PAX East is always a treasure trove of puzzle games to find, experience, and scratch our heads over. This year was no different, and we found a host of new puzzle games to keep our brains limber, spread through the Indie Megabooth, minibooth and beyond!
Want to see our favorite puzzle games from PAX East 2016? Look no further!
Here are five fantastic puzzle games we saw at PAX East 2017 you should check out, or keep on your watchlist:
Developer: Brett Taylor
Platform: Steam and Consoles
Linelight is a refreshingly inventive, minimalist puzzle-adventure game. It takes the wildly simple premise of “What if everything takes place on a line?” and rockets it into outer space.
Each mechanic is immediately understandable, then gradually combined with familiar elements, leading to an exponentially large array bursting with puzzles, each with a one-of-a-kind solution.
The first best puzzle game we found at PAX East this year wasn’t technically at PAX East, but at the PREGAMER event the night before PAX East hosted by Playcrafting. We’re saying that’s close enough to the main event to consider the games.
We met Brett Taylor and were able to play his game Linelight, an incredibly compelling and incredibly minimalist puzzle game that revolves around lights and pathways. The main gameplay mechanic sees you having to plan your pathway through the levels so you activate switches or gates in the correct order to construct your path forward, or timing the activation of certain pathways to trap enemies in loops where they won’t threaten you.
Linelight has an incredibly slick aesthetic, a gorgeous soundtrack and manages to teach you all int’s mechanics without a single word or tutorial moment, a design decision I happen to love. We’re eager to interview Brett in the near future to talk about his design process, Linelight’s inspiration and his background as a developer.
Developer: NextGen Pants
Release Date TBD 2017
Refactor is a physics based platformer taking elements from classic Metroidvanias. Placed in a world that is a puzzle itself, you can literally turn the world upside down by rearranging the map and building your own pathways through the game. Uncover secrets, acquire new abilities and upgrades, and discover where you fit in the world.
Geniusly described as a “Tertoidvania”,game, Refactor isn’t actually 100% a puzzle game. Most of the game is a platformer relying on your timing and use of the game’s physics to guide a little cube through the environment, using his various abilites to jump, swing and dash around enemies and obstacles.
However, at certain points, you’ll come across a computer station you can plug into. At that point, the game becomes an incredibly unique puzzle game the likes of which I’ve never seen.
At these terminals, you’ll be able to rearrange the rooms Tetris-style of the level you are in to create your own pathway to the end goal of the level. Yo’ll only be able to move rooms you’ve fully explored, so sometimes you’ll need to go left before you can go right, but the brilliant part of this is that the physics of the game engine still applies. Did you see a metal hatch you couldn’t open earlier in a level? Flip the entire room over to open it. Don’t want to deal with a pesky climb up? Turn it into a fall down.
It’s an incredibly cool mechanic that’s a bit more open ended that other puzzle games, but definitely deserving of mention.
Developer: Vivid Helix
Platform: Steam and Consoles
Semispheres is a meditative parallel puzzle game that places dual realities at the heart of its challenge. Its unique single-player split-screen mechanic challenges your brain by putting you in control of two characters at the same time.
Calm and contemplative, Semispheres is a zen-like puzzle experience that was remarkably chill. In Semispheres, you control two orbs, one orange and one blue with either your left and right gamepad joysticks, or WASD and the Arrow Keys. The screen is split into two halves, Orange tinted on the left and blue tinted on the right. The Orange sphere moves in the left half and the blue in the right half.
What makes this game a puzzle is that while the layout of each half in the same, the placement of different abilities, enemies and portals is different on each side. You’ll need to move each side independently of the other, triggering a sound on the left, while peaking through a portal on the right. It’s all about timing, using the right ability at the right time and having each half of the game work together in unison. In many ways, it plays like a blue and orange themed stealth game, and it’s a beautiful experience.
Developer: Cat Nigiri
Platform: PC, Consoles and Mobile
Release Date TBD – [Est. Q4 2017 (PC) – Est. Q1 2018 (Consoles) – Est. Q3 2018 (Mobile)]
Keen is a sliding puzzle game with turn-by-turn tactical combat and a hint of adventure!
Guide Kim, a grumpy little girl raised by her grandmother to save the world on her journey to stop an evil corporation from destroying her village
Don’t let the cutesy, chibi style graphics fool you, Keen is a strategic and brutal puzzler that’s surprisingly addictive.
In Keen, you move as far as you can in any direction each turn. The strategy in Keen comes from the two attacks you can preform. Ending your move next to an enemy does a stop attack. However, if you start your move far enough away, you’re able to build up some speed to deliver a slicing attack that does twice the damage.
End your turn next to an enemy and each and every one able to will damage you, and it doesn’t take much damage at all to end the game. The end result is a puzzle game that has a very hit and run feel to it, where you’ll bide you time till the enemy is in the right position, and then speed across the board on your roller skates to deliver a killing blow to two or three zombies at a time. Every move counts, and every attack must be carefully considered, making Keen feel surprisingly weighty.
Platform: PC and MAC
Release Date TBD 2017
Semblance is a puzzle platformer where your character and the world it inhabits is made of playdough. Squish, squash and deform your character and the world to solve puzzles in this soft, bouncy world.
Saving quite possibly the best for last, Semblance is an utterly fantastic twist on the normal formula of puzzle platformers.
In Semblance, you can mold certain parts of the world with your character, mainly through jumping and hitting something from the bottom, or falling from a high enough height to depress the ground or platform you’re falling on to. Can’t reach a collectible from here? Knock that platform up a bit and you should be able to reach it. Can’t reach a higher level? Jump and slam into the walls to make divots you can jump between to reach the top.
It’s an incredibly cool twist on the normal way platformers work, but doesn’t dumb down the experience, or make the game play easier simply because you can adjust the world around you. In fact, it might even be a little bit harder than a normal platformer because the responsibility is on you to position the world and yourself in the right place to make that jump. However, failure feels like a learning experience, and each success feel like you were an integral part of it.
Combined with its colorful and charming art style, Semblance has the makings of a must have.
Want to learn more about the games we saw at PAX East 2017? Check out this page, which lists all the game’s we saw, and we will be updating with links to our coverage as we complete it.