The best PC games of 2014

PC Gamer at

PUZZLE

Once upon a time, puzzles were about combining things in inventory screens. Today brain-teasers bend time and space to tax our mental muscle. Scale lets you shrink the damn moon to progress, while Fract moves you through the insides of a colossal music sequencer. Today's puzzle game offer much more than puzzles, too. Quadrilateral Cowboy revels in its joyful vaudevillian setting. Tangiers ushers you into a dark world where you can steal the thoughts of others. Braid creator, Jon Blow, is also working on his next game, the colourful and intriguing island game, The Witness.

Quadrilateral Cowboy


Developer: Blendo Games
Publisher: In-house
Release date: 2014
Link:Quadrilateral Cowboy

Armed with a yellow laptop and basic programming skills, Quadrilateral Cowboy has you hacking through corporate defences to steal sensitive data from well-defended facilities. You do this by creating and executing command lines to bypass obstacles, typing them into your laptop as you sneak through each level. Type Grate1.open(3), and the grate in front of you will open for three seconds, for example. You have to chain multiple commands together as missions increase in difficulty, which makes Quadrilateral Cowboy a puzzle game that’s both challenging and tactile. It’s a pleasure to type commands directly into your magic laptop, and your adventures are couched in the humour and joyous vaudevillian stylings of the Citizen Able universe we’ve already explored in Gravity Bone and Thirty Flights of Loving. It’s going to be great.

The Witness


Developer: Number None
Publisher: In-house
Release date: TBA 2014
Link: The Witness site

A puzzle game set on a mysterious island by Jon Blow, the man behind Braid. It shares a little with the Myst series - including, in Eric A. Anderson, a designer. The nature of its puzzles, and the ideas tying them all together, remain mysterious, though the last blog update on the site notes that the puzzle count is already up to 595.

Scale


Developer: Steve Swink
Publisher: Steve Swink
Release Date: December
Link:Steve's Swinky website

Scale is a first-person puzzler that lets you shrink and rebigulate objects in your environment with the aid of a magic scaling gun. It sounds a bit like Portal mixed with Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, and that is obviously something that needs to exist. You play the part of Penny, a brilliant physicist on a quest to...well, we don't actually know that part yet. But it's a quest that involves a brightly coloured world full of things to make really small or big. For instance, shooting at the moon will affect the tides and either raise or lower the level of water back on Earth. Blow up a butterfly and you'll then be able to ride on the insect's back. It's a clever notion for a game, so let's hope creator Steve Swink can do it justice. On the evidence of a brief Kickstarter video and a bunch of excellent GIFs, he seems to be on the right track.

Little old Scale made a big impression when it was brought to our attention late last year.

Tangiers


Developer Andalusian
Publisher: In-house
Release: Mid 2014
Link:Tangiers site

An avant-garde stealth game inspired by Thief, William Burroughs, David Lynch, and other moody, intriguing things. Tangiers promises surreal landscapes and ideas by the bucketload, but perhaps the most novel one teased so far is the game's physicality with words – you can literally pick up a guard's thoughts and hurl them as a distraction, for example.

Fract OSC


Developer: Phosfeind Systems
Publisher: In-house
Release Date: TBA 2014
Link:Fract site

The prototype build of Fract won an IGF award back in 2011, and the team have been working to turn it into a full release ever since. Their quest is almost complete, so soon we’ll all be able to enjoy this abstract open world puzzle game. The synth audio is essential to the operation of many of Fract’s puzzles, and it’s finished with a healthy dose of lasers and Tron-esque environments.

Miegakure


Developer: Mark ten Bosch
Publisher: Self-published
Release Date: TBA
Link:Miegakure site

A puzzle platformer in four dimensions, Miegakure looks like it could eventually be one of the most challenging puzzle games ever devised. After playing a private build, Braid creator Jon Blow says “I find it easy to think of Miegakure as one of the great puzzle games of all time”. It’s even been immortalised in an XKCD comic. You complete puzzles by shifting the environment from a fourth dimension to affect space in three dimensions. Even after watching the instructive trailer, it’s tricky to get one’s head around. The best solution will be to play it, but there’s no release date, or any sign of a public demo yet.

Volume


Developer: Mike Bithell
Publisher: Self-published
Release Date: 2014
Link:Mike Bithell's Volume page

Clearly a fan of Metal Gear Solid's VR missions, Mike Bithell's next game after Thomas Was Alone is a retelling of Robin Hood via a military stealth simulation. The gimmick here is that your gadgets and abilities revolve around making noise. Distraction is key, and through blackjacks, bugles and thunderclaps, it's your job to manipulate the game's guards into creating a path through the level. In addition to the story, a key focus of the game is its level editor, ensuring simulated sneaking will last long into the year.

Steal the latest Volume info by checking out Chris's interview with creator Mike Bithell.

Life Goes On


Developer: Infinite Monkeys Entertainment
Publisher: In-house
Release Date: Early 2014
Link:Life Goes On site

The screenshot tells the sad but also hilarious story of Life Goes On, a puzzle game in which you control a conveyor belt of bumbling knights, sacrificing them one by one so that the next might get a little further into the dungeon, and then die in turn in some creative and amusing way. Scratch that Lemmings itch with the playable demo.

The Escapists


Developer: Chris Davis
Publisher: In-house
Release Date: May
Link:Escapists site

Whatever you expected Spud's Quest developer Chris Davis to do next, it probably wasn't The Escapists: a top-down indie prison break sim. It's a game about, well, breaking out of prison, but it's not as simple as activating a cutscene or receiving one of those delicious hidden-file-cakes – it takes planning, surreptitiousness, crafting, bribing, training and a hell of a lot of digging. The Escapists is Shawshank, The Great Escape and Escape from Alcatraz rolled into one.

The Escapists went on the lam late last year. Have a read of what we thought of its announcement here.

Gravi


Developer: Always Geeky
Publisher: Self-published
Release Date: TBA 2014
Link:Gravi site

You play a magic ball lost in a trap-ridden alien spacecraft in this puzzle platformer from Hashbang games. An electric lasso lets you grab onto walls and propel yourself through tiny spaces rife with spike traps and other deadly, deadly features.

Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee New N' Tasty!


Developer: Just Add Water
Publisher: Oddworld Inhabitants
Release: Spring 2014
Link:Oddworld site

A ground-up remake of the classic puzzle platformer that renders Abe’s doom-laden escape in full HD. Oddworld Inhabitants have re-done everything, from the FMV sequences to the way the camera moves. It’s a nostalgic project, but one devoted to a characterful and much-loved series.

Talisman Digital Edition


Developer: Nomad Games Limited
Publisher: In house
Release date: TBA 2014
Link:Talisman page

This is the officially licensed multiplayer online version of the classic fantasy adventure boardgame. 1-4 players pick from one of 14 characters and start questing for the Crown of Command. It’s a faithful recreation of the physical set, complete with digital dice rolls and a virtual version of the original board. It’s currently lounging on Steam Early Access while bugs are being fixed.

Storyteller


Developer: Daniel Benmergui
Publisher: Self published
Release date: TBA 2014
Link:Storyteller

Storyteller is a puzzle game set in a series of comic strips. You place characters together in each panel to craft stories, and each level will require a certain set of story twists. Place a couple of compatible characters in a panel, and they might fall in love. If the story requires heartbreak, then you can place the unfaithful partner with another compatible character in panel two and, voila, they start cheating and the heartbreak requirement is achieved. Storyteller won the Nuovo award at the IGF in 2012, but its sole creator has been working on it ever since, increasing the span and depth of the available stories.

Road Not Taken


Developer: Spry Fox
Publisher: In-house
Release date: TBA 2014
Link:Road Not Taken site

A roguelike puzzle game about “life and loss”, Road Not Taken drops you into a forest that’s recovering from a terrible winter freeze. Lost children are scattered throughout the place and are in dire need of rescue. You can pick up objects, creatures and children, but carrying them around costs valuable stamina. Run out, and you collapse in the snow and die. The permadeath and puzzle elements are wrapped up in a charming art style that softens the brutality of the scenario, a little, at least.

Hack ‘N’ Slash


Developer: Double Fine
Publisher: In house
Release date: First half of 2014
Link:Hack ‘N’ Slash site

A product of Double Fine’s internal “Amnesia Fortnite” game jam, Hack ‘N’ Slash was quickly picked out for further development. You play as an elf with hacking skills, who can manipulate the code of the dungeon she’s trapped in and “cheat” her way through an otherwise standard Zelda-esque fantasy adventure. This is Double Fine, so expect some charming art and lots of jokes gently poking fun at RPG tropes.

Clandestine


Developer: Logic Artists
Publisher: In-house
Release date: TBA 2014
Link:Clandestine teaser site

There simply aren’t enough games about spies around, are there? Clandestine is an intriguing prospect, though, an espionage thriller that you play in “asymmetrical co-op”. One of you is a secret agent, doing secret agent things like hiding behind pillars and knocking out guards. The other is a hacker sat safely out of the action, responsible for getting into security systems and opening doors remotely. A novel idea that we’re quite excited to try in practice when Clandestine is released later in 2014.

Gorogoa


Developer: Jason Roberts
Publisher: In-house
Release date: TBA 2014
Link:Gorogoa site.

This puzzle game requires you to move elements between the panes of beautifully illustrated boards to alter the reality they depict. It plays like a clever interactive comic book with an exquisite art style. The game’s creator, Jason Roberts, hopes that players will absorb Gorogoa’s story by osmosis as they explore each pane and uncover the plot behind each picture. The concept is understood through play, which is why Roberts has added a playable demo to the Gorogoa site. Enjoy.

For more on Gorogoa, check out Pip’s hands-on account.

FortressCraft Evolved!


Developer: Projector Games
Publisher: Digital Tribe
Release: TBA 2014
Link:Forge Quest site

A big hit on Xbox Live Arcade in 2011, FortressCraft Evolved! is being rebuilt in Unity for a PC release. It’s a block-based construction game a bit like that other one with the Creepers, but this one cuts out the survival game and focusses entirely on huge collaborative builds. More advanced tools like pre-made block and cylinder shapes make it quicker to throw up huge structures and there will be built-in sharing features to encourage showing off.

Contraption Maker


Developer: Spotkin
Publisher: In-house
Release: TBA 2014
Link:Steam early access

Contraption Maker is a spiritual successor to classic Heath Robinson (Rube Goldberg if you’re American) physics puzzler The Incredible Machine. It’s being created by the same team as the original, but they’re looking to take advantage of all the technological advances made since they started out in the 1990s. Contraptions are now bigger, with more complex physics interactions, a simpler editor and a lot of online sharing options. An alpha version is currently available on Steam early access.

Audiosurf 2


Developer: Dylan Fitterer
Publisher: Dylan Fitterer
Release date: Early 2014
Link:Audiosurf 2 site

Already available through Steam’s Early Access scheme, this sequel to the 2008 rhythm puzzler brings with it several new features. There’s the ability to play in first-person, for one. Then there’s Audiosprint, where players duck and jump hurdles to music. There’s also a wakeboarding mode that asks you to perform stunts on the end of a tether. Like the first, Audiosurf 2 is only as good as your music library, so you may want to populate it with banging tunes before diving in.

Mousecraft


Developer: Krunching Koalas
Publisher: In-house
Release Date: TBA 2014
Link:Vox site

Tetris meets Lemmings in this charming puzzle game. You place those famous blocky shapes to create paths through dangerous arenas for hordes of suicidally stupid mice. Why? Well there’s this mad scientist cat, you see, with a machine that’s powered by mice, so he has to get them into the machine to complete his experiments, the crazy sadist. You can step into that sadist’s labcoat yourself to create new levels that will eventually be shareable via the Steam Workshop.

Particulars


Developer: See Through Studios
Publisher: Surprise Attack
Release Date: TBA 2014
Link:Particulars site

You play as a quark in a subatomic world of colliding particles in this tactile puzzle game. You’ll have to negotiate the push and pull of other particles as you complete each experiment and gradually uncover the story of physicist, Alison. It’s available on Steam Early Access, and there’s a playable demo too.

Revenge of the Sunfish 2


Developer: Jacob Waldemar Buczynski
Publisher: Self-published
Release Date: TBA 2014
Link:Revenge of the Sunfish website

To play Revenge of the Sunfish 2 is to glimpse madness. Players are assaulted by a constant stream of bizarre Wario-ware style minigames, often grotesque, surreal and violent in appearance. It is strange, unsettling and hilarious, and it is like no other game found in this reality.

The Talos Principle


Developer: Croteam
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Release Date: Autumn
Link:Croteam site

If a philosophical, first-person puzzler seems like a bit of a departure from Croteam's unashamedly dumb Serious Sam series, that's because, well, it is. Writers Tom Jubert (Penumbra) and Jonas Kyratzes (The Sea Will Claim Everything) are on-board to remind Croteam not to put any shotguns in. The Talos Principle takes place in a set of beautiful ruins, seemingly in Ancient Greece, with various technologically advanced barriers like laser beams, robots and security cameras testing you at every move. It's non-linear too, meaning you'll be able to attempt its many puzzle rooms in an order largely of your own choosing. Intriguing stuff.