For some reason, puzzle games scratched an itch for us at this year’s PAX East, above and beyond any other game. We don’t have an explanation for this, maybe we just we’re feeling the need to get our brain juices going, or the need to be confused (though the AppJunkies Panel took care of that too…), but we ran into a ton of puzzle game that we absolutely loved. Here are five of our favorites, in no particular order!
Developer: FLEB Puzzles
RYB definitely draws you in with its bright colors, but that isn’t what endeared this puzzle game by Paul Hlebowitsh to me. It was the utter lack of any instruction, and the subsequent joy in figuring the mechanics of the game out, that really made me fall for RYB.
RYB is almost excessively minimalist, which is a trend you’ll notice in a number of PAX games we’ll be touching on at IndieHangover. Minimalism seemed to be rather in vogue among the indie developers at PAX East, and I don’t count that at a bad thing, particularly in regards to the puzzles and certain multiplayer games we will touch on later.
RYB plays sort of like Minesweeper in that, until you figure out what the numbers, or in this case circles, mean, you have no stinking idea what you’re doing. Once you do figure out what the lines, triangles and circles do mean, RYB becomes a logic game trying to make sure to have fulfilled all the needed requirements of the puzzle.
Developer: Andrew J. Adams
Release Date TBD
Unmatch, which was part of the PAX East Indie Showcase, is also minimalist in its design and relies on very little instruction, but this time, it is because of how simple, and brilliant the hook of the game is. Unlike most other puzzle games, the goal in Unmatch if to disrupt the patterns, not build them. Your goal is to make sure not colors are touching one another, and while this sounds and is easy for the first few levels, as you progress into the higher numbers of the 90+ levels, things get much more complex.
One of things that is really wonderful about Unmatch is the fact that, unlike so many puzzles, there often isn’t a single solution, and you complete puzzle ends up being a rather beautiful pattern that could be entirely different from the last person that solved the puzzle.
Title: Open Bar
Developer: Gingear Studio
Platform: iOS, Andriod
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the drinking-themed puzzle game on IndieHangover. Open Bar, which like Unmatch, was part of the PAX East Indie Showcase, is slick, colorful, and incredibly addictive. Puzzles are completed by placing or replacing colored line in order to remove them from the puzzle space. You have a set number of moves, and a set number of pieces, which must be placed in order.
Now, it should be noted that I am not what I would consider a mobile game player. I tend toward the PC, and am not all that connected to gaming on my phone. However, after seeing Open Bar on the first day of PAX East, at the hotel before heading out to dinner and drinks, you better believe that I downloaded Open Bar as fast as my fingers could manage. While the puzzles may not be as tough as RYB or Unmatch, I’d definitely say they are more addictive.
Developer: Mark Mayers
Platform: PC, Oculus Rift
Release Date TBD 2017
Going in a very different direction from the rather minimalist first three games on this list, Desolus is a rich, complex and deeply imaginative puzzle game about black holes. Or surrealism. Or both.
Accompanied by an absolutely astounding and beautiful soundtrack, Desolus seems you controlling energy, moving it from point to point in the surreal and bright game world. With this energy, you’ll activate bridges, gates, jump pads and all other sorts of contraptions in the maze that feels like the brain child of Salvador Dali and Neil deGrasse Tyson.
The surreal visual elements combined with the classical soundtrack provided by Kyle Landry transport Desolus into a sort of dreamscape. The production value is astounding for an Indie team of one, and it’s clear Mark Mayers has been pouring his heart and soul into this project since he began it in 2014.
Title: Death Squared
Developer: SMG Studio
Platform: Steam and Consoles
Release Date TBD 2016
Finally, the fantastic game bridging the gap between multiplayer party game and puzzle game: Death Squared. You can just as easily call this game “Cubes trying to convince your friends to be patient” and be on point. Playing cooperatively with between 2 and 4 players, your goal is to get each colored cube to its corresponding colored circle. This might sound easy, but let me assure you…it is not.
When your cube touches specific tiles, it’ll interact with other elements of the map. Sometimes, it will cause a whole field of spikes to spring up from the ground. Sometimes, it’ll cause a block to push your friend off a platform to their death. Sometimes, it’ll activate lasers.
No matter what, you are going to kill each other many, many times.
You’ll have to be more cautious than you’d originally expect, and end up slowly crreping through the map as you figure out what causes what, which is why I’d frame this game as more of a co-op puzzle game than a straight party game.
The phenomenal thing about Death Squared is how much they’ve done with so little. There are very few assets in the game as of yet, and even with the have dozen or so elements, the game is loads of fun.
Stay tuned, because next week, we’ll be sharing our favorite party games we found at PAX East 2016!