When Loveshack Entertainment announced (opens in new tab) the PC versions of Framed and Framed 2, noir puzzle games originally released on mobile, I speculated that the series' drag-and-drop interface would be a perfect fit for mouse controls. After playing the newly released Framed Collection for myself, I'm pleased to report that both games feel better than ever on PC, and just as importantly, they haven't aged a day. (Spoiler warning: some puzzle solutions shown below.)
The Framed games are action puzzlers about guiding spies through 2D levels laid out in comic book-style panels. By rearranging these panels, you can reorder the events they depict. The goal is to create a path for your spy to escape unseen and unscathed. For example, you might place a panel with a ladder between you and a guard, that way you can sneak by using an upper path. Or if you can't quite make a long jump, you could drag your landing panel down to a lower row for some added hang time.
Panels interact in cool, clever ways, and it's fun figuring out the rules of each level. How do these ladders connect? Where does this air vent lead? Will this guard see me if I move this? Some levels lean a little too heavily on trial and error, to the point that you're basically required to fail a few times, but it's so easy to try again that I was never annoyed. You can fast-forward with shift, pause with the space bar, and restart levels with just a press of escape, and as you'd expect dragging panels with a mouse feels buttery smooth. Working with bigger panels on a bigger screen is nice, too. Besides, failing a level means spending more time with the stellar all-jazz soundtrack, which is OK by me.
More often than not, whenever I was stumped, it was because I'd overlooked a small but critical detail in the environment—a crack in a ledge that would be my downfall or an axe I needed to bust open a window. You also have to pay close attention to the direction guards are facing, especially in the later levels. You start off just dragging panels, but you soon gain the ability to rotate panels, which not only changes the way you navigate that panel, but also the way the entire level's path is oriented. This led to a particularly memorable head-scratcher in the first game, which I spent about 10 minutes of my 80-minute playthrough tinkering with.
The difficulty really ramps up once you unlock repeat panels which, unlike normal static panels, can be put back into the level's queue after you pass through them once. Let's say your first panel is a repeat. After you pass through it, while you're in your second panel, you can pause the level and drag that first panel one around so that it becomes your third panel. However, it won't necessarily play out the same way your second time through. Items may shift, stairs may collapse, or more guards may show up, so you can't just recycle it. You have to adapt to changes on the fly, and you frequently have to pass through the same panels multiple times to reach the end. That said, levels don't repeat themselves. The Framed games are short, but they're incredibly inventive and there's no fat on them. If you want to try them for yourself, you can get the Framed Collection for $10 on Steam (opens in new tab) or Humble (opens in new tab).