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Rusty Lake: Roots Review

Rusty Lake: Roots Review

Rusty Lake: Roots Review

If you’re a thoughtful adventurer with an affinity for puzzles, I’d highly recommend that you play Rusty Lake Roots. Simply put, it is a brilliant game.


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Published by


Genre: Point-And-Click Adventure
Release date: October 21, 2016
Review Platform: Android Tablet

Local History

Rusty Lake is an Amsterdam-based indie development group that first came to my attention quite by accident. I was perusing Google Play in search of adventure and came upon Rusty Lake Hotel.  As I read about the game, I noticed references to a series of Cube Escape titles which were available as free downloads. Being the compulsive gamer that I am, I installed the whole set and jumped in with both feet.

At first, I was stumped. My personal code of ethics didn’t allow me to consider that killing a parrot or cutting off someone’s ear was a viable puzzle solution. I confess that I had to check out a walkthrough to get past this block. Once I was fully attuned to the disturbing patterns in the Rusty Lake universe, I was off and running.  

The Cube Escape games were challenging and, at times, frustrating. At the end of them, I was hooked and wanted more. I moved on to Rusty Lake Hotel. This is a full-length point-and-click adventure that takes place in a Victorian hotel in 1896. You interact with five guests, the hotel owner and the hotel staff. In keeping with Victorian tradition, the guests (Mr. Deer, Ms. Pheasant, Mr. Rabbit, Mrs. Pigeon, and Mr. Boar) are well-dressed and well-mannered, as shown below. You’re soon enlisted by the hotel’s chef to gather ingredients for dinner. The game divides into segments that correspond to harvesting different meat for each night’s main course. It was a macabre and truly delightful game with connections to scenes and items encountered in the Cube Escapes. The puzzles were intriguing and forced me to think outside of the box, with murderous intent.

Rusty Inset 1

The Root of it All

Imagine my delight when an announcement for Rusty Lake Roots came through my Twitter Feed last week. Amidst the political pundits and reports of world mayhem, it was a breath of fresh air! A chance to escape from it all and revisit Rusty Lake.

Rusty Lake Roots takes a unique approach to adventuring. It begins with Jake Vanderboom’s arrival in Rusty Lake in the spring of 1860. He plants a seed and begins to grow a family tree. The game consists of 33 vignettes that chronicle events in the life of Jake and his descendants. Each completed segment expands the tree to make the next scene or character available.  

Rusty Inset 2

The story traces several generations of Vanderbooms. They’re an intriguing cast of characters with a traditional history (marriages, births, and deaths) and dark secrets (suicide, betrayal, and the occult). In between these extremes are moments of emotion as a mother grieves for her missing son, a soldier longs to be home from war, and a child looks for connections with a dead parent.

The game is filled with images tying back to the Cube Escapes and Rusty Lake Hotel.  Although Rusty Lake Roots is a title that stands on its own, you are missing out if you don’t first play through the earlier games and experience the full impact of becoming a Rusty Lake history buff.

Puzzles with a Twist

In terms of gameplay, Rusty Lake Roots is presented in a point-and-click format with still artwork and very simple animation. Scenes can be scrolled in multiple directions and objects are clicked to zoom in for more detail. Inventory items are collected and used by clicking. The synergy created with simple graphics, an original music score, pleasing voice-overs, and a multi-faceted story is hard to describe. It is both charming and disturbing. Nothing is sacred to the development team and I found myself shaking my head in disbelief on more than one occasion. Not that I was ever shocked. Instead, I continued to marvel at the creative genius that was required to bring this game to life.  

My hat is also off to the Rusty Lake team for the diversity of the puzzles. Each of the vignettes has a unique puzzle and most are intellectually challenging.  Examples include a chess board, star maps, carrier pigeons, pollinating bees, and plumbing. Every puzzle has a purpose and is an integral part of the narrative. The result is a game that held my focus until the very end. Most clues are in plain sight if you know how to interpret them. Yet, I still found myself using a pencil and paper several times to work out complicated solutions. When I did get stuck, a walkthrough was out of the question. Part of the joy of this game is persevering until you succeed.

Genealogy at Its Finest

If you’re a thoughtful adventurer with an affinity for puzzles, I’d highly recommend that you play Rusty Lake Roots. Simply put, it is a brilliant game. For me, the fact that I’d played the Cube Escapes and Rusty Lake Hotel added to the fun. I loved seeing the overlaps between games and how the characters and stories are intertwined. The family tree structure allows you to play for a bit and then come back later with no loss of momentum. This appealed to me, as I could play in “chunks” which extended my stay in Rusty Lake and let me savor each moment before proceeding to the next.

A few days after finishing the game, I returned to the completed family tree to capture a screenshot and noticed that a new icon had appeared. Clicking on it revealed a set of additional after-the-fact activities with new clues associated with each character. This was a true gift – a totally unexpected chance to extend gameplay and stay in Rusty Lake a bit longer!

If you’re inclined to tackle the Rusty Lake universe, the following link provides a list of all titles and the recommended order of play:


Grade: A
Family Tree paradigm provides short, sequential bursts of unique gameplay.
+ Diversity of challenging puzzles should keep the experienced gamer engaged and entertained.
+ Twisted storyline that leans to the macabre is very appealing to those who wish to indulge their darker side.
Those seeking a traditional adventure with a hero and a “noble quest” may not be satisfied by the family tree format.
 Those with an aversion to the point-and-click format may not appreciate this title.


System Requirements


OS: Microsoft Windows XP/Vista/7, 8, 10
Processor: 1.8 GHz Processor
Memory: 1 GB RAM
Graphics: Dirext X 9.0c compatible video card
DirectX: Version 9.0c
Sound Card: 100 MB available space


Cindy Kyser

Cindy Kyser

Cindy’s love affair with gaming began when she opened a mailbox in front of a white house and took the first step in a long series of adventures. ‘Back in the day,’ Cindy was a regular contributor to JA and an active member of the online gaming community. She has attended several E3s and has had the pleasure of spending time in person with both Ray and Randy. Her all- time favorite adventures include the Tex Murphy series, the Gabriel Knight series, and The Longest Journey. She also enjoys RPGs and her list of ‘best ever’ includes Fallout, Asheron’s Call, and Planescape Torment. Â Frustrated with the cost of rising PC system requirements, Cindy decided to switch to console and tablet gaming. Although you can teach some old dogs new tricks, she discovered that console controller dexterity is a skill set that she is lacking. Her results with tablet gaming were not much better. With the exception of a few gems such as The Room and Forever Lost, there is a limit to how much one can play Candy Crush and Hidden Object Adventures. Having proved that pure escapism is worth the investment, she has a new gaming laptop and is back to her search for the perfect adventure. Â After spending most of her life in Los Angeles and Atlanta, Cindy escaped the stress of urban life and moved to rural Arkansas. To show that she has become a true Arkansan, she has taken up deer hunting, wears pink camo, and put a chicken coop in her backyard. On a stressful day, she can be heard yelling ‘Woo Pig Sooie’ when all else fails.

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