Creator: Jason “Jake” Roberts, published by Annapurna Interactive
Platform: iOS (also available on PC, PS, Xbox, Switch)
Target Audience: The game is intended for 4+ (on App Store) but the complexity of the puzzle and the narrative make it unlikely that younger children can complete the game. The puzzles require pattern recognition and creativity and I struggled with many puzzles during play.
Formal Elements and suggestions:
The objective of the game is to solve puzzles to progress through the narrative. I experienced challenge and a beautiful narrative. The narrative is about a boy and his city and is told on a 2×2 screen through animations and pictures. The player slides frames, zooms in/out of them and stack pictures/frames on top of one another (first image). Each story is locked behind several puzzles. Hints are scattered in notepads, the boy’s thoughts and objects in the scene (second image). The puzzles are cleverly designed such that when you get the solution, there is an aha moment. I was so elated when I solved the balance puzzle in chapter 3. I really love how unique the puzzles mechanics are and how they nicely fit into the narrative. The puzzles were not jarring and leveraged the environment (game and narrative) so well. For example, one can stack a dark lamp on top of the sun/moon to turn the lamp on (last image). Or, one can stack a door in front of the boy for him to walk into another environment.
Players can also get clues from the designer (highlight on the UI) if they are stuck. However, the lack of dialogue and advance hints make it hard to progress if you’re stuck. I found myself mindlessly trying different combinations of sliding, zooming in/out and stacking frames to see if anything would work. In fact, I was stuck on a puzzle for 20 mins and gave up. I wish there more ways for the players to progress or more hints. It was very frustrating at the end. While the narrative and art were very beautiful, it was missing the voice overlay. I wanted to hear the protagonist speak. I wanted to be more immersed in the environment and game.