Monday, March 28, 2016
You can get The Swapper at http://facepalmgames.com/the-swapper/
The Swapper is an intriguing puzzle platformer that captures the feel of a Metroidvania but without mandatory backtracking, since every puzzle is solvable when you first encounter it. You don't gain new powers - you learn new applications, though the game doesn't provide much scaffolding to help you figure them out. The trophy design is terrible (there's one each for ten impossibly-hidden text logs that add basically nothing to the story) and the game would have been far less frustrating with an undo or brief rewind function. The story is less coherent than the mechanics, contradicts them in places, and isn't nearly as interesting as what the gameplay would suggest - many puzzles involve strategically killing your clones, which has great dramatic and thematic potential that goes ignored. But the atmosphere is very compelling and the puzzle design is excellent.
Friday, March 25, 2016
Monday, March 21, 2016
You can get Antichamber at http://www.antichamber-game.com/
Antichamber is a first-person puzzle exploration game with a stark aesthetic. In this sort of plot-light puzzle game, the motivation to keep playing comes from a desire to see what interesting new mechanics and surprises will come next. Most of Antichamber's surprises come from subverting expectations about the nature of space and reality, such as by having hallways rearrange themselves when you aren't looking. To me, the results are largely tedious - it's not about being clever to solve problems that follow consistent rules, it's about the game designer feeling clever by deceiving you and often wasting your time.
Friday, March 18, 2016
Monday, March 14, 2016
You can get Pony Island at http://store.steampowered.com/app/405640
A runner game inside a puzzle game with some less categorizable bits in between, Pony Island is a lighthearted 2-3 hour experience that pokes fun at shady game monetization techniques. Despite casting developers who use these strategies as literally the devil, it's much gentler than, say, Little Inferno's commentary on the same topic. Even Lucifer is shown to care more about whether people like his game than whether they sell their souls to him.
While a couple of specific characters in specific contexts address the player directly, the game is usually not about the player but a canonical player character instead. Hints about this character's identity and the game's backstory can be found by solving certain optional puzzles, but they are so thoroughly hidden and provide such little concrete information that they seem to exist solely to fuel a collaborative scavenger hunt among the game's players. The game itself does not suffer if you ignore them and it's not clear that it was worth including them at the cost of contradicting the fourth wall breaks, which include the game's most memorable and best moments.
Friday, March 11, 2016
Monday, March 7, 2016
You can get Entwined at https://www.playstation.com/en-us/games/entwined-ps4/
Entwined is a beautiful but incoherent game where you steer a fish and a crane down a tunnel through targets. Hit enough targets and the animals merge into a dragon which you fly around outside the tunnel for a bit, collecting color which you then use to skywrite briefly before moving on to the next level. The levels have different gimmicks, some of which are better than others - a particularly frustrating level has the tunnel targets move unpredictably while you're heading toward them. The game seems to want to say things about separation and togetherness, love and longing, but none of the mechanics support those themes all that well. It's fun enough and pretty enough and has good enough music that it's enjoyable as long as it lasts, but since it never really adds up to anything it ends up being pretty forgettable.