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Old 08-19-2010, 01:39 PM   #1
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[PC] - Puzzle Bots Review

Title: Puzzle Bots
Platform: PC
Platform Reviewed: PC
Developer: Wadjeteye Games
Publisher: Wadjeteye Games
MSRP: $9.99
Writer: Matt 'gzsfrk' Williams

Puzzle Bots Review

If a Robo-Q and the Lost Vikings had a baby...

In a video game market space which seems to stay dominated by either the current big release or anticipation for the next big release, and during a time when AAA titles with stories crafted by a team of professional writers are chided for taking less than 20 hours to complete or not having a deep-enough progression system, I have to admit that it’s actually kind of nice when a game comes along that’s simple, cleanly designed, smartly written, and that I can finish in a couple of enjoyable sittings. It’s little wonder that I spend so much time browsing the latest releases on XBIG or the Indie Games section on Steam. They’re veritable treasure troves of affordable games that are perfect for whiling away 15 minutes to a few hours.

Indies have also been an excellent way for up-and-coming developers and smaller game studios to get their work noticed by both larger publishers and gamers alike. That’s exactly the route taken by Wadjeteye Games, a small studio founded by adventure game enthusiast and developer Dave Gilbert. Having cut their teeth in the niche market of traditional story-driven PC adventures with their first six games, they decided to try something a little different with their newest title: a fun, light-hearted, brain-teasing adventure called Puzzle Bots.

Puzzle Bots is a departure from Wadjeteye’s previous releases which were mostly dark and serious in tone. The art style has a perky, cartoonish vibe and the dialog and story focus more on humor than on taking themselves seriously. The game’s premise centers around a robot factory whose owner, Dr. Hugo, seems to have sinister intentions for the five engineers in his employ. The engineers are tasked with creating five tiny robot prototypes, each with its own unique ability. For example, one is able to pick up and use items while another has the ability to push heavy objects around. Using the abilities of the robots available at the time, the player has to navigate through a wide variety of scenes, the goal of each being to reach the exit. This might involve using Hero (the robot who can pick things up) to pick up an obstacle blocking a rolling bridge, and then have Ultrabot (the robot that moves things) push the bridge into a gap allowing the robots to proceed.

Two different perspectives are provided during the course of the game: one for the engineers and their personal interactions (basically cut-scenes during which the player has no control), and the other for the robots and their efforts to work their way from scene to scene, overcoming obstacles using the various abilities of the different robots according to the player’s direction. The game is actually very reminiscent of the classic Blizzard puzzle-platformer, The Lost Vikings. However, where Lost Vikings was controlled by either a game pad or keyboard, Puzzle Bots uses the mouse for input similar to traditional PC adventure games; a control scheme that is intuitive and works very nicely in the context of the game.

On a technical level, Puzzle Bots is nothing special. While the art is bright and colorful, it’s certainly nothing noteworthy and would probably be more at home as a DS title than on most high-resolution PC displays. The human characters are well designed, resembling something that could result of a collaboration between Tim Buckley of Ctrl+Alt+Del and Gabe of Penny Arcade, although the voice acting varies from just OK to fairly amateurish. The backgrounds, while nicely drawn, are somewhat generic. The animation is the weakest visual aspect of Puzzle Bots as it tends to be jerky and sparse, with objects in a scene frequently teleporting from one state to another with no transition at all.

Still, the game has a satisfying array of not-too-difficult environmental puzzles which are nicely paced and appropriately broken up by cut-scenes which advance the playful storyline. It’s very straightforward in what it offers: there are no difficulty settings and no multiplayer--just a single-player story mode to play through. Altogether, it took me about 3 hours to go through the entire campaign and reach a satisfying ending that reminded me of the days when games used to actually HAVE definitive endings (before endless sequels and DLC came along to ruin that for us).

At a cost of ten bucks, I think Puzzle Bots provides good value for the player who is looking for a light-hearted puzzler that they can play through over the course of a couple short evenings or one long one. It's also not too terribly difficult, which makes it an excellent title to play with the younger gamers in your life. Besides that, if you’re a fan of adventure games like me, it’s a good thing to support the developers out there who are still devoting time and resources to a genre that most major publishers have long since given up on. However, if you’re not a fan of adventure or puzzle games, or if you demand a side of sadism with your brain twisters, then this probably isn't going to be the game for you.

Score: 3 out of 5

The Good
  • Creative environmental puzzles that include a soft hint system for a non-spoiler nudge when you get stuck or frustrated
  • Quirky sense of humor with dialog that, while sometimes a bit cliched, made me smile more often than not
  • The character art is well done

The Bad
  • Some of the artwork in the game is a bit bland and generic
  • The game really could use some more cells of animation and an updated engine to alleviate the clunky scrolling when moving across a screen
  • It would have been nice if there had been at least a few more scenes that were a bit more challenging

The Ugly
  • I ran into a bug which had me stuck for the better part of 10 minutes that involved a “bridge” that needed to be lowered for my character to get down from a platform. And even though the “bridge” was in the lowered animation, the game apparently thought it wasn’t until I lowered it again.
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Old 08-19-2010, 01:40 PM   #2
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Old 08-19-2010, 07:06 PM   #3
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While this and The Adventures of Fatman look like good fun, I'm a little put off by their lack of Steam support.
My issue? I don't feel like cluttering up things with multiple shortcuts, folders or whathaveyou. I'd much rather just open up my Steam library and have at it.

Unfortunately, it's the only thing holding me back...for now. Fatman's oldschool LucasArts-styled adventure game art is calling to me.
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