Following the decree that says that all first-person puzzlers must feature a tricksy metaphorical narrative and be scored by sad piano music, Mind: Path to Thalamus is first-person puzzle game promising both of those things. Heavy Rain-style dad-shouting aside, Mind also contains a bunch of stunning environments, impressive stormy weather effects, and lots of other visual/physics elements that should make your computer sing. It's out on Steam now, and I have two sad-piano trailers waiting after the break.
I was a bit concerned about Schrodinger's famous cat for a while there - being both alive and dead can't be particularly healthy - but he's turned up in the land of the living in Italic Pig's colourful puzzle-platformer Schrodinger's Cat and the Raiders of the Lost Quark. The reveal trailer, below, doesn't give much away, but we can expect "a wacky action-adventure-platformer-puzzler that blazes irreverently through the wild wonders of the Standard Model, combining lateral-thinking multi-solution logic puzzles with Fists-of-Feynman kickass combat action". All of which sounds pretty good to me. Theses puzzles will involve words like 'quantum' and 'quarks' and oh dear my brain has melted already.
Team 17's press release describes this as "a twisted blend of Lemmings’ inspired gameplay and Tim Burton style macabre", which suggests a) we'll be guiding queues of suicidal sheep around giant mincing death-traps and b) Helena Bonham Carter will be in it somewhere. It's the first non-Worms game from Team 17 since their top-down shootery Alien Breed games, which had the misfortune of being released alongside Valve's free and superior Alien Swarm. Can nostalgia and a touch of dark humour bring them more luck?
For those, like me, who only need the merest reason to play Portal again, keep an eye on Portal: Alive and Kicking. It's "a full remake and re-imagining" of Portal 1 in Portal 2's fancier iteration of Source. The free mod that's been passed through the latest batch of Greenlight approvals, and has the confident endorsement of Jeep Barnett, Valve designer and co-creator of the proto-Portal student project, Narbacular Drop. "Every tile on every panel has been revisited with loving detail," he writes. "Not only have the visuals been updated to match Portal 2, but the weaker puzzle cues have been improved."
It might surprise you to learn that the Portal 2 Steam Workshop is the busiest of all Workshop's mod repositories. There are over 302,000 items on there, so I had to narrow the search down somewhat. I chose innovation as my main filter. I've been on the lookout for game-changing mods: the new challenges that haven't been seen before, creative level-design that Valve forgot, and additions to the base game that creates new ways of solving puzzles. Here are the best I found.
Scale, a new first-person puzzle game created by developer Steve Swink, features a young girl armed with a potent power: the ability to scale anything up or down almost infinitely. Currently raising funds on Kickstarter, Scale looks a lot like a Portal-alike, with its female protagonist and sci-fi Game Mechanic gun, but it’s a comparison that Swink categorically rejects.
Long after we’ve killed ourselves off with an antibiotic-resistant strain of hyper-flu, our robot friends will keep vacuuming empty floors and pouring drinks that no one will enjoy. In the slow-paced puzzle game Reset, you play as two service robots navigating your way through the clogged byways of an abandoned metropolis, trying to put the darn thing back together.
The premise of Brothers – communicated entirely through theatrical gestures and conversations in an untranslated fantasy language – is as affecting and uncomplicated as the journey that follows. A dying father sends his two sons to the other end of the world to search for a cure for his mystery illness. You must guide the brothers through a beautiful but monstrous fantasy world full of dark creatures and contrived puzzles.
This hardened gamer still has literal nightmares about that VVVVVV level where you hop along the undersides of wildly ping-ponging platforms while trying not to fall into a pit of spikes—you know, that level. And let's not even talk about how quickly my fat fingers fail at the psychedelic Super Hexagon. Terry Cavanagh's notorious for laying out challenges of immense difficulty—what will happen when he sinks his hands into the puzzle genre? We'll be finding out soon.
This new RPG-puzzle-platformer stars what appear to be the Teletubbies' pixelly cousins, and man, they're a hell of a lot less frightening when condensed to a 16-bit aesthetic. In fact, the stars of A.N.N.E. are positively huggable, and they're accepting cuddles now for their Kickstarter campaign. Also, money. Checking out the charming trailer.
A tweak of the mouse is all it takes to resolve Simian.interface's vivid collages into sweet, straight-lined order. Each screen presents you with a scattering of geometric shards that shift according to cursor movement along the x and y axis. You start by resolving cross-eyed double images into a single bright whole, but as the parameters tied to motion on the x and y axis change your mouse twitches can shift the scene's colour palette or balloon shapes to to different sizes.
The correct arrangement changes from level to level. Sometimes you'll be shuffling Tetris silhouettes into into boxy outlines, sometimes you'll have to overlap red, green and blue lenses to form a white shape that completes the symmetry of the scene. Figuring out what the game wants is half of the fun. You get a moment of exploration, a moment of experimentation, and then the sudden satisfaction of wrestling order from chaos. It's a straightforward idea, elegantly rendered. Also, it has a subliminal cat! Did I mention that before? No. Subliminal cat.
It's James Bond season! That means it's time for a tie-in spy adventure - though before you rush to the shops to buy 007 Legends, you might want to give SpyLeaks a go. (Also, don't rush to the shops to buy 007 Legends.) Contrary to the name, SpyLeaks has nothing to do with either Julian Assange or a spy desperate for the toilet; it's a stealthy puzzle game with a wonderfully Layton-esque art style and one of those old-fashioned agents that sticks out like a sore thumb.
Proudly billing it as the “vampiriest game you've ever played” – they're obviously unaware that I've played Vampire: The Masquerade – developers CBE Software are seeking to reclaim the lords of darkness from the pale, clammy palms of glittery teenagers and brooding Angel wannabes worldwide. It would be a valiant effort even if Vampires! wasn't up to much, but for once that exclamation mark may be well-placed.
Puzzly invent-'em-up Scribblenauts started life on the Nintendo DS, and has delighted enough fans to warrant a bigger, better HD follow-up, due out on Wii U and PC later this year.
Scribblenauts was a great game about overcomplicating basic tasks. Cheery protagonist, Maxwell, can summon a huge range of items on a whim and combine them to form creative and often useless solutions. Need to grab a star on a tall ledge? Summon a giraffe on stilts and attach rockets. Will that help? Probably not, but who cares, you've just created a flailing, flying giraffe monster, and that in itself is its own reward.
AVSEQ stands for Audio Visual Sequencer. It's a puzzle game in which you must draw links between descending orbs to vapourise them and unlock new notes on an audio sequencer cycling through the background. The idea is to build up massive chains to gain mega-points and unlock new notes for the gradually building musical score. You have to collect every note before the time runs out to beat the stage. It's join-the-dots against the clock with the added satisfaction of a swelling musical accompaniment.
There's a catch, though. If those orbs touch the bottom of the screen, they evaporate and break any chain they're hooked into. Each level becomes a frantic but absorbing game of risk vs reward as you try to sketch more and more ambitious webs over an increasingly kaleidoscopic backdrop. A two-mission demo is available now on the AVSEQ page of the Big-Robot site. If its musical tendrils manage to snare your attention, you can grab the full game here for a mere $5.
SpaceChem is a game about circuitry pretending to be a game about chemistry. You have to create a machine that will build molecules, building routes that will bring the required atoms into the correct arrangement and deposit the finished product into the exit zone. It's a smart, challenging puzzler that earned a lofty score of 89 in our SpaceChem review. If you're intrigued, SpaceChem has just gone cheaper to celebrate the addition of a new sandbox mode.
A couple of days ago Bejeweled 3 launched, at a quiet tea party in a London living room. Now there's a 60 minute trial available, so you can check out the glitzy match 3 puzzler without having to throw any money at it. The hour long trial is about 59 minutes more than is needed to get completely hooked on the game. It's available now on the PopCap site. The game's available to buy now from PopCap, Direct2Drive and Steam for $20 / £15.
World of Warcraft players will be celebrating the release of Cataclysm tonight with an international series of glamorous midnight launch parties. PopCap have taken a cosier approach, hosting the Bejeweled 3 launch party in somebody's front room, with a fine selection of tea and biscuits.
Stop the presses; a Valve game has slipped. The game was due to come out in February 2011, but the game has now been delayed by a couple of months. The new release dates are April 20th in the US and April 22nd in Europe. The comical press release announcing the delay can be found below.
EA's Create is a colourful puzzle game for mad scientists. The player has to invent and build a nutty contraption to solve the the challenges presented in each level. The wildest solutions involving the most explosions will earn more points. The editing tools let you hammer together girders, wheels and engines to create whirling mechanical automatons designed to do anything from transporting a load of balls across a landscape, to propelling a toy car through a flaming hoop. The game's out tomorrow, but there's a demo available to play now. Read on for details, and a video.