There's something quite enticing about dark fairytales and an ink-y aesthetic, so tiny tactical puzzle Howl had already caught my eye earlier this year. It's surprise launched this week, to my delight, and the demo has its hooks in me with its take on turn-based strategy that requires me to think several moves ahead.
In Howl I don't trade turns with my enemies in the way of most tactical games where I move several spaces and perform an action and then they take their turn next. Instead, I plan a sequence of actions for my turn: move left two spaces, shoot an arrow, move upwards one space, for example. Across its 10 stages (of the 60 in the full game) the cursed wolves I'm pitted against take their turns at the same time. For each movement or action I take, they'll react.
So each of my turns forces me to adopt a chess-like prescience. I move up one space into the aggro range of one wolf then fire an arrow not where the wolf is now, but where I know he'll be by that point as it moves to engage me, and then plan two more movements past where a dead wolf should be if I've plotted correctly. It's as much puzzle as it is strategy, once I learned the ways each type of wolf prioritizes its movements and actions.
There's a "confidence" resource used up per turn, encouraging me to plan multi-sequence in this way instead of just locking in a single move per turn. The fewer turns it takes to complete a stage, the better rating I get and confidence I earn towards upgrading my abilities.
It's a clever trap for perfectionist dweebs like me. So I've already been baited into replaying several of the demo levels attempting to defeat wolves, save villagers from being turned, and escape in the fewest turns possible. Later on in Howl, upgraded abilities and scarier wolf species will complicate matters, so I'm sure I'll be stuck gleefully repeating the later levels too.
Howl surprise launched on Steam and the Nintendo Switch yesterday, and both platforms have a demo to download if you please. It's worth taking a shot at if you've also got the optimal route sickness like me.