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Escape the room is a subgenre of adventure game, usually created as a browser game for the Adobe Flash platform, that utilizes a point-and-click style of play. The object of the game is to find a way to escape from a mysterious room. The room usually consists of a locked door, several objects to manipulate as well as hidden clues or secret compartments. The player must use the objects to interact with other items in the room to reveal a way to escape.
Most escape-the-room games play from a first-person perspective, where the player must click on objects to interact with them. Many games of the genre start with a small cut scene (which usually consists only of text) to establish how the player got there. The usual story is the player waking up and finding themselves in a mysterious room from which they must escape using the household itself, but sometimes also unusual items left in the room.
During gameplay the player must click on objects to either interact with them or add them to their inventory. As the player passes the mouse over the game screen, usually the mouse cursor will change shape (e.g. to a hand or different kind of arrow) if the item under the cursor can be used, opened, manipulated, collected, searched or (if an exit) followed, but some games do not provide such hints to the player. If the object cannot be collected, opened, used or manipulated, the player is usually assumed to be inspecting it; in most cases, the player will see a brief text description. The player must collect items and use them with various objects (or other items in the inventory) to find a way to get out of the room. Some games require that the player solves several rooms until reaching the end. Some escape the room games require significant amounts of pixel hunting. Another problem is translations, being that most escape the room games are Japanese, causing poor hints and otherwise easily solved puzzles to be both confusing and grammatically incorrect.
Most escape-the-room games include at least one puzzle, such as a sliding-block puzzle, a jigsaw puzzle (or a similar type in which a note is pieced together), a colour puzzle or a word or number puzzle. These might be combined, as for instance when a painting of a rainbow hides a safe, and the safe combination is found by counting the number of appropriately coloured objects in the room and entering those as digits.
Some clichés of escape-the-room games are the following:
- A wastepaper basket in which or under which is a clue.
- The safe holding an important key or clue
- The dresser or set of cupboards, whose drawers must be individually searched
- The bookcase, each of whose books might contain a clue
- The flat surface whose underside might hold a clue -- e.g. tables, chairs or benches
- The two-sided flat object, such as a poster or painting, whose reverse side holds a clue, tool or key
- The screwdriver, often referred to as 'SD' by players discussing the game
- The inexplicable object that the player discovers early in the game, which later turns out to be one of many such parts that combine to form an outlandish but necessary device (e.g. rounded prongs that turn out to be the ears of a toy rabbit that completes a set, thus opening a hidden compartment)
- The rug whose corners flip over to reveal tools or keys or trapdoors
- The movable box, chair or table, which either reveals a hidden object or allows the player to reach high shelves and ledges
- The bed, which often has something hidden under or in a pillow, under the blankets or under the frame
- The crack between furniture and the wall, which often conceals a key or clue
- The cushion or pillow that must be slashed open with a knife to reveal some important object inside
These elements rarely combine in any straightforward way. For instance, a player may find a keycard under a rug, but the card is useless until they find a code on the backside of a painting. The code and keycard are then used to open a cash register, which has a small brass key in its till, which in turn opens the basement door and thus allows the player to explore a new room and find important items. Escape-the-room games rarely permit quick escape, and the opening cut-scenes usually explain that the player has been trapped by malevolent, sometimes even supernatural, forces.
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