Incoherence review: photographic memories
Escape rooms were a regular thing for us before the UK lockdowns.
Pete and I would book one every couple of months and had managed to complete seven before being stuck indoors for a while thanks to a pesky virus. Our first post-COVID experience was during a trip to Birmingham in March, and we’re itching to get another done as soon as possible.
We didn’t miss out entirely during the lockdowns though. We did a few outdoor treasure hunts like the one we enjoyed in London in June and spent several evenings with various escape-rooms-in-boxes accompanied by a bottle of wine. There were also plenty of video games which provided digital experiences with a similar vibe, such as the excellent The Room series and The Escaper.
Incoherence is another title in the same thread. An email from Glitch Games’ co-founder Graham Ranson alerted me to this ‘first-person puzzle escape game’ and I headed over to the website for more information. It turned out that the same developer had created Another Tomorrow, a point-and-click adventure added to my wishlist after it was released in February, so I jumped at Ranson’s kind offer of a review key.
Players take on the role of Jason Bethlam, a man who awakens to find himself in a brightly lit room with no idea of how he got there. Clicking on the few items scattered around the white environment exposes flashbacks from your childhood, such as a backpack from school and the keyboard from your parents’ old computer. The only thing you’re able to pick up is a camera on the table. Next to this are photographs which seem to have been take of your memories and here’s where the adventure begins.
A few of the conundrums entertained us with how well thought out they were and they belie the title’s casual feeling.
The story doesn’t go into any depth and Jason’s observations aren’t particularly revealing. It’s easy to guess what’s happening far ahead of the explanation given but, while the narrative is an old one, it does tie together the game’s format quite neatly. Each of the four levels provides four rooms which can be placed in any sequence to form a path through the set. Once you’ve solved the puzzles in each of them, it becomes clear which order they need to be in to allow you to obtain all the items you needed open the final door.
Incoherence gave us the impression it was going to be more casual than most other digital escape room games we’ve experienced, but we were pleasantly surprised by the variety of puzzles we came across. Although there’s nothing here which is really going to test fans of the genre, there’s a light level of challenge which is fun and won’t leave you scratching your head for too long. A few of the conundrums entertained us with how well thought out they were and they belie the title’s casual feeling.
Our favourite was possibly one of the conundrums in the classroom environment of the first level. A fuse-box at the back of the room must be opened with a code and the obvious solution is to use the alphabet flashcards on the wall to create the answer. However, we had to rethink our plan when we found this didn’t work. After spending the next ten minutes tracking down another item and figuring out how to combine it with the others in a clever way, we progressed on to the next room.
Using the cursor to hover over items in each location displays text which implies they can be interacted with in some way, such as ‘Look at sign’. Occasionally Jason would reward us with a short descriptive or humorous sentence but our clicks didn’t always seem to have an effect. Our other minor frustration was the slightly awkward placement of the backout arrow at the bottom of the screen. It’s so close to the inventory that we often found ourselves pulling out an object by mistake when trying to exit the current scene.
There are a lot of things Incoherence gets right for a short game though. At one point we became stuck on a puzzle and, although we felt certain we could have figured it out, we decided to test the hint system to see how it worked. Clues are direct and straight to the point so there’s no waiting around. We also liked the way they were initially hidden so there are no spoilers unless you request them, and they’re removed once a challenge is solved so you don’t have to search through a long list for the information you need.
Being my first release by the developer, I wasn’t aware of the Glitch Camera. This is something which appears in all their games and is designed to assist the player in solving puzzles. The feature can be used to take photographs of any clues you think you may need for upcoming challenges, and then rotated and even drawn on. It’s a lovely idea and I can see how it’s useful if you’re playing on a mobile device (but I’m stuck in my ways so I dug out a pen and paper while sitting in front of my PC).
Considering that Glitch Games’ is just a two-person team, Incoherence is rather well done for an escape room game which is closer to the casual end of the scale. Pete and I spent an enjoyable three hours figuring out its puzzles and, even though the story or writing may not be the strongest, we had fun and felt it was worth the cost noted on the Steam page. The developers say this is the first in the Glitch Broken Dreams Collection so it looks more secrets will be on their way to us soon.