Updated: May 31, 2021
Sin is too harsh a word for some people. Now, we have no problem admitting no one is perfect. We have little problem saying everyone has done, said, or thought something wrong. What’s this conniption then with the word sin? Some just think sin is too dirty or uncomfortable a term, and thanks to Scriptures we know exactly why. To sin is to admit the existence of laws that shouldn’t be broken. To be a sinner implicates someone’s unstoppable urge to break important rules, and to have sinned is to acknowledge that there is a higher authority you have to fess up to. Thus, the word ‘sin’ leaves no room for excuse. It’s inescapable. As for Forgiveness: Escape Room by Chaos Minds, it’s a puzzle game that asks its players a similar question. Can they escape threatening rooms any better than their own sins, or can they not?
Before I played this game I had heard of real escape rooms before. Perhaps some of you readers have experienced them, but for those of you who haven’t, let me explain. Escape rooms are basically giant puzzles. You and your buddies are locked in a space and given limited time to figure your way out. It’s kind of like Myst if it were limited to one room, and for this big Myst fan, I was excited to try Forgiveness. The one thing I’m less a fan of is the game’s scary atmosphere. Fortunately, Forgiveness seemed tame enough for me. When you first begin, the game will start you in the prologue level. You wake up in a decrepit medical room. Your abductor, Dr. Benjamin Smith, unveils his disdain for you and society under no uncertain terms. According to him, people reek with sin. They are stupid, hopeless, and selfish, so he’s decided to play judge, jury, and executioner. However, despite how much he hates your awful personhood, he begrudgingly offers you a chance at forgiveness. You must prove you deserve a second chance by escaping his seven trap rooms and face down your seven deadly sins.
The game will offer two mode options. ‘Normal’ will let you solve the puzzles at your own leisure and include a hint system. The hint system basically ‘dings’ whenever you find a significant clue. ‘Extreme’ mode, on the other hand, limits you to a half-hour and bars you from hints. It’s great that they gave a non-timed option. I for one don’t enjoy trying to beat the clock. On the other hand, I also prefer winning without hints. Now, you’d think I’d be dissatisfied with this and argue for better options. However, while I do prefer an official way to independently turn hints off, I found the perfect workaround. I just muted the SFXs in the options menu. Having or not having those sounds didn’t hinder my gameplay anyway, so for that reason, I feel I can let this one slide. It’s also nice that there really isn’t a linear story here. As a result, you can choose to play any room in any order you want. It’s nice to switch rooms when you’ve hit a wall. Of course, if you’re an indecisive sort, you can take a quiz and be sent to the room associated to your main sin - or at least the sin the quiz designates to you.
Once you’re in the room, it’s time to observe, observe, observe. Walk around using the ‘W’, ‘A’, ‘S’, and ‘D’ keys. Crouch with ‘C’ or ‘Ctrl.’. Jump with the ‘Space Bar’. ‘H’ will pull up a hint if you’re ever stuck. Pick up items with ‘E’, and inspect objects closely with a click of the mouse. I personally appreciated this minimal control scheme. It doesn’t distract. There are puzzles to solve after all, but therein lies the big question. Are the puzzles satisfying? To me, the best puzzles aren’t necessarily hard but clever. They’d take advantage of human assumption to hide obvious solutions. Sadly, Forgiveness: Escape Room didn’t really impress me all that much. It mostly felt too easy. Now, it’s not like I wasn’t challenged at all. There were a couple of genuine toughies. The Wrath room was the best one, but some of the others felt more unfair than hard. I say unfair because there were times I inputted the right answer but didn’t receive clear enough confirmation. Then there were a couple of instances when the game bugged out and simply didn’t do what it was supposed to. That last issue certainly put everything I did into question. To gain a fairer perspective on the game’s difficulty, I watched other players online. To my surprise, some were genuinely challenged and liked the puzzles, so who knows? Maybe you’d get more out of Forgiveness: Escape Room than me. To be clear, I’m not that smart, but the only thing I can figure is maybe I’m just too practiced at this. After the tough nuggets I’ve solved in the Myst and Professor Layton series, it’s like running a mile after acing a 10k marathon. Once you’re conditioned, the first challenge loses its teeth.
Now, for Christians, dividing sins into categories and the very idea that there are only seven is silly. First of all, sins naturally blend and mix together. Second, sin is basically any way of living that’s self-serving and contrary to God’s character, but for the sake of this review, let’s note the specific vices these rooms are themed after. Their presentation kind of depends on it after all. The ‘classical’ seven sins are pride, lust, greed, envy, gluttony, wrath, and sloth. Thus, each labeled room has the grimy decor to match. Lust appears to be a male predator’s female torture chamber. Greed’s room is an opulent if rundown casino. Pictures and fashion magazines line the dingy Envy apartment. You get the gist. However, while I agree most rooms fit their themes pretty well, the Wrath room didn’t make much sense to me. How on earth do you connect a warehouse to anger? With all that being said, I do think they’re rendered well. The colors are earthy if a bit too dark for me to see, and the music, despite its awkward pausing, cinches the eerie atmosphere. There are a few odd visuals, though. Moonlight shines through blocked windows. A shadowing effect looked odd on a door. Some objects blend into other objects. Regardless, Forgiveness: Escape Room’s visuals did a decent job. While not outright frightening, the presentation still succeeded at triggering my heeby-jeeby sense the longer I played. (Thank the Lord for my iPod. I needed it on a few occasions.)
Dr. Benjamin is not a nice guy. Not in the slightest. Even without his megalomanic double standards, he doesn’t pull verbal punches. I’m thankful he only speaks once in this game. S***t, d*mn, and b***s***t crop up whenever he does, and your failure is met with a ‘Game Over’ and papers calling you a smart***. A trivia question also asks what you would do if someone *ahem* ‘cheated’ on you. Then there’s a painting of a mostly naked guy being baptized. As for the rest of the game, it sure loves the macabre. Every single room is like a haunted maze you’d find at Halloween. Blood on the walls, a dead kitchen rat, and a gross ending to a particular puzzle are just a few ways Forgiveness will yucky up your day. Now to the game’s credit, Forgiveness: Escape Room could have been so very much worse. No Lovecraft-ian abominations hunted me. I half expected body parts or eyeball jars to be lying around but found none. It really didn’t push the gore ticket that hard. Does that negate the game’s issues? No. But at least, you now know what level of horror to expect. It’s not rated R bad. I’d call it a PG-13. However, I cannot excuse how the developers mishandled the topic of sin. On the one hand, they were correct. Mankind is sinful, hopelessly so, but they failed to finish the story. The Son of God, who never sinned, sacrificed his life to give us hope. He paid our price, so repentant sinners can be cleansed and redeemed into a new life with Him. The game had ample opportunity to mention that crucial element. They even showcased Bible verses that countered the sins in question, yet they omitted the single most important detail in history! Now, I’m no idiot. Not for one second did I expect the game to mention our means of salvation. Nevertheless, it’s really hard to excuse the game when it recites, “ . . . but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me,” yet does not tell you who the ‘Me’ is that’s speaking. Guess it’s up to Christians like me to tell you. His name is Jesus. He’s alive, and His is the forgiveness that frees you.
“For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) It was one of the earliest Bible verses mini-me ever learned right after John 3:16. It’s a clear exposé of the human condition. Too bad Forgiveness: Escape Room was most decidedly unclear, both in story and gameplay. The plot’s message turned up half-baked. Most puzzles were either too easy, unfair, or far left field. Bugs even made making right answers a shaky affair. You might get a decent challenge from Forgiveness: Escape Room. However, I doubt you’ll leave satisfied if you’re a Myst veteran like me. As I explored the rooms, I saw books titled ‘The Holy Book: But Not the Bible’. That alone sums up Forgiveness’s biggest flaw perfectly. As sinners, we like harvesting parts of Scripture that fit our agenda but then omit the parts that don't. We want the truth but don’t want its source. Unfortunately, whether they meant to or not, the game’s developers mistreated God’s Word in the same exact way. They took what they wanted. They got their theme prop then threw Christ’s message of love out the window. Sorry, Chaos Minds. You probably thought no one would notice or care. Well, this gamer cared. Without Jesus there’s no forgiveness. Because you can’t be forgiven without the Forgiver.