Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Escape from the Oval Office

OK, I'm going to do this as quickly as possible, because I just spent a good thirty or forty minutes of my life playing Escape from the Oval Office, and I just want to get the review over and done with, so I never have to look at this game ever again.

I felt that I should just go with the crowd and review something political. And even though the USA now has a new, competent President, that doesn't mean we can't still laugh at the old, incompetent one. The only problem is that Escape from the Oval Office laughs at all those who dare to give it a chance.

I'll admit to never being a big fan of escape games, but I'm willing to give them the benefit of the doubt, just as long as puzzles are logical and the solutions aren't hidden under a pile of confusing mess. Escape from the Oval Office has neither of these qualities.

So you're stuck in the Oval Office and you need to find a way to unlock the door. There's a key on this desk, but let's face it, nothing's ever that easy. We look to the computer, and we need a password to log in, which is helpfully stuck to the monitor with a Post-It note. It's starting to look like George W Bush himself programmed this game, until you see that there is no "W" key on your keyboard!


OK, let's go find the "W" key, since it's so important that we get on this computer. Travelling around the room isn't too difficult, but it just feels clunky, and the interface can be very unresponsive. Combining items is the most tedious chore; first you click on an item to examine it, then you click and drag the second item to use it on the first. It should come as no surprise that about fifteen minutes in I started to get a headache, and the light yellow walls didn't help.

I should also note that, aside from a crappy drum loop on the title screen, there is no music, and there are few sound effects. So if you like looking at badly drawn pictures of the Oval Office in complete silence, this game is for you.

Anyway, you notice a very obvious secret compartment, but you'll need a screwdriver to open it. So you go to the next view...

...And lo and behold, there is a screwdriver. There are only two types of puzzle in this game - the moronically easy or the stupendously difficult. The mouse gives you no indication of what can be interacted with and what can't, so all you can do is click over the entire screen and hope you come across something you can use.

Occasionally you'll come across something genuinely terrifying, like this fifty foot tall Dick Cheney.

Or this image, which is supposed to be sombre and sobering. Yes, we get it, the guy was an asshole. Now can you please tell me what to do next? Please, give me some clue! What do you want from me!?

Eventually you find the "W" in the bathroom (once you unlock the bathroom with a key found under one of the cushions on the couch - and that took way longer than was necessary.) But George doesn't want to put his hand in toilet water, so you have to take a valve handle that you found in the curtains for some reason, click behind the toilet, turn the valve to drain the water, and then retrieve the button.

Two things. First, wouldn't a plastic button flow away with the water? And secondly, how the hell was I suppose to know I could click behind the toilet? I'm not given any indication that I can do that! I'm not given any help whatsoever at any point in this game! The instructions are about as useful as flip flops in the friggin' Arctic! The only way I could advance was through trial and error or reading other people's hints.

I finally get on the computer and I think to myself, "Thank God, it's almost over." In my travels around the room I came across a drawer with a combination lock on it. I assumed that the combination would be on the computer. I could then use it to open the drawer, find the key to the Oval Office, and make good my escape. How wrong I was! Instead there was nothing but this picture of a wing. Why was there a picture of a wing?

Because I had been searching for the wrong items. How foolish of me to think that you look for a key to open a locked door! I found this on the floor, completely by accident. The object of the game is not to locate the key, but to locate the various parts of the eagle that will then give you the key.

What is the point of that? Why are you giving me one more puzzle on top of all the other puzzles? I found your "W", I found your Wiimote (playing the Wii apparently gives you... something) - what more can I give!? But no - out of nowhere, this bombshell is dropped.

Escape from the Oval Office is complete and utter garbage... but I don't hate it. Why? Because, while reading the comments for it on the Addicting Games website, I couldn't help but notice that many of those who didn't like it also possessed neoconservative values. And since there's nothing I enjoy more than annoying neoconservatives, let me just write that Escape from the Oval Office is a game everyone should play!

And it's OK to be gay!

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