If you’re old enough to remember the text-based adventures of the 1980s, you’ll be familiar with the concept of Escape from Norwood’s text-based gameplay. But this isn’t a simple nostalgic rehash of those games; Escape from Norwood innovates for the modern day, adding many features, and taking the genre to new heights.
Escape from Norwood starts in media res. You’re a young girl who can wield magic, but this makes you a pariah in the city, and therefore you’re being pursued as soon as the game starts. The story is delivered as you play, and it’s up to the player to talk to people and interact with the world to piece together the background laws and social mores that govern the world.
Young Lecia will have to learn who she can trust in a world that wants to see her dead only because of her magical nature. Will she be able to save her family and change the nature of the world she lives in?
One of the first things you’ll notice in Escape from Norwood is that the game’s UI is split into 4 sections in a quadrant layout. One section is for the text and acts just like you would expect a text adventure to.
Another section of the screen has a fully animated and lighted hand-drawn map that shows your character’s position and the world around them. The last two quadrant areas show your character’s inventory and the choices and interactions your character can make in the world around them.
And if that wasn’t enough, there’s a full-on day and night cycle, and time passes in real time in Escape from Norwood. This means that some actions are time-sensitive. For example, one early scene has you meeting someone at night, so you have to use the helpful time skip buttons and go to the meeting location.
The map screen also changes with the time of day, with street lamps glowing with animation in the dark of night and the sunrise casting orange hues over city buildings and subsequent shadows dancing based on the sun’s location. This makes it a unique experience in text adventures, and you can definitely say that Escape from Norwood goes where few games have ventured before.
But Escape from Norwood’s innovative features don’t end there. The game also has screen reader support, meaning it provides players with full accessibility. It can be played entirely with the keyboard and simply pressing F12 activates the text-to-speech mode, meaning the visually impaired can play this text adventure with ease. In our books, that’s amazing.
Escape from Norwood takes inspiration from all different decades, elevating the whole text adventure experience, with cues from the point-and-click adventure genre and quite the forgiving attitude of recent games. There will be no sudden deaths, dangers or even sudden text prompts. To move, you click the map – which even has detailed interiors – and then you read the reading pane to see who and what is around you.
Interactable objects are highlighted, so you simply click those in the reading pane and are then given the option to talk, push, pull, and more. So rather than an obtuse black screen as is the genre standard, the world is fleshed out far more, providing excellent immersive experiences. There are also puzzles to solve, too, and let’s not forget that time moves on as well. Making those choices and getting the right solutions to your problems in the right time is crucial.
All of this combines to make a game that is well above what you’d expect from a small developer. Escape from Norwood’s fantasy world is well written and crafted through both text and visuals to make for not-seen-before text adventure innovation. It has excellent accessibility features, and by combining adventure game puzzles and norms, manages to create a world that is enthralling. Fans of the genre won’t want to put it down.
Escape from Norwood: Escape from Norwood is an excellent game that innovates on the text adventure formula to provide an experience modern-day gamers will love. Excellent accessibility features, good writing, and an immersive world make this a must-play game for fans of the genre. – Damiano Gerli