Electron Dance

Electron Dance Highlights


Puzzleworks, 7: Understand

The Witness does not explain how the puzzle panels are solved.

Instead, it offers a few easily-solved tutorial puzzles from which you can reverse engineer the rules. Sometimes it even makes sense to backtrack a little and test out your rule theories. Puzzles need rules. But, first, the rules themselves are the puzzle.

Now imagine a puzzle game that is just that: have you played Understand (Artless Games, 2020)?

Nutshell: Hard but addictive, replete with punch-the-air moments of victory.

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No Hill To Die On

This is the fourth part of a five-part series on INFRA. The previous parts were Optical Delusion, The Abandoned Church and Fractures.

There’s one key section in late INFRA that attracts a lot of praise. It’s another puzzle-strewn location that Mark gets stuck in and, yet again, has to go to silly lengths to escape.

But this is a very different INFRA to the one you have known. It’s not about crumbling infrastructure but an excursion to surreal country.

Welcome to Turnip Hill.

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Puzzleworks, 6: The Confounding Calendar

Corey Hardt and beekie18 have organised The Confounding Calendar, a digital advent calendar that delivers a small puzzle every day until the 25th.

Most of the puzzles, so far, are Puzzlescript creations. I’ve tried all of them, solved some, abandoned others. My favourites are…

Nutshell: Selection of mainly shortform Puzzlescript puzzles: some easy, some hard, some ragequittable. Worth a gander.

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This is the third part of a five-part series on INFRA. The previous parts were Optical Delusion and The Abandoned Church.

INFRA was a game I misunderstood. I had fallen in love with the dream of a game I imagined INFRA to be... and then ignored the unsettling creaking coming from the foundations.

Initially, it was harmless design choices that were easy to dismiss out of hand. NPCs appropriated as an impassable barrier. An elevator which conveniently fails. An unimportant notice to go along with an important one. The endless rows of binders marked “useless stuff”, “nothing” and “random stuff”.

I was confident that INFRA was a serious game and held fast to this conviction for most of its playtime. I find this strange. Because of the mushrooms, man. The bloody mushrooms. Creak.

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Puzzleworks, 5: Tres Undos

Tres Undos (Knexator, 2021) is a short 17-level puzzle game which is played in a browser. It’s a blockpusher whose undo is afflicted with some... cursed magic. Think of those Braid (Number None, 2009) levels where you could turn back time to undo but effects on green objects could not be fixed. Think of those Recursed (Portponky, 2016) levels where green objects maintained their state despite every time you jumped into a chest, everything inside was reset.

There are no green objects in Tres Undos. But there are yellow and red ones.

It’s a blisteringly hard puzzler which I described on Twitter as “a sequence of hate crimes against your brain”, especially as you need to figure out its strange rules as you progress. I’m going to spoil the beans below so, if you want to jump in fresh, go play it now. I will leave you one important tip - the weird-looking square block on the fourth level is just a wall.

Nutshell: Vicious, non-intuitive blockpusher but satisfying if your sort of thing.

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A Walking Simulator With Guns

Last month I played through Industria (Bleakmill, 2021), a most curious first-person shooter. Developed over several years, a brief glance suggests an homage to the Half-Life series with glossy to-die-for production values.

Yet it twists and squirms against this blueprint: it doesn’t want to be just another gun game.

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Every Click Has Meaning

I shared some videos of Townscaper (Oskar Stålberg, 2021) on Twitter a while back because I was quietly impressed with it. It was like the Canabalt of creative games: clicking was building.

Townscaper took care of all the detail bullshit so, regardless of where you clicked, everything remained coherent. Click on top of a house? Let’s make the house taller. Click next to a house? The single house becomes a bigger house - well, unless you’ve changed the colour in which case you get separate houses.

I wasn’t planning on picking up Townscaper when it slithered out of the primordial early access soup because I didn’t think I’d get too much out of it personally. But the launch price was so agreeable that my gut ached with guilt; I nudged it into the Steam cart and the deed was done. I expected Townscaper would be a good fit for my daughter, who was recently diagnosed with terminal Minecraft-addiction, so the purchase wouldn’t be wasted currency even if I got bored after about 30 minutes.

I got bored after about 30 minutes. But that ain’t the whole story.

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Puzzleworks, 4: Secure

Here's a short, clever PuzzleScript game called Secure by "Toombler". It's one of those PuzzleScript games that asks the player to work out the mechanics with no guidance. Zarawesome (Guilherme Töws) thrust it into my Twitter feed.

Nutshell: A clever twist on Sokoban, but you might get lost along the way.

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Moon Logic

Moon logic is a notorious game design choice where the solution to a puzzle emerges from incomprehensible game-world logic. So instead of using a key to open a locked door, maybe you transform it into a pancake and eat it. Or you swipe a motorcycle by fabricating a moustache from cat hair to pretend to be someone who doesn’t have a moustache. Moon logic can sometimes make sense in hindsight, but often leads players into the bowels of despair.

Now in the latest episode of “games I bought and God maybe it’s time I played it, right?”, I lobbed Gorogoa (Jason Roberts, 2017) onto my smartphone and played it last week. I'm here to tell you that Gorogoa is fabulous – because of moon logic.

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The Abandoned Church

This is the second part of a five-part series on INFRA. The first part was Optical Delusions.

Mark climbs the tower in the steelworks so he can repair a mobile transceiver. Luckily, as a videogame avatar, he has a head for heights, because up there you can see everything for miles.

Stalburg looks pristine. It’s easy to forget the rot that brought you here.

The city can be an impersonal, alienating environment, living and working amongst permanent strangers. It can also be a potent stew of diversity and change. Small towns don't change, they just grow old and die. A city constantly reinvents. How can you resist the siren call of a sprawling metropolis?

Look upon my works, ye Mighty, and be blown away.

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