Review: Cube Escape: Paradox

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NOTE: This review covers both the free Chapter 1 and the paid Chapter 2.

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At this point, we’re a full dozen games into the Cube Escape/Rusty Lake series. The many threads plucked from those titles are being woven together into a bizarre tapestry of murder and machinations, with the ultimate purpose still nowhere in sight. It’s a fascinating mythology, though, one that’s been carefully crafted to flow together and produce excellent reveals over the years. Cube Escape: Paradox is the newest entry in this series and perhaps the most dependent on prior knowledge to get the most out of. It’s worth the effort though, because the quality has been building even faster than the enigmas.

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Detective Dale Vandermeer has been haunted by Rusty Lake and its denizens his entire life, and after a long and confusing road he finds himself trapped in one of its constructs. His prison is a simple room of four walls and a door, adorned with such charming decor as specimen jars and a deer skull. If he is to escape from this cube, he must follow the teachings of the lake’s most ominous figures, delving deep into his own past and the future of all. In doing so, Dale will also fulfill one of Rusty Lake’s most persistent prophecies.

That’s not going to mean a damn thing to you if you aren’t already ass-deep in Rusty Lake, and if that’s the case you should absolutely hold off on Cube Escape: Paradox. This title is a major turning point in Dale’s story and the culmination of many long-dangling plot threads. The only real drawback to how this tale is told is that it’s getting increasingly inadvisable to experience it out of order, as more and more entries revolve around resolving established mysteries. This one in particular draws from just about every Cube Escape and Rusty Lake title to date, so it’s easily the last one anyone should enter the series with.

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Once you’re past that hurdle, though, strap in because this is easily the best game in the series. Paradox’s scope is much more in line with the Cube Escape series found online than the premium games on Steam, focusing the majority of the puzzling on the single room you find yourself in. However, the Rusty Lake folks have honed their craft over the years and offer some of the best and most creative puzzles yet to tackle. There’s a journey across a globe to map, a mindscape to rearrange for escape, and phone numbers and TV channels to suss out from all different sources. Most notably, the short film released alongside this installment is not wasted either, with clips used in the game and clues to secrets and achievements peppered through the 18-minute movie.

While the quality is quite high for this excursion to Rusty Lake, be aware that it’s not evenly spread across the free and paid sections of the game. Chapter 1 is the free one, and tees up the situation and mysteries that run throughout the Paradox story. It’s a solid bit of puzzling and absolutely worth your time, but if you’re looking for plot resolution you’ll find it in the paid Chapter 2. The second chapter is also longer, perhaps owing to its remarkable spike in difficulty regarding the puzzles, and includes an entirely new mind-altering gimmick I really appreciated. You’ll want to experience both chapters and the short film, as each of the three parts is a separate loop that explains different sections of the story. Just be ready for that if you’re coming to this one expecting a completely free experience.

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Fans of the Rusty Lake mythos should be very pleased with this one, both in the overall high quality of the experience and in the revelations it holds for the overarching story. For newcomers to the series, the free Chapter 1 isn’t the worst place to start and the clever puzzles are sure to give a good first impression, but at this point you really want to be starting near the “beginning”. The Cube Escapes and Rusty Lake games have gone from being brief diversions to an entire universe unto themselves, and to get the most out of them you have to seek out all their myriad parts. But if Cube Escape: Paradox is an indication of where the series is headed, you really ought start now to experience the new highs of this eclectic, macabre epic.

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