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Electron Dance Highlights


Puzzleworks, 3: Akurra

In April, good Electron Dance friend Maurycy Zarzycki, who designed the short, free puzzle game Machine at the Heart of the World (Evidently Cube, 2018), tweeted this right at my face: "You should check the demo of Akurra if you haven't yet heard about it. It's a bit of a cross between Sokoban, Legend of Zelda and The Witness - a freeroam puzzle game by [Jason Newman]. Something tells me you'll like it."

Come on, you can't namedrop The Witness carelessly like that in a tweet. That's like saying "if you like Citizen Kane, you might enjoy this film." Bwahahaha. Anyway joke's on me because I had far too much fun with Akurra.

Nutshell: Open-world Sokoban-variant rife with secrets to discover, still in development.

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Not So Far

There was a lady in the village of Lyndow. Tifa her name was and she offered me a ride on the back of her cart to the city of Nava. But when I tried to take her up on her kind offer, she admonished me. I asked why.

“You’re a newcomer and you’ve never been to Nava! It’s not so far and the walk is lovely. Everyone going to Nava for their first time should approach by foot. I won’t be the one to cheat you out of an enriching experience.”

Eastshade, you know me very well. More than you think.

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Puzzleworks, 2: Tametsi

There was some excitement over a Sudoku video last week, the "Miracle Sudoku", where a handful of arcane rules and just two numbers allows a Sudoku expert to fill the board. And it blows him away after he initially thought it was a joke.

And I thought, well, that's how Tametsi makes me feel.

Nutshell: Hard Minesweeper with interesting ruleset. Later levels take me an hour per board. Unfinished.

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Puzzleworks 1: Puddle Knights

It's high time I wrote about some of the puzzle games I've been tearing through recently. Although "tearing through" is probably an exaggeration. It's more like syrup dribbling through a heap of used coffee filters. Anyway: the first is Puddle Knights.

Nutshell: Clever mechanic that tickles same neurons as a Sokoban game or Snakebird. I cheated on the final level.

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Slave to the Rhythm

This is the fourth in a series of five musings on Control. Previously: Behind the Poster, Use of Weapons and Reverse Shock.

There will be spoilers.


Let’s say Control isn’t working for you. It’s fine, it’s keeping you entertained but it doesn’t give you that rush. But inside this puzzle box of hype is another one.

They say: this is the actual good stuff.

They say: this is the real deal.

This is the real get hype.

And now you are here. You don your spacesuit ready for your first step on the surface of Planet Disappointment, because that’s where a free ride through hypespace usually ends up.

You enter the Ashtray Maze - and wait for the other shoe to fall.

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Reverse Shock

This is the third in a series of short musings on Control. The first was Behind the Poster and the second was Use of Weapons.

There will be spoilers.

Black Rock Quarry in Control is a visual wonder. Few games get me to marvel at rock - caves were the worst part of INFRA (Loiste Interactive, 2016) - but, my God, I was screenshotting up a whole folder of rock formations. Here’s some rock. Here’s Jesse standing in front of some more rock. Here’s Jesse looking into the distance, by some rock.

Combat in Control was settling down, a little too much. I was comfortable with most fights and had become somewhat complacent. Bored, even. But the quarry threw a screwball into the process.

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Phase Two

At Rezzed in 2016, I dabbled with a game called Vignettes, which I described as “a Vectorpark game not made by Vectorpark.” It was simple but genius: rotate object in 3D space until its silhouette matches the silhouette of another object – into which it then transforms. And repeat to find more objects. It was a little rough around the edges, being an early build, but intriguing.

Not intriguing enough for me to snap it up when it came out on mobile in 2017. Nor desktop last year. My imagination couldn’t fill in a particularly daunting blank: what else could there be except rotating objects into objects ad infinitum?

Unable to answer this question, I waited two years before trying Vignettes (Skeleton Business, 2017). And that’s a shame.

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Use of Weapons

This is the second in a series of short musings on Control. The first was Behind the Poster.

There will be spoilers.

The first boss battle is with a floating person called Alberto Tommasi. Al pushed me to the brink. I considered quitting Control, despite the hefty sum I had exchanged for it.

Boss battles are often exercises in choreography where you have to improvise your footsteps against a partner who knows every move. Learning to dance through bruises and blood. Al would float around, throw a rock at Jesse and she would always get it in the face. The rocks came quicker than I could make Jesse dodge. After a couple of hits Jesse was ex-Jesse.

And then I watched the loading screen for two minutes.

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A Donation for The Button

What can I say about Interactivity: The Interactive Experience (Aetheric Games, 2019) outside of its unbearably long name and its unrealistically shiny environment powered by Unreal?

Interactivity belongs to that category of “games about games” and is reminiscent of The Stanley Parable (Wreden & Pugh, 2013). At first I thought it was a little bit too Stanley, but it charts its own course. Frustrating in places but the frustration is also sometimes the point. I liked it.

It’s quite short but I’m about to spoil it with extreme prejudice - and by that, I mean spoil it to commercial death - so you should go check it out if you want to draw your own opinions first.

Advance ye not who fear the spoiler.

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Twilight’s Last Gaming 2019/4: Stephen’s Sausage Roll

I don't do Game of the Year, but I can do the games I enjoyed the most this year. This is the final of four.

I began adapting The Ouroboros Sequence into a book earlier this year - this seemed like a project I could complete more quickly than The Weapons of Progress. However, Ouroboros was a journey to a destination unknown and attempting to reformulate it as a book cast a harsh light onto some of its gaps. One of these was Stephen’s Sausage Roll (Increpare Games, 2016) a game drizzled with sausage hype yet there were plenty of people who got stuck and downed tools. I had played it twice before but never made great progress, having little success in training the puzzle monkey in my brain to understand its architecture.

But I knew what to do as Ouroboros had delivered a terrible revelation. I needed to start Stephen's Sausage Roll again from the very beginning, and approach it with a mindful attitude, engaging instead of just trying to finish it. That completionist drive is a terrible mindset for a puzzle game. If you always focus on the horizon, you'll find yourself tripping over every crack in the broken pavement, every gnarled tree root bursting from the ground.

This project started on August 30 and within two days I had swept through the first two "stages" of Stephen's Sausage Roll. I was heartened and somewhat amazed that puzzle monkey brain seemed to understand the mechanics so well; I was building from first principles not recalling solutions. My old nemesis, The Great Tower, gave me some pause, but I ploughed through it a second time and I was ready for virgin territory: the third, snowy stage.

Naturally, progress slowed but was constant and my determination never faltered. In time, I made it to the fourth stage and Electron Dance reader Matt W kept submitting ROT13 commentary at me on random threads. I was never alone. Eyes were always watching.

I found Stephen's Sausage Roll fascinating. The mechanics were, in theory, simple, but full of terrifying nuances that you needed to master to stand a chance of defeating it. I dabbled in Monte Carlo - brute force exploration - at times such as in brainbleed levels like Crunchy Leaves, but mostly I felt like I solved them. It made me feel like a winner.

Then: the fifth stage. It was crawling with puzzles. With so many sausage mechanics now on the table, I suspected Stephen's Sausage Roll would soon run out of road. The end was nigh.

You absolute fool.

The crucial level, around which the entire game pivots and becomes something else, is an innocuous seemingly-impossible level called Dead End. It contains a secret that is so unexpected and deliriously incredible that I laughed out loud. It's a bit like "that secret" in The Witness but... more profound in some ways?

Nothing was ever the same again after that. Sure, I finished the game. But nothing was ever the same again after that.

Stephen's Sausage Roll is available from Steam or Humble for PC, Mac or Linux.