Critical Play: Puzzles // Dumpy & Bumpy

For this week’s critical play I played Dumpy & Bumpy, by Programancer, on PC. This game is an indie puzzle adventure where you play as a tiny dinosaur and solve puzzles by biting, throwing, and pushing objects around. The game has an EXTREMELY cute aesthetic and the puzzles, at least at the beginning, are not too difficult, leading me to believe that the game has a very wide target audience ranging from young kids to adults. The first ‘world’ or collection of levels in the game does a fantastic job of teaching the player the required mechanics to play the game. Basically, Dumpy is able to break certain blocks by breaking them, push certain boxes around, and carry around and throw certain boxes. Each type of box gives you a purely visual cue as to how the player can interact with them, and what the goal of the level is. For example, there are boxes with an icon over them indicating that they must be placed over a floor tile with the same icon to complete the level. Furthermore, each level is bite-sized and has a little blurb explaining what the objective is. All in all, this makes for an extremely clear playing experience where it is hard to get frustrated from not knowing what to do since things are laid out so clearly. Furthermore, the restart and quit level functions are literally a button away and levels can be completed in any order, making for a wonderfully frictionless experience. The game’s formal elements are blocks, Dumpy, and other objects, like light tiles, which influence how the player solves the puzzle. The game has Fantasy, because it places you in a thought-out and cute world, Challenge, as the puzzles have to be thought through and completed, Fellowship, because it gives the option to do co-op, Discovery, as you discover new game mechanics and levels, and Submission as you can put all your focus and energy into the game while the world melts away. The biggest emotional moment for me was solving a puzzle where I had to light a series of lights on the ground. It took embarrassingly long to realize that one of the lights was covered by a moveable block; once I solved the puzzle, though it felt great. It seems like one ‘aha’ moment takes you quickly from epic failure to success. Finally, if I had to make the game better I would add a hint system, as it would smoothen out some of the harder levels and motivate players to not get frustrated.

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