Posts Tagged ‘puzzle’

Noir Syndrome Review

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Developer: Dave Gedarovich
Publisher: Glass Knuckle Games
Platform: Mobile – Android PC – Desura, Direct, Steam

Do you fancy yourself a detective? In Noir Syndrome, you get to put on your best detective garb and get to work solving a murder before many more victims surface. The supposed Anubis Killer is incredibly smart though, able to lure even the best player around town to dodge arrest. Even so, a good bunch of clues should make it very apparent who the killer is in town.

Noir Syndrome tells one basic murder story again and again but changes the clues and murderer each playthrough. You start off in your tiny apartment with cute cat and (hopefully) a chunk of cash. The player then weaves through various buildings to collect clues, talk to townspeople, and maybe nab a bite to eat. Some characters drop hints about shady locations while others name suspects.

Being a detective apparently makes one quite hungry. After a bit of searching, the game alerts you to a constantly depleting hunger status. Those who ignore it beyond the announcement of “starving” will actually die before solving a case. This, along with a two-week timeline, make Noir Syndrome a bit too difficult. Sometimes finding enough clues and names isn’t possible if you go to one or two “wrong” locations.

Noir Syndrome Featured

Still, the challenge lends itself to a lot of humorous failures. I don’t know how many attempts it took to finally apprehend the correct suspect, but it was always entertaining to try again. After a while I became better skilled at finding food and items, and knowing what items might mean. Items being basically invisible on-screen (requiring constant pressing of the investigate button) is a pretty annoying design choice, though.

If you’re someone who enjoyed The Ship or are looking forward to SpyParty then this is another game to check out (specifically, try Dinner Party mode). Even if you aren’t, it still offers a murder mystery with arcade-style play. The short playtime each case also makes it a good choice for smartphone play. Noir Syndrome is an odd, goofy look at being a detective. Despite the steep difficulty, it’s worth a look.


Score: 3

3 out of 5 alpacas


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Full Bore Review

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Developer: Whole Hog Games
Publisher: Nkidu Games
Platform: PC – Steam

Full Bore is a game about an adorable little boar who digs underground searching for gems. And no, it’s not boring as the name may suggest to some. To bore is to dig by twisting or turning, and that’s exactly what the in-game boar does. It also happily bashes its head on the walls or floor when objects aren’t breakable and somehow that still looks incredibly adorable.

Once one gets past the “aww” factor, is Full Bore an entertaining game? That depends on your interpretation of entertaining, as the digger/puzzler hybrid is quite challenging. There are a wide variety of areas in the mine shafts to explore and each contains its own host of puzzles. Basically, you’ve got to figure out how to get from point A to point B by boring through blocks or pushing things around. This is so you can reach gems, characters, or new areas. Some puzzles are quite simple but other times it takes a good deal of consideration.

Some of the most challenging aspects are when Full Bore asks the player to solve a puzzle quickly. While playing with an Xbox 360 controller I found them especially tough because my boar would run off further than I commanded. The last thing anyone wants when trying to execute a precise, quick puzzle solution is to have the character lack precision. There is a saving grace to this issue though and it is a rewind function.

Full Bore Featured

At any point you can choose to rewind your moves up to the last save point. This could be just a few steps or a ton and there’s no other restrictions placed on it. The feature is cool, if overwhelmingly overpowered, and saved my hide on many occasions. Still, it would be nice if the boar could have tighter control. Unfair failures are always a tad annoying in games.

Enjoyment of Full Bore is fully dependent on the player digging, exploring, and solving puzzles. Because boar control can be a bit spotty, at least some of this is less fun than it could be. Of course, getting stuck is never any fun either but that is true of all puzzlers. It just seemed that I got into tight situations more often than in other similar games which inhibited the fun of digging around. Thankfully, the silly cast of characters and cute boar kept me engaged. Full Bore is a cute new game that puzzle enthusiasts should look into.


Score: 3

3 out of 5 alpacas


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1024 Review

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Developer: Veewo Studio
Publisher: Veewo Studio
Platform: Android, iOS

If you’re at all interested in smartphone games then you’ve likely played Threes! or one of the many, many copycats available for download. Although I now own Threes!, my first experience with the card pushing puzzler concept was 1024, hence this review is for it. As it turns out, the games are practically identical except 1024 is free.

1024 is a simple puzzle game that takes place on a 4 x 4 grid. You start with a couple rectangular pieces that have numbers on them such as 2 or 4. Your goal is to slide like tiles together, adding them together. For example, two 8 blocks become one 16 block. Skilled players can make increasingly massive blocks but it is tough!

1024 Screenshot

The hard part is that every time you slide tiles up, down, left, or right it affects everything on the screen. Unless they can’t slide, everything moves in the chosen direction. Also, a new number block is laid after every turn, cluttering the screen further. Although it is possible to just randomly slide things around it is most satisfying to come up with strategies.

Right now 1024 is something I have to play at least once a day. The simplistic gameplay encourages a “one more game” mentality. Despite the possibility of being a strategic game, it can also just help relax your mind in between tasks. Pick it up to see if the gameplay is to your liking, and if so, consider purchasing the original game Threes! by Sirvo.

Super Lemonade Factory Review

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Developer: Initials
Publisher: Initials
Platform: Mobile – iOS Ouya PC – Direct, IndieGameStand, Itch.io

Everything seemed like it was turning around for married couple Andre and Liselot when Andre’s father decided to turn his lemonade factory over to them. All they have to do to prove their worthiness is venture through the entire factory. What sounds easy becomes quite the challenge as the factory is sure designed in an inefficient, puzzling manner!

Of course, that’s to be expected as Super Lemonade Factory is a puzzle platformer. In this game you control both Liselot and Andre (or, if playing in two player mode, just one of them) and help them through each level. Andre can sprint, breaking large blocks while Liselot can double jump and talk to the factory workers. There are some 72 levels in all and working through the latter third of them is quite challenging.

Super Lemonade Factory Featured

Visually, Super Lemonade Factory stands out. Yes, it’s done in pixel art which is common in the indie scene but the color palette is quite pleasing. Each character design is also cute, although Liselot could have done without her frightened-looking run. Music is a different story. It certainly sounds retro, befitting the graphics, but doesn’t always sound particularly melodic. All in all, it’s a mixed bag.

Really that could be said for the rest of the game as well. The concept is solid but it doesn’t feel like it invigorates puzzle platformers in a way that makes it notable. Similarly, it is not the pinnacle of the genre to make it stand out regardless of sameness. Take into account some niggling design choices that can only be resolved with a stage reset and the game becomes much easier to put down. Super Lemonade Factory is cute and serves as a neat little time waster for yourself (or you and a friend) but is mostly forgettable.


Score: 2

2 out of 5 alpacas


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Escape Goat 2 Review

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Developer: MagicalTimeBean
Publisher: MagicalTimeBean
Platform: PC – Direct, GOG*, Steam

Escape Goat is a wonderful puzzle platformer that I finally had the pleasure of playing late last year. As a newfound MagicalTimeBean fan it was tremendously exciting to know that Escape Goat 2 was coming at some point in the future. Now it’s here! How does the game hold up against its predecessor?

Escape Goat 2 follows the hooves of the original, although diverges in unique ways. First, let’s go over what is the same. You’re still a purple  goat who platforms around increasingly complex puzzle stages to unlock the exit. A little mouse is also able to aid you at many junctures. Features that the mouse had before, such as a transportation ability, are back as well.

Puzzles have been given new twists and you’ve been granted new abilities to make everything more interesting. For one, the mouse now has an ability to spawn multiple versions of itself across a stage. It’s quite odd, but also handy! Stages now have branching paths as well. You can ascend the castle as quickly as possible, or take the time to veer off course to save more sheep. Personally, I made sure to visit every side area to get as much puzzling goodness as possible out of it.

Escape Goat 2 Featured

Puzzle games often add and tweak a few things upon their next iterations. The biggest change though might just be the art style. No longer is the game comprised of pixel art that looked at home on Xbox Live Indie Games. Now it has an attractive cartoonish glow about it. The soundtrack is as good as (if not better) than the first game. All in all, it might not look exactly like the Escape Goat you already knew but it certainly feels like it.

The puzzle platform genre is packed full of games but few are as uniquely entertaining as Escape Goat 2. If you’ve never played the original you’d be safe to jump right into the new game first. If you end up loving the purple goat’s adventures then you can always go back and buy the game that started it all after!


Score: 4

4 1/2 out of 5 alpacas


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Octodad: Dadliest Catch Review

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Developer: Young Horses
Publisher:
Young Horses
Platform: 
PC – Steam

Octodad has been doing a fine job so far assimilating himself into a life with a normal human family. Nobody suspects a thing! Unfortunately, things don’t stay perfect for long. In Octodad: Dadliest Catch, you’re in charge of keeping up the charade.

It’s anything but a simple task, though, considering Octodad’s eight slippery appendages. The main grab of Octodad: Dadliest Catch is its controls. When you want to walk around, you move each “leg” one at a time. Grabbing things and whatnot is done by maneuvering your right arm and executing those sticky suction cups. It’s as hard to describe the whole process as it is to actually perform at first, but it becomes manageable quickly enough (hint: use a controller if at all possible!). With the crazy physics and controls, there is some frustration with getting to certain points and platforms, but that’s what makes Octodad: Dadliest Catch so fun.

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The other half of Octodad: Dadliest Catch‘s appeal lies in its story, writing, and characters. As mentioned previously, as Octodad, you must get through events in his life while maintaining his persona as a normal human. This means going to the grocery store and taking your family to the aquarium (the latter of which Octodad thinks is a crime against sea-manity). All of it is just as wacky as controlling Octodad.

Your initial playthrough in Octodad: Dadliest Catch will probably only last you about two or three hours. Thankfully, there’s always co-op mode, which allows two players to control Octodad, and a plentiful amount of mod levels on Steam Workshop to keep you busy!

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I had a lot of fun during my time with Octodad: Dadliest Catch. Despite my frustrations with getting Octodad to get where I wanted him to go, the humor and fresh concept kept me going and kept me entertained.


Pink Score: 3.53 1/2 out of 5 alpacas


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KAMI Review

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Developer: State of Play Games
Publisher: State of Play Games
Platform: Mobile – iOS PC – Steam

Puzzle game fans are not lacking in choice when it comes to games they can play. The genre is simply saturated with games of all varieties, from rhythm/music based puzzlers to a multitude of match-3 titles. KAMI isn’t like most popular games and instead focuses on the task of making an entire screen one color. This sounds easy until you get presented with multi-colored screens with complex patterns and only have a few moves to complete them in. So, KAMI is just the kind of puzzle game some are looking for – one that’s simple to understand but very hard to complete.

At first, it might seem like KAMI is easy. Over the first few stages you are presented with screens that only have two or three colors. It’s not hard to recognize which color you should slap down to make the whole thing one color. Of course, these are just the tutorial stages. After that, the game quits taking it easy and requires a more thoughtful approach. Where should you click and with what color? Most stages require some degree of practice (and a little guessing) until finally figuring out their trick.

The game certainly gives you a hand. At the start of each new puzzle section it always starts off with one that will teach you how to solve later puzzles in the section. Unfortunately, the first puzzle is always the easiest, meaning you’ll need more than that information to complete the rest. Each always requires you to finish at par or one move over it. Anything more and you’re greeted with a big “fail” sticker! There’s a hint function available but unfortunately it’s a little odd. It grants 10 credits every 24 hours which means you’re limited in hints per day. This is simply a holdover from the mobile version, since there is no way to “buy” more credits on Steam.

KAMI Featured

No discussion of KAMI is complete without talk of the visuals. The game is gorgeous! It is styled after paper (“kami” itself is a name of a type of origami paper) and the simplicity is very appealing. When you lay down a new color, the corresponding paper pieces all fold away in unison. It’s a very relaxing experience thanks to the light sound effects and attractive color combinations. Perhaps the only odd part is that no music plays during puzzles. Maybe this was to allow players to focus, but a gentle background track probably wouldn’t hurt.

If you’re not a fan of exerting your brain over games then run far away from KAMI. It’s tough, but satisfying for players willing to get into each puzzle. There are 63 puzzles in all, 18 of which are premium (pay) content from the mobile version. Those who want to buy KAMI should definitely grab it on PC and let their brains get to work!


Score: 4

4 out of 5 alpacas


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Storm in a Teacup Review

Storm in a Teacup Featured

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Developer: Cobra Mobile
Publisher: Chillingo
Platform: Mobile – iOS, Windows Phone PC – Steam

Have you been looking for a simple, yet fun new platformer to futz around with? There are a great many titles to choose from, but Storm in a Teacup is one great option to consider. Arriving two years ago for various mobile platforms and in 2012 on PC, the game didn’t take the game by storm. But perhaps it should have considering how much more fun it is than the infamous Angry Birds (and others).

The setup is a little weird. You play as a dude named Storm who sits in a teacup because, why not? Of course, this isn’t an everyday teacup. Instead it is magical which means the thing can move and levitate. You use the teacup to platform through fifty levels. There are definitely physics puzzle elements as you try to discern how to best jump and dodge dangerous objects.

Storm in a Teacup Featured

Visually, it looks pretty. The world is colorful, bright, and cartoony. Disregarding Storm’s completely average experience (white, blonde guy) the world is fairly creative. While passing through a stage, there are also multiple goals to attain. First, you can try to grab all the collectibles. A sticker can also always be found on a level. You just need to figure out how to find or grab them.

Storm in a Teacup controls well despite being made with touch screens in mind. I played through with a Xbox 360 gamepad and it functioned perfectly. The trouble comes simply from tough positioning of objects on stages. You’ll likely die a lot running into spinning saw blades and the like before learning the floaty jumps work.

There are a great many physics/puzzle platformers out there and Storm in a Teacup is one that happens to be worth your time. You’ll get a good deal of gameplay from it at a budget price!


Score: 3.5

3 1/2 out of 5 alpacas


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Furmins Review

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Developer: Housemarque
Publisher: Beatshapers
Platform: Mobile – iOS PSN – Vita

What the heck are furmins? Apparently, they’re weirdly adorable orb-shaped creatures that require your aid to get back to their nests. In the game, aptly titled Furmins, you do this by solving physics-based puzzles. It starts out easy, but gets tough pretty quick!

Every stage of the game requires the player to do at least one thing to help the furmins reach their goal. Levels are small (each fits squarely on the Vita screen) and may have interactive elements. For example, you might be required to activate a bumper when a furmin lands on it to shoot them into the air, arcing toward the goal. Other times, you’re required to use bounce plates and such to get them going in the right direction.

The concepts behind Furmins are very easy to understand so anyone should be able to start playing. However, their continued enjoyment may very well waver depending on their puzzle aptitude. Despite being a well-rounded player, I found some of the puzzles quite challenging. If this is the case for me, then what of those who enjoy easier physics games such as Angry Birds? That game has seen success by being immediately playable in short bursts. Here, you might be stuck messing with a plank to try and get the right bounce arc for a while. It lacks the “ease of play” spark.

Furmins Featured

Why is this an issue? Simply because those who don’t consider themselves fan of casual games will likely skip over Furmins. Of course, if they played they would find out that it offers a true challenge… but how many players really test out a game before discounting it entirely? In this age, the practice is slim.

At times, it feels that the game is too skewed toward difficulty. Each level grants up to three stars depending on whether you save all the furmins, get all the candy collectibles, and beat the par time. The first two are not too tough, but times are completely unforgiving. It really seems you would have to arrange the stage in the exact way they did to attain most of them. Why worry about stars? They’re needed to unlock later stage sets, as well as all bonus sets.

All in all, it seems Furmins is in an odd place. It presents itself as what many consider a casual game but offers real challenge to players. Touch screen and rear touch pad implementation is fair, although it is probably best to turn off the latter due to unintended triggering. If you’re looking for a quick play game on Vita that offers more challenge then most, Furmins might be right up your alley.


Score: 3

3 out of 5 alpacas


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Teslagrad Review

Teslagrad Featured

Teslagrad Boxart

Developer: Rain Games
Publisher: Rain Games
Platform: PC – Desura, GOG*, Steam

What is it about the puzzle platformer that continues to draw independent developers to the genre? In many respects, it doesn’t seem the easiest type of game to make. Instead, it seems one that (despite rampant saturation) is a genre full of new and exciting possibilities. Teslagrad is the latest puzzle platformer out that shows the greatest promise. Whether it lives up to expectations, however, is debatable.

Teslagrad is most certainly trying very hard. By simply starting up the game for the first time you’re greeted to a rainy night against gorgeous hand-drawn backdrops. Without any words, the story begins, as a young boy is forced to run far away from home in the stormy night. He comes upon the Tesla Tower and enters, wherein he will face a great many puzzling challenges.

Yes, Teslagrad is so named for Nikola Tesla. Why? Because the primary feature of most puzzles deals with electricity (and magnetism). You begin with nothing, but gain new items which allow you to interact with electrically charged platforms, charge items yourself, and the like. For some reason it was hard for me to get a firm grasp on electricity puzzles, though. It’s not as if I hate the genre. On the contrary, most of my free time is spent playing various puzzlers. So why these puzzles continued to feel more like guesswork than skill was an incredibly odd experience. It shouldn’t have to be said, but your own playthrough may very well feel different.

Teslagrad Screenshot

Metroidvania fans will be happy to know that Teslagrad also fits into that style. Tesla’s Tower is not a completely linear thing and you can charge into a variety of rooms whenever you want. If one puzzle seems too hard at the moment, go elsewhere. Maybe you’ll find a new item! Or, maybe you’ll stumble across one of the game’s five bosses. Considering how expansive the game feels, it was a bit of a letdown to see there were not more boss encounters. They are pretty neat battles, even if they rely very heavily on simple pattern recognition.

So we’ve got a game that is entirely ambitious, looks great, and has a huge non-linear castle to explore. Yet, something about it only ends up feeling slightly above average. Puzzles that required very precise jumps were incredibly annoying, especially when there were not checkpoints in the middle of them. Making a game mechanically tough can be done well, but it doesn’t feel like Teslagrad pulls that off. After all, it varies back and forth between easy and hard. Usually, if a game is hard it stays that way throughout, or slowly ramps up in difficulty.

There are definitely players out there that will love the intriguing experience that Teslagrad provides. If you think that’s you then go ahead and buy it! For me, I just couldn’t get over the feeling that the designers crammed all their expertise into creating something gorgeous and expansive but forgot the most important ingredient – heart.


Score: 3

3 out of 5 alpacas


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