I love puzzle games probably more than any other genre out there, and I’m always eager to see what new ways there are to boggle my mind at conventions like PAX East. This year was no exception.
In this article, we’re highlighting 4 indie puzzle games that made us say “Aha!” after a few moments of scratching our head (the universal sign you’ve got a good puzzle game on your hands), and one platformer with enough puzzle in it to warrant a place on this list.
Like always, this is a purely subjective decision process: These are by no means the only co-op games that were at PAX East, so if we’ve missed one you particularly loved, let us know in the comments!
Developer: Orson Cheng and Shixin Nie
Release Date: TBD
The very first game that made me say “AHA!” in a fit of sudden realization was Views, a student game being shown at Playcrafting’s PREGAMER party the night before PAX East began proper. Views is being made by Orson Cheng and Shixin Nie, and is still very much in development, but the concept totally captured me.
The concept is simple: get your icon to the end of the path. However, to do this, you’ll need to play with perspective, turning the environment not only to reveal the pitfalls you have to avoid, but to literally create the paths you’ll need to follow. Shixin warned me that the mechanics of the path’s were finicky as I played, but to be quite honest, I thought the mechanics of the game were already incredibly solid.
I’m eagerly awaiting a chance to dig into Views again, looking forward to more content and polish and seeing what these two guys create.
One one hand, WaveCrash is a fairly straightforward matching game, where you make sets of colored tiles and activate them. However, on the other hand, you’re activating these tiles not for points, but as the means attack your opponent.
You’re playing against an opponent in a puzzle based game of tug of war, matching tiles in specific configurations to attack your opponent, lock down their tiles and push the center line there end, thus winning the round. There are a host of characters, each with there own special abilities, tied to specific configurations
What this ends up becoming is an incredibly fast paced puzzle game, with ample splashes of twitch reaction and strategy thrown in for good measure. WaveCrash is a remarkably cool upending of the classic matching puzzle formula.
Developer: Wraith Games
Platform: iOS, Android, Fire OS, Windows Phone, Steam (Mac, Linux, and PC), Wii U, 3DS, and web (with plans for Nintendo Switch, PS4, Vita, and Xbox One)
Release Date: TBD
Speaking of upending the classic matching puzzle game formula, lets do that. Literally.
Collapsus was probably the best showed game at PAX East for me. I was handed a tablet, which quickly populated with a series of colored blocks. Touching on a block makes it disappear, causing the column of blocks to move down (possibly creating a row of 4 like colored blocks, and thus removing those for points), and using up one of your limited pool of touches/clicks. Removing a set of 4 blocks in a row or column gives you back a touch/click charge: run out of these and its game over.
I’m playing this and, quite honestly, thinking “Okay, this is pretty standard…“, when one of the folks at the booth leans over and says “hey, why don’t you turn the tablet?” Eyebrow raised, I turned the tablet clockwise in my hands…and the board turned with it. Rows became columns, and columns became rows.
I audibly whispered “Oh, now I get it”. Collapsus is a brilliant take on a classic type of puzzle game, and beautifully uses the technology of tablets to turn into something mind blowing. You can play a PC version of the game now, though don’t try turning your monitor: buttons are provided.
Collapsus also has turned an eye towards accessibility that’s incredibly thorough and welcomed.
A Fold Apart is an adorable puzzle game about long distance relationships, no matter the gender. The basic mechanic of the game revolves around folding the paper environment to create or connect paths for you character to traverse. The PAX East demo was short, and didn’t explore some of the more complex folding and unfolding mechanics that the developers talked with me about, but the concept is solid and already very well polished.
It’s also fantastic to see such an emotional and touching story combined with a unique puzzle mechanic, and to see the puzzle mechanic reinforce the symbolism and message of the story. A Fold Apart could be using one of the most successful marriages of mechanic and narrative I’ve ever seen in a puzzle game, but I’ll reserve the right to judge this after I’ve seen some of the more complex puzzles.
Now, I can’t call Isometric Epilepsy a pure puzzle game, but I have to mention it in this list because it has a fantastic “Aha!” moment, as good or better than any puzzle game I’ve ever played.
Isometric Epilepsy sees you as a small cube, having to navigate a path toward an exit, avoiding obstacles and pitfalls, and occasionally solving small puzzles and problems to facilitate your exit. The problems are almost all based on timing, and the world of Isometric Epilepsy is ruled by rhythm.
As I was trying to navigate the world, I found myself struggling to make it through these mazes and obstacle courses. That is until I stopped thinking about what I was seeing and started listening to what I was hearing. Everything is keyed to the beat of the phenomenal soundtrack pumping in the background on Isometric Epilepsy, and as soon as you let go and start solving these puzzles and mazes to the beat of the song, things suddenly become close to effortless. Solving platforming puzzles in time to the amazing soundtrack was a fantastic feeling and one I cannot wait to explore further.
Make sure to check back in with IndieHangover soon, because we’ll have compilations of our favorite Multiplayer Party Games for this year’s PAX East next week. Missed our look at some of the best Couch Co-op Games from PAX East? Check it out here.