When it comes to video games, I’ll take a random indie game over any mainstream, big corporation game any day. Not only do you get to support smaller creators, you also get to play games that haven’t been reviewed and spoiled to death. This is not to say that non-indie games aren’t good, just that I often find that indie games are more fun, even if they don’t provide as much gameplay or have a big audience.

What I like about indie games is that they often provide enough hyperfixation that I can play without getting bored. I also find that they are more cozy and perfect for either a rainy day or just something to play to unwind. Or at least, that’s the case for the games I’m usually interested in.

However, this is certainly not the case with the games made by Rusty Lake. The Rusty Lake games are puzzle, escape room-esque games that are more sinister than they first appear. Through the 18 games, you move around both rooms and full maps to collect items necessary to complete puzzles and progress the story along.

I found these series of games on the Apple app store, but they’re also available on Steam and Google Play. I was originally looking for games to distract myself from the stress of daily life. You know, the usual. Then, when I saw these were puzzle games, I was immediately intrigued. 

What I found was not at all what I was expecting, but I fell in love with the series and immediately downloaded every game from Rusty Lake that I could find. I spent the next week making my way through the games, playing them in between classes and every spare moment of free time. The game design and plot points are… unsettling to say the least. If you think you know what to expect from puzzle games like this, set aside all your expectations because they will go beyond every single one.

As you progress through each game, you learn more and more about the Vanderboom family and the strange and unfortunate things that have happened to them, with each game getting more dark and twisted than the last. 

There are a few human characters, but there are also other characters who are humanoid animals, such as Mr. Crow and Mr. Owl, who help guide you through some of the games. The games have new and recurring characters, but they all connect and uncover a pretty dark history.

While I like to think of myself as someone who can figure out puzzles pretty easily, I have to admit that these puzzles definitely had me stumped. Some of the answers can be the most obvious, logical conclusion, but others really force you to really think outside of the box to figure out. From a fish with legs and cooking your grandma in a soup pot, there is no telling what the answer will be. 

While they do offer unlimited hints if you pay a small fee, even the hints aren’t as obvious as you would think. I was so invested in these games that I had no problem paying $2 for those hints. I definitely needed them at times, but I enjoyed how I felt thoroughly challenged throughout the gameplay, having to use my logic and my ability to settle into the nature of Rusty Lake and settle into the illogical logic that the characters would use if they were in my shoes. 

Of the 18 games, my favorite of the series has to be Cube Escape: Birthday and Rusty Lake Hotel, but truthfully, there are aspects of every game that I thoroughly enjoyed.

They all have their own unique storyline and are a range of difficulty, but what made me enjoy these two the most out of the other 16 is the balance between the unsettling nature and puzzle difficulty. 

Rusty Lake Hotel, in particular, was interesting because you get to meet the full cast of personified animals. Cube Escape: Hotel is very similar in absurdness, but leans more into the horror genre. It starts very normal, but turns dark very quickly. None of the games are scary by any means, but definite trigger warnings for murder and slight jumpscares.

It’s hard to go into depth about the games because to talk about the absurdities is to spoil them. This game series is so much fun and perfect for anyone looking for their next indie horror puzzle game. I would recommend anyone to play them, even if they’re not something you normally gravitate towards.