standout and well designed. Nothing hurts the eyes, and it’s always easy to figure out what you’re looking at, both of which are pitfalls common to see pixel art fall into. It’s not Shovel Knight, but it’s still very well done.

Sometimes bell snakes just happen

Musically is where I feel the game stands out the most however. I would sometimes get distracted from my tasks and just sit there, listening to the music play. It reminds me of Minecraft honestly. Very simple, pretty melodies, that suit the ambiance of the area quite well. Haunting and melancholy for the caves, jaunty and perky for the pirate ship, etc. It helps carry the gameplay and graphics quite well, keeping any moments from getting too dull or slow, making what backtracking and map searching there is quite tolerable.

If I had any serious issue with the game it would be that there’s very little replay value to the game. Admittedly, most old-school point and click’s didn’t have much, it took a good amount of technological advancements before that could be worked in. Still, the game is so basic, the map so small and the puzzles so simple that the only way I can see replaying this game more than twice a year would be to see if you could beat your previous personal time. Which, given the existence and popularity of speedrunning, is for some people, just not for me.

Still, for an independent game that costs less than five dollars and takes a little under an hour to beat if you’re used to the genre and puzzle solving, that’s not a big problem. Escape Lala 2 knows what it is, and it doesn’t overstay it’s welcome. It’s in and out fairly quick, lasting long enough to give you a favorable impression and a good time but not long enough to get bored or frustrated, and for that I must commend the developers. It’s short, it’s sweet, and it’s surreal, and all those ‘S’s make for a good and enjoyable time.

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Images via DuckbearLab


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