Does anyone fancy a really elaborate game of Jenga in order to escape from the drudgery of the office? Boiled down to its most basic elements, this is what you are getting with Salary Man Escape. Like many other modern virtual reality (VR) titles, it seeks to offer some tongue-in-cheek commentary on the world of work whilst simultaneously aiming for a fun and engaging puzzle experience.
Salary Man Escape can be operated with either the Dual Shock 4 or PlayStation Move controllers. The Dual Shock 4 seems to be a bit more comfortable for long-term play, but the PlayStation Move was a little more intuitive.
Gameplay acts an awful lot like Jenga. Levels are laid out as increasingly complex arrangements of blocks. The ones that can be interacted with are red, while all the others are white. Once the route between your Salary Man in his suit and fetching red tie is open, he dashes wildly for the open door.
You press a trigger button to grab a red block, then slide it around using either the PlayStation Move want to the thumb stick to get it to the right location. While the red bricks are the only ones that can be directly interacted with, the other blocks are subject to physics, and will fall and knock into each other, which can cause disaster if you move the wrong piece at the wrong time.
The blocks have a satisfying weight to them, and there is a definite satisfaction is correctly solving a puzzle, particularly in later levels where you can set up a pleasing Rube-Goldberg-esque mechanism and watch everything fall into place after a single nudge.
Unfortunately, this is also where one of the main problems comes in. If a brick you don’t directly control lands in the wrong place, even a tiny bit, it can upset the entire apple cart and lead to a catastrophic cascade that forces you to restart. Having to restart because you screwed up is one thing, but having to do so due to the physics gods hating you feels a little unfair.
The other issues involves the movement of the level. Instead of moving yourself around, you move the level itself, rotating it and bringing it closer in order to identify the best way to tackle the puzzle. Using the Dual Shock 4, this is done using the thumb stick, and the controls are inverted, with no apparent option to change this, which can lead to frustration.
The art style is start, mostly featuring flat white blocks with touches of red and black and muted backgrounds that deliberately invoke a particularly bleak cubical farm. Combined with the manipulation of the levels and the puzzle mechanics, it is quite strongly reminiscent of the PlayStation 3/PlayStation Portable puzzle title Echochrome in some ways.
The music is… odd. While it isn’t bad as such, the upbeat J-Pop-ish tunes feel oddly misplaced, and get get grating and repetitive, especially if you are stuck on a particular level. Worse still, some of them are earworms and will not leave your head. Perhaps something a little more ambient might have fit better.
Salary Man Escape has some flaws, but it offers plenty of gameplay time for the money, The controls take some adjusting to, but there’s definite satisfaction to be found from mastering it, particularly as you advance up into the later and more complex levels.