Tag Archives: puzzle

The Spectrum Retreat review

Dan Smith was the winner of the 2016 YGD BAFTA award for his prototype puzzle game which has evolved into The Spectrum Retreat, which has now had it’s full release onto Xbox One, PS4, Steam and Nintendo Switch, and published by Ripstone games. The Spectrum Retreat puts your player into a mysterious hotel, staffed by human-like robots, from where you must work out its secrets.



Soon after waking for the first time in the hotel, the player is introduced to Cooper, a voice on the other end of a hidden phone, who informs you that you are being held against your will in the hotel, and that she will help you to escape if you follow her instructions. You then find yourself exploring the limited confines of the hotel searching for clues to get through a locked door. Once the door is opened, puzzles await. These puzzles consist of rooms with coloured blocks and coloured gates. To get through the gates you must hold the correct block and you can only hold one at a time. This leads to much to-ing and fro-ing in order to get your movements in the right sequence, so you can escape and move to the next puzzle. As you proceed the puzzles get more difficult and as you move through the hotel floors some new mechanics are introduced in the form of coloured teleporters and blocks that rotate the game space through ninety degrees. The game is very reminiscent of The Turing Test and Portal, so if you like those titles then The Spectrum Retreat will be right up your street.

The puzzles themselves are pretty good, and fairly self-explanatory, especially as the game doesn’t really offer any tutorials or clues. All your progression is done by trial and error but comes quite naturally. Throughout the puzzles there are glimpses of another, outside world, which tells a story of what could really be going on and allows you to piece together the clues somewhat before the final revelation.

The puzzle are challenging and pretty fun, but there was a niggling feeling that I had throughout, especially playing through the first two floors of the hotel. You see, the puzzle sections are set in what could be a completely different universe to the eponymous hotel and I felt that I had been taken out of the interesting and peculiar world that the hotel provided. I am confused as to why the puzzles couldn’t have taken place within the design of the hotel? Its almost like you walk through a door into a futuristic space station to solve the eight or nine puzzles before returning through the same door back to the hotel. It really does feel like two different games shoehorned together. The final level just about manages this integration a lot more successfully and it leaves you with a feeling of what might have been.

Although the first few levels of the puzzles drag on a little bit, as soon as the teleportation and level rotation is introduced they become much more interesting and challenging. There is a lot of disorientation going on as you try to remember where you’d placed a certain colour before you’d rotated!  However, not once did I need to head to the internet to see how a certain puzzle could be solved, but I think some may be glitched as I could spend an age on one puzzle before flying through the next, apparently harder level. My other slight frustration is that you often need to restart the puzzle because you’ve done something wrong, or in the wrong order, and there is no way of doing this other than returning to the menu. It would have been nice to have a way of doing this within the game, as again it took me out of the world. I did enjoy the voice acting from Amelia Tyler as Cooper, who does a great job of gently guiding you along.

The Spectrum Retreat is a good puzzle game which will provide you with a good 8-10 hours of puzzling. A more integrated two halves would have made it a great puzzle game.

Many Thanks to Plan of Attack for supporting TiX

Shift Quantum review

I always believe that a really great puzzle game is the type that slowly reels you in, gently teaching you the mechanics whilst making you believe that you’re actually quite clever. Then, before you know it you’re hooked, and then at that point the game hits you with all it has, making you feel like the stupidest person alive. Shift Quantum is one of those games, but it does a sterling job of never quite over-testing your ability and patience. Developed by Fishing Cactus, Shift Quantum is the spiritual successor to the Shift series of flash games from the late 2000s. The game is available on Xbox One, PS4, PC and Nintendo Switch, and this review is from the Xbox One version.

It all starts off relatively simply. The premise of Shift Quantum is your character’s ability to shift between dimensions, namely the black and white areas of the level. If your character is in the black dimension a shift will cause the level to flip vertically around you, leaving you in the White dimension. The aim is to navigate your way through to reach the exit. As you shift, previously unreachable areas open up to you. Each level also has glitches to collect, which of course means more shifting to reach those areas.

As you progress further, the difficulty increases and introduces spikes, moveable blocks and switches. And this is where Shift Quantum opens up to be a lot deeper and more interesting than it first looks. You see, the black and white moveable blocks are not just a means to reach higher ledges. When they are used correctly they can also bridge gaps in the environment when you shift, opening up that path to the exit. The switches turn fixed platforms on and off which can drop blocks, which again, opens up new areas. You will find yourself being mentally challenged but very rarely will you find  yourself becoming completely stuck.

Shift Quantum also has a narrative running alongside the puzzles, with a mysterious girl making an appearance and intriguing you to push forward. The game is monochromatic by design, with only a few splashes of colour accompanying the sequences with the girl. It also has a Futuristic vibe as the levels are set against a Blade Runner-esque cityscape, complete with flying cars. The music runs alongside the game constantly and I did have to search through the menus in order to turn it off, as I found it distracted me.

Once you reach about 50% completion the difficulty really ramps up, and this is where you will find yourself really being tested. Added to what you have already learned are switches that turn the level through ninety degrees, and tractor beams that pull you towards spikes. There are also blocks that gravitate in certain directions and you will need to rotate the level, navigate the switches in order to get the block into the tractor beam, all in order to avoid the spikes. And the weird (but great) thing is that all this feels very natural. Not once have I felt the need to scour the internet for assistance.

The developers have also included a level designer to the game, meaning once you’ve finished the main story there will hopefully be lots of user generated content to plough through, and design yourself if you are the creative kind. If you like puzzle games I would highly recommend Shift Quantum. It’s a very likeable and well designed game which both myself and my thirteen year old son have really enjoyed. It’s difficult to really pick any major faults. My only criticism (apart from the music) is that after playing and completing a few levels I felt like I needed a break, as it can be mentally draining. I also would have liked more levels that included the mysterious girl, as this would have added a bit more variety and interest to the levels.

Thanks to Kinetic Atom for supporting TiX

Prey: Mooncrash review

Prey: Mooncrash is a very clever and highly enjoyable melding of first-person shooting and exploration with Rogue-like death and replay. It manages to create an entirely fresh experience in the Prey universe. Moreover, it’s fantastically compelling.

You are tasked with entering a simulation and reliving the desperate escape of five individuals that are trapped on the lunar base with Typhon enemies. Much like the core game, the Typhon come in a variety of forms, including the Mimics which morph into different objects to deceive and scare the hell out of you, and bi-pedal forms known as Phantoms. Some additional, new forms are also present in Mooncrash, including a tentacle spewing egg and a terrifically named ‘moon shark’. Dealing with these enemies, either through combat with whatever weaponry you manage to find – melee and projectile – or through environmental hazard manipulation, sneaking, or your very own Typhon abilities and skills provided by implants, is the order of the day.

Indeed, there’s a wealth of options as to how you choose to engage, or avoid, conflict, and the same can be said for progressing through the moon base. Multiple paths are available with different obstacles to traverse, whether these are locked doors requiring pass cards, hacking skills, passwords gained by reading notes and emails or the computer terminals, let alone the environmental hazards and enemies. However, a big change with Mooncrash over the core game are the five characters you control.

To begin with you’re limited to a single character, but as you play his unique escape attempt you gradually unlock the additional characters. This can occur when you discover their corpse for the first time, or by achieving the specific story objective for a character. These objectives are present for each character and revolves around one of the five available escape methods, such as using the escape pod, flying out on a shuttle, etc. Meanwhile, additional objectives are also available for each character, should you feel the need to put yourself in great danger and uncover more of the plot.

With the Rogue-like addition of skills carrying over even after death, and the environment maintaining a persistent state for each cycle, after a dozen or so attempts you’ll have the whole cast ready to go, allowing you to use the abilities of different characters to help pave the way for the others. The ultimate goal is the have a perfect run; where all five characters manage to escape during a single, unbroken cycle. However, achieving this is anything but simple.

Determining which characters can do what is largely a case of trial and error and is discovered simply by using them. However, understanding the base layout and what activates what, takes some exploration, and the more you explore the more dangerous it becomes. This isn’t only because of the random spawning of enemies for each cycle but also because of an imposed time limit. The simulation technology you’re using is unstable, and the longer you remain in it, the more unstable it becomes. This instability is measured in levels, and as each level is reached, new enemies spawn and become more aggressive. It’s a clever mechanic that adds urgency and threat with an effective randomness; it’s Rogue-like at its best.

And indeed, it’s these Rogue-like elements that make this such an interesting experience. Items and enemies surprise you with different spawn locations each cycle, the environment also changes throwing unforeseeable obstacles at you, all the while your cast of characters are gradually getting stronger, your knowledge of the base is increasing, and those five escape plans and their order begin to reveal themselves. Pair this with Prey’s environmental storytelling, intense combat and terrifying enemies, and you’ve got a tremendously unique and engaging package.

Prey’s core mechanics of exploration, limited ammo and health, and horror would make figuring out how to achieve each characters’ escape frustrating due to the amount of times it causes your demise, but due to the Rogue-like qualities of skill retention and a semi-persistent environment, it makes this a unique and entertaining experience that’s hard to put down.

Thanks to Bethesda for supporting TiX

Samsara review

Samsara’s simple concepts and small scale hides surprisingly devious puzzles. It’s a puzzler that encourages you to think differently, and when it all clicks in your mind you can find yourself completing two or three quandaries in a row before the next, inevitable challenge stumps you. It makes the experience fun, with bouts of difficulty eventually giving way to satisfaction when you figure it out, however, it’s all over pretty quickly.

Indeed, Samsara is a cleverly constructed puzzle game. You must manipulate a set number of blocks, in the shape of squares and rectangles, in order to build a path for the young girl protagonist to travel from the start point to the portal exit. However, quickly Samsara becomes more complex, giving you a second character to also construct a safe path for, the shadow of the protagonist, who is present in a mirror image of the level projected beneath as if reflected in a body of water, with the blocks casting their own reflections and building paths for both. It’s a unique idea that soon sees additional puzzle elements that further adds to the complexity and challenge.

Nine themed locations, each with eight levels, challenge you in creating these paths for the protagonist and her shadow, with new block types that have different physics for reality and the reflection, as well as disappearing platforms cropping up and changing how you solve each level. What starts off as relatively simple soon becomes quite the head scratcher, especially the later levels that incorporate moving and shifting blocks due to gravity and disappearing platforms working in tandem. This changes the paths as the protagonist and her shadow move along them, jumping between reality and the reflection via portals, before finally reaching their own, unique exits. It’s remarkably clever at times and helps encourage you to solve the puzzles and push forwards to see what surprises await you in the next level.

However, unfortunately it’s all over within a few hours, with minimal replayability. Once a puzzle is solved it holds no more mystery. They can’t be solved in different ways, there are no collectables to encourage experimentation, only the odd achievement to draw you back in if the completionist bug should take hold of you.

Certainly, Samsara is an inventive and challenge puzzle game with some clever ideas, and it’s remarkable how much design there is in these small levels, however, it’s only likely to keep you busy for a single session.

Thanks to Xbox and Marker Limited for supporting TiX

Broken Age review

Broken Age, a point and click adventure game from Double Fine Productions, has finally come to the Xbox One. Originally announced over five years ago via a famous Kickstarter campaign, the game is a love letter to the LucasArts titles of the 1990’s.

It tells the story of young Shay, last survivor of his planet, aboard the space vessel Bassinostra. Searching for a new home for him, the ship’s AI watches over every aspect of Shay’s life, and appears to him as his mother and father. Yet his life is an endless loop of breakfast cereal, cuddly toys and rollercoasters. Shay tires of his situation and longs for adventure. Keen to break free of his own Groundhog Day routine he soon discovers a stowaway aboard the ship who has a very different perception of what’s going on in Shay’s life.

Broken Age also tells the story of Vella, who finds herself in the apparently enviable position as one of her town’s sacrificial offerings to the dreaded Mog Chothra, a fearsome creature that demands all villages offer up sacrifices of young girls every 14 years. Whilst the other maidens are more than happy with this arrangement, given that it saves their entire villages from being destroyed, Vella would rather find a way to kill the creature. Unfortunately for her, no one else agrees. She escapes the Mog and embarks on a mission to find out more about Mog Chothra, and how to kill it.

The game is split into two acts, with the second act being considerably longer than the first. The two stories are entirely separate but you can switch between them at any time. I don’t think it’s much of a spoiler to say that the two stories do eventually come together, but you can play either story through to the end of Act 1 without starting the other. But it’s a useful feature for when you might be stuck on a particularly difficult problem, and you will most definitely be stuck on many particularly difficult problems.

So, pointing and clicking. You will move through different areas, meet characters, find objects, combine objects, give combined object to character to get an item to put on top of something. I really don’t want to say too much about the story, but: you’ll have to contend with a snake who will strangle you if you get too close, you’ll steal an anti-radiation suits from a cult, you’ll frost cakes, the list goes on. There is no tutorial or hint system in this game, it also involves a lot of backtracking across areas. If you walk off to the side of the screen the game has to load, so although loading is very quick, a fade to black and back again, you’ll be doing it a lot. There are also surprisingly few locations in the game. Whilst I got through the first Act of the game with relative ease, the second, much longer part of the game sees many multiple objectives to complete, with it never being entirely clear what it is that you need to do to complete each one. I found that completing puzzles boiled down to being resolved in one of three ways: you solved it yourself, you fluked it by trying ‘everything on everything’, or you resorted to looking up the answer somewhere. There are some really difficult puzzles later in the game and you’ll really need to take notes (pro tip: or take screenshots with your phone) and due to the random nature of many of the puzzles, a guide is only of limited help.

As I said in the introduction, this is very much a traditional point and click adventure game. Of course it is, and it’s what the fans kept asking Tim Schaffer for. He made all those great old games, why can’t he make one now? The answer was always that it would never sell enough copies in today’s market and no publisher would stump up the cash for a game that wouldn’t make a profit. And so he turned to Kickstarter and quickly raised over $3m as the rabid fan base practically forced him to take their money. This allowed the team to expand their plans for the game, hire some top voice talent and increase the number of platforms the game was released on. This game came to the Ouya before it came to the Xbox. Perhaps some concessions to modernity should have been made. The game could at least have had a hint system, because looking up the answers online doesn’t sit right. I completed the game in just under 12 hours with only 480 Gamerscore, so plenty of reason to go back, especially due to some of the puzzles having different solutions each time, and maybe get the achievement for completing the game in under one hour. I did really enjoy Broken Age, despite the difficulty.

Thanks to Double Fine Productions and Xbox for supporting TiX

Chime Sharp review

The original Chime made the art of creation a simple and serene matter. The music puzzle game was a wonderful source of distraction and ultimately proved to be a lot of fun despite limited content. Chime Sharp maintains what made the original great and ups the content significantly, becoming a marvelously compelling puzzler.

Chime Sharp has a slightly different take on the block placing puzzle games we’re used to. Although the similarities between games such as Tetris and Lumines are clear, Chime Sharp defines its self by concentrating on the creation of blocks, or quads as it refers to them, formed by an array of different shapes you can place on screen. As you place the shapes a bar will move from left to right whilst the background music plays, and as the bar passes over shapes and quads the music changes, essentially being remixed by what you’ve placed. As more quads are formed, the track progresses further along until you reach the end of your time limit.

Chime Sharp

Indeed, the major difference between Chime Sharp and similar games is in its use and manipulation of music. It’s your goal to fill the screen with quads to score points, increasing the size of a quad from the minimum 3×3 to however large you can make it within a set amount of growth time. A quad, once passed over, then disappears from the play area having changed the background colour to signify the zone has been covered. Once the entire play area is covered the screen is reset for you to continue increasing your score until the time runs out. It may come across as complex but Chime is self-explanatory, the puzzle aspect is easy to fathom due to its similarities with other shape puzzle games and the same can be said for the musical aspect, but despite the continued comparisons, Chime does have an entirely different personality.

Chime Sharp

This personality shines through due to the way you can interact with the music. Every time you play you’ll notice subtle differences in the track, all due to the way you arrange the shapes and quads. As a result you feel connected to the game and the music, and replayability becomes essentially unlimited. As with most games of this type, Chime Sharp proves to be highly compelling, with friends and global leaderboards helping to provide an additional lure beyond the almost trance like state the gameplay otherwise invokes. Chime Sharp is relaxing, even during the last seconds of a level you’ll find it hard to scramble for points and will more likely continue at a comfortable pace, enjoying the music and the charm Chime Sharp conducts.

Chime Sharp

Where the original had a mere five tracks, Chime Sharp features 15, covering multiple genres of music but all designed to subtlety warp and bend to the will of the quads you place. Each song has four modes, but with Practise whisking you away to an entirely separate level rather than the one you’ve selected, it hardly counts. Of the remaining three, Standard and Sharp will grip you the most. In Standard mode you’re fighting against the clock, coverage of the level, and high scores, with quads providing extra time. Sharp meanwhile, tasks you with covering the board but with no time limit, instead you have lives that are eaten away by any shape fragments you allow to fade away if they aren’t incorporated into a quad over time. Whichever mode you choose, you’re in for a challenge, and with each level including its own selection shapes, there’s a learning curve to each one. For such a simple premise, each level is remarkably, and terrifically, unique beyond the song and the shape of the level.

Chime Sharp

Despite the challenge and the time limit of Standard mode, there’s a tranquillity to Chime Sharp. The songs help to reinforce this relaxed demeanour and suit the style and charm brilliantly, providing different tunes, melodies, instruments, arrangements and tempos but invoking a similar feeling of relaxation and trance. They’re great tracks as well, introducing artists and different genres to people who may otherwise have missed out.

Indeed, Chime Sharp exudes charm and its personality forms a different game to the norm, but a little of this is lost because it’s a sequel. In the end Chime Sharp is different and engaging, with a great selection of tracks to work through, and is likely to prove a puzzle game you frequently fall back on, but it hasn’t really evolved since 2010.

Thanks to Xbox and Chilled Mouse for supporting TiX

Doodle God: Ultimate Edition review

Whilst Doodle God may have started out as a mobile title focused around combining elements to create something new, this Ultimate Edition on Xbox One fleshes out the content to an impressive bounty of modes. Sure, it still revolves around the click gameplay of combing elements, but with more objective-based scenarios, some spectacularly crisp visuals, and the core game-loop being surprisingly compelling, you can lose hours to this puzzle game.

It’s such as simple concept. You’re a god and it’s your job to populate the world with stuff. Animals, people, elements, inventions, monsters, and many more objects can all be created by combining two things together. It starts off simple with a handful of elements at your disposal, but as you create more, your options to combine become vaster and more complex. You’ll soon have a world full of interesting creations, and it’s a highly satisfying result.

It’s quirky too; for every logical creation, such as fire and sand equalling glass, there’s an amusing combination, such as dinosaur and fire equalling a dragon, or blood and human equalling a vampire. It’s delightfully odd and in line with classic point ‘n click adventures, in terms of humour and developer logic stumping you, which can lead to some mild frustrations as you fail to figure out a combination, but it’s a passing annoyance.

Doodle God

Doodle God doesn’t leave you entirely without aid. Objectives will appear on the side of the screen encouraging you to work towards a specific creation. Meanwhile, as you play you’ll earn hints and auto-combine abilities to help you, with more available to purchase through in-game currency. It results in you never feeling like you’re aimlessly combing things; there’s always a hint to help or an objective to chase.

Additionally, Doodle God: Ultimate Edition is lousy with modes. The standard mode of populating the world with your creations can keep you busy for many hours on end, but you can lose just as many hours with the scenarios. These challenge you to complete a quest of sorts, with limited elements to combine that are all relevant to the theme of the quest. Furthermore, another mode asks you to find the ingredients to specific special creations such as Stonehenge, and a multiplayer tournament mode allows you to challenge other players in a time trail challenge to find the solutions to certain lists of ingredients. There’s a remarkable amount of content on offer here for such a simple puzzle game.

Doodle God

Of course, despite the variety of modes, the core game-loop remains the same: combining elements, and this does eventually lose its lustre. It’s pleasantly surprising how much time you can lose to this puzzle title but the fun eventually waivers. The complexity of many different things to combine doesn’t rejuvenate the unchanging mechanics, and the sense of wonder you feel when you discover strange new creations soon becomes predictable as you tune in to the logic. It’s certainly still fun and impressively fleshed out, but after gripping you firmly in the first instance, its longevity quickly fades.

Thanks to Xbox and JoyBits Inc for supporting TiX

Kill the Bad Guy review

Kill the Bad Guy is a great physics based puzzler which sees you laying waste to the criminal scum of the world. To do this you’ll set up traps before watching your plan come together in a spectacularly gory fashion.

The game is made up of 60 levels, split across 6 chapters, with some interesting bonus levels thrown in, Zombie fans will be happy. You play as an assassin who is tasked with taking out criminals of all levels, including one who his offensive to somebody’s mum! We don’t care though, we have a job to do.

It has a great art style, which perfectly to help you understand how the game works. Each level is no more than a city block in size which you have a full overview of. Anything that is white can be interacted with, whereas all black items can be used to help you cause the ‘accidental’ deaths. Your target has a field of view that can be turned on or off, they’ll be spooked by suspicious actions so timing is everything.

KTBG-2

When you pull off the hit, blood flies everywhere and to prove you have killed them you need to try and catch the tooth that flies out of their skull, well you don’t have to but you’ll want to so that you get the three-star rating. There is also a passport hidden in the map someone too. There are secondary objectives are riddles and clues which add an extra depth to the difficulty.

You’ll use all sorts of real world objects to kill the criminals, pianos, electric wires, cars and dogs, flying ones at that. When you first start a level, you can spend time working out what you need to do, the criminal will walk away and a second day will begin. Again, to get the highest rating you need to kill them on the first day, but you can always just reload the level.

The difficulty ramps up as you move through the chapters, but it’s a fun game to experiment with, the physics works perfectly so when things don’t work out as you expect it’s your fault rather than the game.

KTBG-1

The only thing I found myself struggling with were the controls, Kill the Bad guy was PC games previously and it’s easy to see how it would be easier to play the game using a mouse and keyboard. It works well with a controller but I sometimes felt that I could move around as quickly as I would have liked. The game randomly stutters when you reload a level causing you to miss the first few vital second when you are trying to do things quickly.

I really like Kill the Bad Guy, it’s challenging but a lot of fun. The gory deaths are excellent and I really enjoyed the subtle humour in the game, this is well worth your hard earned cash.

Thanks to Xbox for supporting TiX

Energy Cycle review

Energy Cycle challenges you to achieve a very simply objective: turn all balls of energy on-screen to the same colour, but this proves to be a far more difficult and cerebral task than it first seems. It turns into an experience that can flummox you for a few hours but ultimately lacks the depth to engage you beyond a single session.

Energy Cycle 1

You’re tasked with solving 28 levels of energy ball patterns, where clicking on a ball turns it to a different colour, cycling through three different colours. This in turn causes all energy balls on that same row or column to also change colour. The puzzle is changing every energy ball so they all match, and figuring out which balls to click, how many times to click them, and in what order, turns into a challenging puzzle.

It starts off easy enough, with the first half a dozen taking a few minutes and a handful of clicks each, but as they get more complex the click count and time really begins to add up. Fortunately, it’s an intuitive puzzle mechanic; the energy balls shift between three different colours, so it’s quick and easy to reset them if you feel you’ve clicked wrong. And after a while you start to see the common patterns of the puzzles, and instinctively know what clicks will aid or disrupt your attempt to solve the screen.

Energy Cycle 2

However, whilst it can be engaging solving these colourful puzzles at first, there’s no depth to it, the mechanics and patterns don’t evolve and the satisfaction of completion quickly diminishes. After the 28 levels, there is a time trail mode that challenges you to complete randomised puzzles as quickly as possible, and another mode with randomised puzzles that has no limits, but there’s little incentive to keep playing.

Energy Cycle’s puzzling pattern recognition challenge is ideal for quick bouts of play to get the grey matter energised but lacks the depth and engagement to be played for long sessions. It fulfils the same immediate puzzle solving fix that titles like Solitaire do, making it a well-designed but shallow puzzle title.

Thanks to Xbox and Sometimes You for supporting TiX

Metrico+ review

Metrico+ is devilishly clever and difficult. It’s remarkable how much the simple mechanics can be worked into such mind boggling platforming puzzles. Which is brilliant. It’s a testament to its design, and that ‘eureka’ moment you have when you finally solve one of these puzzles is tremendously satisfying.

Metrico+ challenges you to conquer six zones from a map that strongly resembles a subway. Each zone is uniquely coloured in pastel shades or vector polygons, with infographic pie charts, geometric shapes and lines forming, fading and flickering to life in the background. It takes place on a 2D plane, although the camera occasionally tilts to show everything is in fact rendered in 3D. It’s an attractive but understated look, like playing Limbo through the eyes of someone obsessed with geometry, and your task is very simple: to reach the end of each zone by moving from left to right, utilising very basic abilities to manipulate obstacles and pass them. But of course, as with any good puzzle game, it turns out to be anything but simple.

Metrico 1

Your abilities start off limited to movement, but how you move changes the environment around you. Running to the right or left can cause platforms to move, or columns to ascend or descend. Meanwhile, jumping can sometimes have no effect, whilst other times it can move these obstacles in different ways. Figuring out how you need to move in order to get passed a set of obstacles is the challenge, and to begin with, with such a limited set of abilities, it’s a matter of trial and error to see how you affect your environment. Then, after some clever jumping and strafing, as you shuffle through gaps between columns, climb steps you’ve formed, or ride platforms that move as you do, it’s on to the next complex set of barriers. Everything interacts with each other and reacts to you, and conquering them truly gets your grey matter working.

Metrico 2

As you start a new zone, you’re given a new ability, introducing you to a whole new way you can affect your environment. At one point you’re given the ability to restart at checkpoints, allowing you to gradually solve a set of obstacles, resetting your position without resetting the world. Later still you encounter things that, for lack of a better term, are best described as enemies, which you can shoot with a new ability. But shooting them once can have a different affect than shooting them enough to kill them, and even you being ‘killed’ by these enemies can affect the environment in another, unique way. Or perhaps even dying from falling down a bottomless pit causes the environment to move in some way. Figuring it all out and how your abilities are connected to the puzzle is part of the challenge and part of the fun.

However, the time it takes for you to encounter a puzzle that’s seemingly insurmountable is very short. Metrico+ quickly becomes difficult, however, with your abilities, even in the late game, being so limited, it’s not so much frustrating when you hit these barriers but more introspective. It’s in these moments where you don’t have mechanics or obscure logic to blame, only yourself for not being able to decode the puzzle in front of you. It’s quite humbling really, and where Metrico+ truly shows off its clever design.

Metrico 3

However, between zones are surreal moments seemingly challenging what it means to have free will, but it’s abstract enough to not really say or show anything coherent. It’s intriguing, and serves as a fairly effective way to compel you to finish each zone; to see what your simple avatar suffers next in these sequences, but it’s also confusing and ultimately disappointing. Additionally, there were a couple of instances where the platforms weren’t reacting how we think they should, when we compared them to other versions of the game on other platforms.

Metrico+ is a mighty clever puzzle platformer that will certainly have you head scratching. Its six zones add up to a mere afternoon of puzzle solving, but it’s a highly satisfying set of brain teasers to work through, within an aesthetic that’s unique. Meanwhile, the intrinsic nature of cause and effect between your avatar and the environment is terrific to explore.

Thanks to Xbox and Digital Dreams for supporting TiX