Game

Last year’s surprise room escape hit gets equally surreal origin story

Price: $2.99 / £1.99
Version:
1.1.5
Size: 101 MB
Platform:
iPhone & iPad
Developer:
LoyaltyGame

Download Rusty Lake: Roots on the App Store

With its focus on family ties, trees, and an odd puzzle involving triplets, it’s apt that it’s taken just over nine months for the Rusty Lake developer to release a sequel to last year’s surprise room escape game Rusty Lake Hotel. The app was a smash hit and is currently rated five-stars on the App Store. Impressively, Roots is equally, if not even more surreal.

Rusty Lake introduces you to various members of the Vanderboom family

Rusty Lake introduces you to various members of the Vanderboom family

First, a bit of background. It’s not necessary to play Rusty Lake Hotel first, in fact, this game feels more like the first in the series. But it actually goes back further – the developers used to develop games featuring similar characters under the far more bland “Cube Escape” name. Ultimately, the Rusty Lake saga wasn’t planted until last year’s Hotel. In this game, you meet James Vanderboom in 1869. He’s inherited a large house and is planting a tree in the garden. From here, the tree grows as you complete puzzles, revealing more of the Vanderboom family tree, their legacy, and the mysterious omens that follow them through the decades.

Find items in each scene and apply them to objects and individuals to complete the level

Find items in each scene and apply them to objects and individuals to complete the level

It’s all pulled together within a uniquely designed, painted world. The images aren’t heavy in detail, but it’s a style not matched by anyone else on the App Store. In a world where blocky-style animation is rife, imitation is far from the minds of the folk behind Rusty Lake. It’s sinister, it’s weird, funny and bizarre all at the same time.

Mysterious anthropomorphic animals recognizable from Rusty Lake Hotel will show up

Mysterious anthropomorphic animals recognizable from Rusty Lake Hotel will show up

In terms of the actual puzzles, you deal with some weird stuff in Roots. From climbing into a man’s chest to retrieve his heart, to bottle feeding triplets, to testing your elixir of life on your dog, to simple flower cross-pollinating. There’s also various themes including mask-wearing, voodoo, astrology and the afterlife. The puzzles and tasks are certainly unique in their weirdness. There’s around 33 in total, and they can be consumed in bite-sized pieces. A welcome diversion from Hotel’s five characters, five rooms approach. They don’t have to be completed in order, either. The family tree approach allows you to follow certain branches, then switch to others to explore another side of the tree.

The game frequently goes beyond collecting and applying items and throws up some complicated puzzling

The game frequently goes beyond collecting and applying items and throws up some complicated puzzling

In fact, Hotel is far less point and click, solve a room in its approach. Instead, each level is more of a self-contained puzzle. The attention to detail is wonderful – each level has distinct music, and as the family expands, you begin to sense the connections. Elsewhere, mysterious ravens and other animals previously seen in Hotel begin to make appearances.

Always look out the windows – you'll see some weird stuff

Always look out the windows – you’ll see some weird stuff

Despite all this praise, one element of this game that did disappoint is its level of difficulty. Hotel was incredibly tricky, not necessarily to complete all the rooms, but to ensure everything was done in the right order to solve everything. In Roots, it’s a more measured approach and often requires you to just keep plugging away. We rarely got stuck, and think there’s a little more of a balance that can be struck in its difficulty.

In conclusion, we have to wonder whether the Rusty Lake folk have a grand design or a story they wish to take through to completion with these characters and this house. We’re not convinced yet that they do, but we’ll happily come along for the ride in one of the most unique, bizarre, and totally engaging puzzler games on the App Store.

Review – Rusty Lake: Roots – uber-mysterious and bizarre puzzle story explores its origins
A solid sequel that's easily as good as its predecessor, while providing something both bigger and different
For
  • Completely unique design
  • Intriguing characters
  • Bite-sized puzzle approach
Against
  • A little too easy
4.5Overall Score