Tag Archives: Puzzle

Mini Metro

mini-metro-gameplay-screenshot-1Explaining how a puzzle game works can sometimes be very esoteric. Someone could be sitting there for an hour listening, and still be a bit fuzzy on what’s going on. As such, it can often make things a lot more understandable simply by wrapping such a game in a real world setting. Mini Metro does this quite well. If one were to say it was a game where players attached lines to shapes so that tiny shapes could travel those lines and get to similar shapes, that would be hard for a lot of people to wrap their heads around. If one simply says its a game where one creates a subway system, suddenly everything makes a ton of sense.

This is a game with a very minimalist presentation. Stages look like subway maps with simple black or white backgrounds and blue representing water. Each station appears on the map as a shape with three stations present at the beginning of each stage. This is where players start, dragging their mouse or finger from station to station in order to set a train line. Players start with three lines and three trains. From there it’s up to them how their subway system will be laid out.

Don’t waste too much time, though, because passengers are going to start showing up wanting to go places. These are depicted by smaller shapes corresponding to that of the stations. This way players have an idea where passengers are going and can plan out their routes accordingly.

mini-metro-gameplay-screenshot-2Things are simple enough with only three stations, but over time more and more stations will pop up. From there, one must be clever about how their lines are set up. Sometimes a series of loops might be best. On other occasions, straight lines work better. Often, a combination of the two will be in order. At first this isn’t too difficult. However, as time progresses there will be a lot more stations on the map. When this happens, it will become harder and harder to keep up with all of the stations and passengers. This is intentional, though. The game is designed to eventually overwhelm. The player must simply persevere for as long as possible, getting as many passengers to their destination as possible before a station becomes overcrowded with people waiting. When that happens it’s game over.

To give players a little bit of help, they receive an extra train each in-game week. They’ll also be given a choice of a few other bonuses to improve their subway system. These include extra carriages, additional lines, and larger stations among other things. These will help a lot in accommodating all of the people trying to use the subway. It’s always a relief to use these in helping take some of the strain off of a particularly busy line, but one knows it’s only a matter of time before another areas becomes crowded.

mini-metro-gameplay-screenshot-3Mini Metro has quite a few stages to it, each in a popular metropolitan area. These include London, Paris, Osaka, Shanghai, Mumbai, and the like. Each provides their own geographical challenges, especially if they have a lot of water around them. Many will need to be unlocked before visiting, though. This is usually done by managing to score at least 500 on a map or maps preceding it. There is also a daily challenge mode which does exactly what is says on the box. It’s nice when one wants a change of pace from the standard game.

This is a game that can be played in short spurts or marathon sessions. Hop into a map and have at it setting up a subway system. It’s very satisfying to set up an efficient system for getting people around, especially later in the game when one has to deal with huge throngs of passengers. It’s a relaxing, simple enough concept that makes time fly by. This actually makes it a pretty good way to pass the time while commuting on a busy subway, all while making one’s own virtual subway system, which is strangely meta in its own way.

Mini Metro is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux via Steam, GOG, and Itch.io. It’s also available for iOS and Android, as well as the Nintendo Switch.

Papers, Please

papers-please-gameplay-screenshot-1Every now and then a game comes flying out of left field that makes people reconsider what video games are. One such example of this is Papers, Please. Here, players take on the role of a border inspector in the fictional totalitarian state of Arstotzka during the Cold War. With that, players are responsible for monitoring anyone trying to come into the country. They will do this by looking at people’s passports, visas, fingerprints, and such and compare them to guidelines set out by the Ministry of Admission. As one can see, this is very different from the vast majority of games out there. It’s also surprisingly engaging as players find themselves getting better and better at doing their job.

Everyday players will head to their border post with a new set of guidelines from the Ministry of Admissions. Things will start off simple enough, but over time there may be more things to check for, and the job will get a lot more nuanced. People visiting from certain countries may not be admitted. On some days, special visas may be required. Does the person standing at the desk match the sex of the person on the passport? Is the issuing city on the passport correct? Is the date on their visa correct? There are all sorts of things to watch out for while when inspecting these people.

Players can’t afford to dilly dally while doing this, either. They get paid by how many people they let into the country correctly. As such, it’s important to process people at a brisk pace if one wants to take care of their family. Going too slow will result in an already meager pay cheque becoming all that much smaller. However, one also needs to make sure that going fast doesn’t lead to mistakes. The Ministry of Admission doesn’t tolerate this and will dock pay when it finds out. They may even arrest you in some cases.

papers-please-gameplay-screenshot-2When money becomes tight, the other aspect of Papers, Please‘s gameplay comes starkly into focus: players have a family to take care of. All of that money being earned as a border inspector is paying for things like rent, food, utilities, and medicine. If there isn’t enough money to go around, players need to decide what their family will have to go without. This becomes even more complicated when someone is sick and medicine is needed to keep them alive. Tough choices will have to be made, but don’t dwell on them too long. You still need to get up in the morning and go to work again.

The whole thing can feel a bit grim, but a satisfaction begins to stir inside once one gets the hang of things. Developing an efficient method of going over potential entrants’ paperwork, and getting enough people processed each day to earn enough to live becomes strangely enjoyable. It feels all the more unusual because it is being juxtaposed against the constant reminder that the game takes place in a harsh totalitarian regime. So, players get into this state where they’re having a blast basically doing paperwork while being bombarded with reminders as to how terrible the game’s world is.

papers-please-gameplay-screenshot-3While all of this is going on, the game’s visuals underscore the Cold War feel of Papers, Please. It’s a very simple, pixelated look. However, the design of characters, environments, and sparse use of color echoes the Brutalist architecture that was so common during the era. This is further accentuated by how quiet the game is. There is the occasional music. It’s very reminiscent of themes one would expect to hear coming out of the Soviet bloc 40 years ago. Otherwise, it’s just the sound of the player shuffling through papers, stamping passports, and ordering the next person into the booth. Everything feels very harsh and cold.

Still, it is the satisfaction of getting good at being a border inspector that carries people through Paper’s Please. It’s the sort of game a lot of people probably never would have expected to be fun. Yet, here we are. Grasping a system, then figuring out how to work as efficiently as possible within it can be very enjoyable. Even if the country the game takes place in is incredibly harsh, it’s almost as if processing people’s papers extremely well becomes a little oasis of happiness in that otherwise troubled place.

Papers, Please is currently available for Windows, Mac, and Linux via Steam and GOG as well as for the PlayStation Vita.

Glass Masquerade

glass-masquerade-gameplay-screenshot-1Jigsaw puzzles are fun, but they take up a lot of space. They require a decent-sized table to do them on. If you’re not going to glue them to something and put them on the wall as a decoration, they’ll need to be stored in a closet until the next time they’re completed. In this day and age where living spaces are getting more compact and urban for a lot of people, these puzzles aren’t all that practical. Thankfully there’s games like Glass Masquerade. It’s a very casual game where players make stained glass clock jigsaw puzzles. The game is beautiful, relaxing, and a great way to close out a busy day.

Really, this is just a very simple game. It has a globe trotting theme where players visit various countries and complete puzzles with an image related to that nation. Some of these may be a bit tricky if one is not familiar with a given region. However, the puzzles are still plenty doable. Just try and match the shapes without worrying too much about the overall image. If you can figure out what the picture is supposed to be, so much the better.

glass-masquerade-gameplay-screenshot-2Visually, the game is very pretty. Then again, the developers did choose to make a stained glass-themed game, so it would be hard for the game not to look good. It’s a style that has turned heads for centuries after all. All of the puzzles are very nice to look at, with a softness to their colors that is very appealing. Meanwhile, the game plays very soft music that further accentuates the laid back feel.

At its heart, this is what makes Glass Masquerade worth spending some time with. It’s just so relaxing. The game’s visuals, music, and simple act of putting together puzzles all work together in trying to help players’ worries and stress drift away for a bit. Moreover, it’s amazing how much it can engross someone. Don’t be surprised if what was intended as one quick puzzle before bed turns into an hour or so of play time. It’s very easy to get into a mindset of, “Well, one more puzzle can’t hurt!”

glass-masquerade-gameplay-screenshot-3The actual process of doing a puzzle brings one to a screen with a clock in the middle where the pieces of glass will be placed. Each puzzle will have around six pieces with a small circle on it corresponding to circles on the clock. This gives players a few freebies to get the puzzle started. From there, you’re on your own. Pieces are distributed on two rings around the edge of the screen. Each can be rotated separately while picking out pieces to try and place. While they are on the rings, players will only see a blackened out shape of the piece. Only when one is selected is the actual color and art visible. Early on, these pieces are quite large, but on more difficult levels, there are far more tiny and / or similar shaped ones, complicating things.

While the clock is always front and center while playing, it’s mostly there so players can challenge themselves if they so choose. It lets them try and beat their times if they want to complete puzzles as fast as possible.

Glass Masquerade is a nice, relaxing casual experience for those times when someone doesn’t want a bombastic game session. It draws players in with its soft colors and art direction and tucks them in with some very soothing music. All the while, it still provides a nice challenge putting the puzzles together.

Glass Masquerade is available for Windows and Mac via Steam.

Osmos

osmos-gameplay-image-1There are probably a lot of puns that could be used which describe Osmos as an absorbing game. So, let’s try hard to avoid that. This is a game where players control a circular blob, maneuvering it around a field so that it can run into other smaller blobs and get bigger, while avoiding larger blobs. It’s a simple concept that makes for a very relaxing experience.

Players control a sphere of bio mass with the goal of absorbing other similar blobs, sometimes with specific types that need to be hunted or avoided. As the blob travels around, it will absorb any smaller blobs that it collides with. However, if it runs into a blob bigger than itself that larger blob will begin absorbing mass from the player’s bio matter. If the whole thing is absorbed, it’s game over. Complicating things further is that the blob propels itself by ejecting a bit of its own mass, causing it to shrink, and leaving a stream of tiny blobs behind it. So in order to move, accelerate, slow down, or change directions, players need to risk their blob getting smaller.

This creates a bit of a balancing act. Players need to decide when to be aggressive and when to be patient. There will be times where the game basically forces players on the offensive. This is especially the case on stages where there are a lot of other blobs slightly bigger than the player’s. This necessitates finding suitably sized blobs to collide with all while not bumping into the bigger ones, as well as to do at a fast enough rate to start going after the large blobs before they absorb too many blobs themselves and become insurmountable huge as a result.

Often times, though, it’s better to just wait it out. Simply allow your blob to slowly float across the screen, casually absorbing smaller ones. If one is smart, they’ll pick out an advantageous trajectory early on for their blob. Then all they need to do is let it keep going, getting bigger with ease.

osmos-gameplay-screenshot-2Osmos is actually very relaxing game as a result of all this. Blobs take a while to get moving or change directions. Their slow, fluidic nature is downright soothing to behold as a result of this. Often times, one doesn’t feel rushed to do anything, and can just enjoy watching their blob move around, absorbing others and getting bigger.

This is further amplified by the game’s aesthetics. The various blobs have a soft, warm glow to them, their illumination becoming brighter as they grow. All the while they appear to be floating along the surface of some sort of otherworldly intergalactic petri dish. While this is happening, tranquil ambient music is playing. As a result, much of the game culminates in providing players with a very relaxing experience.

Osmos is the sort of game that is great to spend some time with before bed when trying to unwind, or if one needs a brief oasis of calm in an otherwise hectic day. Just let it pull you in and enjoy the experience.

Osmos can available for Windows, Mac, and Linux (via Steam), as well as iOS and Android.