Two Steam puzzle games I played recently! One shooting high, the other shooting...lower.

The Case of the Golden Idol

Don't write off this game like I initially did because it looks like ass. I mean, it absolutely does look like ass. But it's purposeful ass - a very studious ass. An ass designed to evoke, in part, the style of the political cartoons of the U.S. Revolutionary era, on which the story and the populist feelings it's designed to invoke are based. The art's purposefully off-putting, but it's never impolite enough to go into full-on grossness. That's not on its agenda. It's more interested in being funny, weird, and stylistically-evocative. The style does come into its own and grow on you, and there are even parts that are...aesthetically *pleasing,* mad as that sounds.

But the gameplay is the big hook here, and it reminds me of the old Crime & Puzzlement books I loved as a kid: you're presented with a tableau, typically of a crime or suspicious death, and have to ferret out what's going on and what recently happened using context clues. You get an inventory of what each character has on their person to aid in your investigation, and you're expected to fill out several Mad Libs-style accounts to demonstrate your comprehension of events. (You uncover keywords through investigating, so you can't brute-force solutions. There's an option to highlight click points; I'd say it gives a *bit* too much of the game away, as there are a few clues that require observation and imagination to uncover, but there are cases where you can be stuck pixel-hunting through pictures and messages for that one elusive word, so your call.)

What can I say? It works. The mysteries constructed are fair, smart, and satisfying to solve. Though standalone, each puzzle represents another incident in the progression of a larger narrative that entertains. It's not the single snap-tight puzzle box of frequent point of comparison Return of the Obra Dinn - it's trying to do something different, more overtly narrative-focused and messy in a human way. It's the prime choice of gaming in the moment for thoughtful folks looking for a mystery to unravel.

Also: The ending is one of the absolute best ways an evil plot has unraveled in years.

Doors: Paradox

Doors: Paradox is a dumbed-down The Room for the hidden-object audience. It's the type of game that will put giant yin-yang symbols over its Chinese-themed levels and give you a "katana." It's useless getting mad at it. It's like a dumb dog. It's well-intentioned and vapidly entertaining, but you're going to have to put up with it rolling in the mud from time to time.

Doors isn't going for the tension or horror atmosphere of The Room, obviously. It instead adapts that series' puzzle-box gameplay to a succession of picturesque portals, where you're exploring and expanding a seemingly limited game space by discovering hidden mechanisms. And at first, it has many of the same joys as The Room - ooh! that decorative band rotates! - but the designers do not have Fireproof Games' ingenuity at their disposal, and you'll grow wise to its comparatively-shallow bag of tricks soon enough. Then about halfway through, it just runs out of steam for actual puzzles, and you're simply matching shapes between your inventory and the environment like a busy box.

Again: This isn't bad; it's entertaining for a good stretch and at least time-killing for the rest of it. It's just not aiming that high. Two positives. One: it does have genuinely beautiful tableaux in a twee, Thomas Kinkade manner.

(All right: to my knowledge, Kinkade never painted any imprisoned robots.)

And two: it serves up its levels in bite-size, 5-to-10-minute pieces - perfect if you need a break from work or whatnot. It's not a bad purchase, but keep expectations in check, and be ready to bail a considerable amount of time before it declares itself over.

Add comment

Security code