I’m not asking for much.
Keys to turn. Levers to pull. Boxes to open. Hidden compartments to find. Weird things to stick into other things. Some recipes you just shouldn’t mess with, and to their credit they mostly don’t.
If you’ve played its predecessor, not to mention one of the many Rooms, then you already know exactly what you’re in for: solving extremely hands-on mechanical puzzles. Yeah, for better or worse they’re not breaking much new ground; but then again, why should they?
I mean, when they hit with this formula, they really hit.
There’s this one puzzle, just to give you an example, where you work your way through an entire miniature town, each building a separate piece of one complex interconnected mechanism. There are a couple of standouts like that, and they really epitomize what makes these sorts of games so great.
Even when you’re standing still, they seem to convey a sense of tactile exploration. You can almost feel yourself running your hands over each device, hunting for the next key to open up some new hidden compartment. They’re fanciful, yet at the same time seem to carry a real weight as they unfold like the grand complications of some intricate pocketwatch.
That’s when they hit, though.
When they miss, they revert to being a plain old chore like any other game. Maybe it’s weird to say that a puzzle feels out of place in a puzzle game, but you can tell the difference between the good ones and the ones that are only there as obstacles to fill up space, and there are definitely a few too many of those.
And when they really miss, well, that’s when you find yourself stuck, scouring every available surface for the microscopic hidden switch that you didn’t see because, come on, you can’t notice every tiny little thing like that all the time. Get serious.
That’s usually when I found myself fleeing to the hint system, and it almost always turned out to be the same thing. Maybe I’m just bitter because it makes you feel pretty dumb in hindsight; but on the other hand it does represent a real failure of communication. Games establish their own feel where you learn the sort of things that are reasonable to expect. There should be a palpable flow to them, and that’s what gets broken here more often than it should, considering the amount of time they’ve had to refine this style.
So you see, it’s really their fault when I screw up!
I’ve also come to the conclusion that puzzle games like this are just too slow to support fast-paced drama. They try to spice things up with some extra action, but the tense dialogue and breathless chase scenes clash with the pensive, deliberate atmosphere that the puzzles themselves create. You could see this already starting to develop in the first game, and now they’ve really taken it too far.
I’ll give them credit for trying something a little different there, but I mostly just found myself wishing they’d cut it out so I could get back to turning cranks or whatever.
Ok, game, you’ve had your experimental phase. Now it’s time to get back to business. Stop messing with a good thing.
I mean, I appreciate all your effort, but from now on please just hand me my weird machines and step away.