I’m not really much for puzzle games, mostly because I’m too stupid for them … well okay, that is the way I summarize the situation, but in most cases I’m either too lazy to think or I get stuck and get irritated really fast and when I’m annoyed I’m very prone to just opening a walkthrough and cheating. No regrets. Well, despite that, I still enjoy a good puzzle here and there, especially when I’m “in the mood” to actually solve it by myself, despite the lack of patience, be it in this specific genre of games or in another one, subtly sneaking inside, trying to lure you in.
But enough about that, today I shall talk about a studio and some of their games, which I’ve actually been looking for a good excuse to replay. And what better time, than the coming out of their new game CHUCHEL, which I will be enjoying very soon.
I’m talking about none other than the award winning Amanita Design – a Czech indie game developer studio, won people over with some of their titles, which I shall go into a bit further down the article. I discovered this studio quite some time ago, I believe it was around 2012, when Botanicula came out, because that was the game that drew me in, to their other stuff. What exactly sets them apart from other puzzle games?
The answer – the adorable characters and art. Truly their games all look so unique and there is a certain charm, in those minimalistic, dialogue-less games, which I adore so much. In fact, ever since Journey hit the spot with zero dialogue and only sound communication, I found myself liking it even more. A game doesn’t need to be that complex to draw its player in and kudos to all studios, who have created minimalistic games, with an amazing setting and story.
But let’s get into more details about the games I’ve actually played. I’m truthfully really glad I got to replay them. Enough time had passed for me to forget the puzzle solutions and this is basically the only way you can purposefully replay a puzzle type game.
This is THE ONE! My door towards these amazing cute puzzle games. I remember I randomly discovered this back in the day, through its amazing soundtrack in YouTube and I immediately decided to give it a go. If I have to make a remark, I’d say this one is the easiest of all I’ve played, in terms of puzzle solutions, because it’s the only game I didn’t cheat on…
Botanicula is about a tranquil and peaceful place, where the trees grow and little creatures live on the plants. However a dark spider-like being attacks them and begins sucking the life out of everything. It’s up to us – the 5 main characters (yes you read correctly, I said 5) to get down from the top of the tree and plant the new seed, defeating the evil creatures. I can truly say, that it’s a heartwarming journey. Not a lot of things can warm my heart, so this is saying a lot…
We play as 5 different species and they go like a little group on their journey. This is one of the things I liked about this game, that we get to play as a team of creatures, even if we’re in truth provided with a solo experience. We see how the beings help each other and each one overcomes an obstacle in a different way, even some being key in certain puzzles.
Another thing I adored is the fact that Botanicula is the only game, which doesn’t actually feel like a puzzle, rather than a journey. Yeah, you do have your typical “get object A, bring it to creature B, so you can proceed to place C” type of thing, but it’s well hidden beneath this quite enticing façade. I, as a player, never really saw it as solving a puzzle, rather than adventuring.
The creatures … in reality, I hate bugs, but damn these were just too adorable. They come in many forms, shapes and some are even as ridiculous as they seem, but they make sense, they are cute and top it off, you could clearly see how each has its own diverse lifestyle and most importantly – a home. My favorite ones were definitely the chestnut beings, living in their own “village” type thing. This whole ecosystem can definitely touch you sentimentally in many ways.
Lastly, but definitely not the least important – the music. This by far is one of my higher in rank OST, that I adore listening to it all the time, especially the opening and ending themes. I strongly recommend, even if not playing the game itself, which I see no reason not to, at least to listen to the music of it. Top notch!
Going from the easiest, to the hardest, Machinarium was one of those games, which I cheated almost all the way through. I’m sorry, but it’s true. After a while, I was getting so easily stuck, that it took me absolutely no resolution to stop myself from actually opening a guide and doing my thang…
The game is about a little robot, who journeys through the town of Machinarium trying to find his lost love. And it’s a touching little story at that, but I’d say that the only thing keeping my focus on said plot, were the random thought bubbles I would get, while AFK-ing, so I could read the walkthrough. I’m a disgusting being, I know, judge me if you like.
Not only was this the hardest game for me, but also, it was the most puzzle focused and definitely did not try to mask that in any way. Also, I’d say that puzzles here require a lot of back, side and all the whatever-tracking needed to figure them out and complete them, hence why I was running around like an idiot most of the time. Can I add, that sometimes I felt confused even, while reading the guide I had open… yeah.
Again, features a unique cartoon drawn style art, which lacks any consistent color contrast. I believe that this only does it justice, since it emphasizes on the not so happy place, which Machinarium is. Accompanied by the subtle and well-tuned-down OST, truly makes an unforgettable experience when it comes to setting the mood.
Now I know, those of you, who have played the game might say something like “but the game has a built-in detailed walkthrough” and to you I say back “yeah, that mini-game to actually open the book is more hassle than its worth, especially when it took me like 3 tries to figure out I could shoot the spiders…”
THE SAMOROST SERIES
This series made me feel like I need to smoke weed in order to figure out how to proceed. Okay, that may be a bit of an overstatement, but truthfully it’s so vague and at the same time specific in places, that you truly are engulfed into an amazing experience. I have to say, this is a good thing, though.
Samorost has a unique world, a whole system in fact, of made up planets, fauna and flora on them, which make up their inhabitants. Each game is its own journey, so you don’t really have to worry about completing previous ones to understand what is going on. I didn’t really get drawn that much to the first game, but the second and most of all the third one were amazing.
The main protagonist is a white little gnome creature, and it journeys into all sorts of trouble for different purposes. In Samorost 1, we had to save our home world from an asteroid, in Samorost 2, some aliens kidnapped our dog and we had to follow and rescue it, and the third installment, which is actually the only full-length game of all, we journey to a number of planets, ultimately having to defeat an evil monk, riding his big bad mechanical dragon-like creature.
What actually made the most impression on me is the progress between each game and how much the next adds to the core, already present in the previous. The latest mechanic, which we use in Samorost 3, is the one with the trumpet. This is our means of communication with the rest of the world, where we actually lacked in previous titles. I think it was definitely a neat little idea, which made the game even better.
Again we have an amazing art style, adorable creatures and a whole world full of wonders and adventures – truly a touching experience. Unlike Samorost 1 and 2, three gave me the Botanicula vibe of going on a journey, rather than solving puzzles. As far as those go, I do say Samorost 3 features the most unique puzzles of all 3 games, at least in my opinion. Truly, the best way for me to describe it in words would be “always think beyond the ordinary”.
As some concluding words to this whole thing, I want to emphasize on the fact that puzzle games, don’t always need to feel straining for the mind. Now, despite all the cheating I claimed to do, which did happen, I feel like these games achieved something very important when it comes to solving puzzles. You have the logical aspect of the puzzle versus the calming, beautiful aesthetics and depth and in the thin line, between these two, we find ourselves completely immersed, while playing these titles. And no matter how tired my brain might have felt from trying to figure all those puzzles out (top the fact that I binged all 5 games in a row, with 0 rest in-between), I also felt a sense of warmth and enjoyment, coming from the elements “plot”, “world”, “characters” and “music”.