It’s a bird! It’s a snake! It’s Snakebird, a challenging new puzzle game from Noumenon Games, the creators of Nimbus! (Would you believe that I get paid absolutely nothing to write amazing lead-ins like that?) Your goal in each level is to get one or more colorful snakebirds to the exit using their unique anatomy, which lets them twist, turn, and balance on a single segment of their long bodies. Collecting fruit will extend the birds by one segment, making it possible to reach new areas but also easier to get trapped. And you’ll get stuck or killed plenty of times in this unforgiving game – even levels that look relatively contained can be confounding, with plenty of pitfalls, spikes, and small spaces to contend with. Being pretty bad at puzzlers, I can barely make it out of the first area myself, but at least that means there’s plenty of time for me to appreciate the lovely landscapes and wonderful little details.
Thankfully, Noumenon has included an undo feature to make the trial-and-error style nature of Snakebird less frustrating. Personally, I would have loved to see a mouse shortcut for undo given how often you use it, but it’s a small gripe for what seems to be an attractive and unique experience for fans of hard-won puzzle games.
Andrew “Zarf” Plotkin is a well-known and influential figure in interactive fiction – on top of penning classic IF games like Spider & Web and Shade, he also developed the Blorb package format, Glx API, and Glulx virtual machine for making and playing them. His latest game, Hadean Lands, is four years in the making (following a successful Kickstarter) and is apparently one of the largest and most complex IF games to date, spanning 73,000 words of printable text and 170,000 words of logic (according to Andrew’s twitter). In the game, you play a young alchemist who has awoken to find him or herself trapped in a crashed starship, armed only with your knowledge of alchemical rituals and whatever ingredients you can scrounge up on the ship.
I’ll spoil some of the unique features of the game after the jump:
It’s easy to be wary of high-concept indie titles based around some quirky concept like time travel, gravity, teleportation, guns that shoot science instead of bullets, etc. When they work, of course, they work marvelously, like Portal, Braid, Antichamber, The Swapper, Fez, or any of the best puzzle platformers. But there’s no denying that there is a glut of gimmicky imitators in the genre, and more often than not the concepts, no matter how interesting they sound on paper, are stretched thin across never-ending tutorial levels. So despite Capybara’s strong record it was with some trepidation that I embarked on Super Time Force Ultra, the updated PC version of their time-traveling run n’ gun Super Time Force (which won Microsoft’s first-ever IGF “XBLA Award” for a publishing deal on Xbox 360 and Xbox One).
Thankfully, STFU shrugs off the stereotypes quickly and easily, and while the game is certainly unique and innovative, it has the frantic pacing of a good run n’ gun that is not found in most puzzle platformers. On top of that, there is an element of light tactics that strangely enough reminds me of Sega’s 1988 cult classic arcade game Gain Ground. It’s a mad idea that I would not have been brave enough to work on, but I’m happy that Capy was.
Fans of La-Mulana rejoice: Indie dev team NIGORO has a sequel in the works and is currently running a Kickstarter campaign to fund its development!
The direct sequel to the Steam-and-WiiWare remake of the first game, La-Mulana 2 follows the adventures of Lumisa Kosugi, daughter of the first game’s curry-loving protagonist, Lemeza Kosugi. This time around, players will guide Lumisa through the ruins of Eg-Lana, which will have Norse mythology serve as a motif. Promising more of the deviously-designed traps, puzzles, and boss fights that made the first game so great, NIGORO also wants the sequel to be “a fresh new experience for people who enjoyed the first game, while also giving newcomers a chance to enjoy the series without being forced to play La-Mulana first.”
The game’s Kickstarter campaign has just 11 days left and has raised nearly 90% of its funding goal in pledges, so if you would like to see a sequel to La-Mulana, head on over to the campaign page and help them leap past their goal.
Desktop Dungeons was finally released on Steam a month ago, after a long beta period. The roguelike-inspired puzzler was first introduced as a freeware game in 2010, when its popularity led South African studio QCF Design to turn it into a larger scope commercial title with numerous improvements, including a fully-realized town and, of course, more dungeons, monsters, character classes, and all that good stuff. The visuals and audio are completely new, as well.
If you never played the original, don’t be thrown off by its name and inspirations: aside from the fantasy theme and randomized levels, Desktop Dungeons bears very little resemblance to a traditional roguelike. The tightly-packed, single-screen levels, static monsters (who only attack when attacked), and transparent rules make the game feel more like a puzzle game than a dungeon crawl. But that’s not a bad thing – the freeware version was so fun that I made my own tileset for it, and this one is better in all respects.
PuzzleScript is a simple, open-source game engine by Stephen “increpare” Lavelle that allows you to easily create turn-based puzzle games using a unique scripting language. The engine is HTML5-based and games can be built and shared (along with their source code) straight from your browser. The graphics, which are composed of 5×5 tiles, are also designed within the editor, in the same manner that levels are defined.
There are already quite a few clever games in the burgeoning PuzzleScript gallery, showing off the flexibility of the engine, as well as its ease-of-use – although some of the developers are seasoned indies (like Terry Cavanagh, Joseph White, and Stephen himself), quite a few of them are from first-time creators (like Jonah Ostroff, who made Heroes of Sokoban, shown above).
After celebrating an 11th anniversary, Eyezmaze has released a new game: Grow Maze. If you persevere ardently, you’ll be able to discover all its charms and whims.
I have to admit, I’m not the biggest fan of puzzle platformers (or even puzzle games, to be honest), but when they’re good, they’re good. With The Swapper, Finnish studio Facepalm Games has not only uncovered a fun new mechanic but also crafted an extremely intriguing science fiction tale around it. Though the central themes may not be completely original to sci-fi, the way they come into focus as you solve puzzles and explore the beautiful claymation world is deftly executed. This is a great example of how to tell a story with a challenging game.
IGF 2013 Excellence in Design nominee Starseed Pilgrim was released on Steam today (Steam releases were offered to all the nominees this year). This unassuming and enigmatic puzzle platformer has become a hit with a number of indie game developers, including Bennett Foddy (QWOP) and Braid creator Jonathan Blow, who called it his game of the year for 2012. Since so much of the enjoyment from Starseed comes from figuring out how the game works, it’s hard to describe even the basic goals without spoiling it. If that sounds fun to you in and of itself, you should probably give it a go.
Jelly no Puzzle is the latest difficult puzzle game from Qrostar. It shares some similarities with his earlier Hanano Puzzle but has enough changes in the gameplay to make it a new challenge. Mainly, the jelly blocks push each other instead of being switchable.
Qrostar is still making tweaks to the game before finalizing it, but I found the current version very playable. The latest improvement-in-progress should help to compensate for colorblindness through adjustments made to the color values. So, if you have something to report or a comment to share with him, you can head over to his diary to post it. That’s also were you can find a link to download alternate versions of levels 38, 39 and 40 that were replaced during development.