Apart from the select few bestsellers such as Portal and Oddworld, puzzle games have never really been a hit across households. They were always kept in a window ready for those days where you’re too bored or lazy to do anything else at work. Even then they were played for mere minutes at a time until you got frustrated at a puzzle that you couldn’t do and shut down until another day. But that’s where Brawsome and Green Stripe Snake’s new game MacGuffin’s Curse comes in to play, with its ways to ease the anger and keep you entertained for hours on end.
You play as Lucas MacGuffin who’s attempting to break into the museum in order to grab an expensive amulet to help pay the rent. Unfortunately the amulet has a side-effect when worn, resulting in a seriously bad hair day. And can’t be taken off. As well as solving puzzles in different rooms and locations, you can wander around the city and important landmarks, learning more about the area and MacGuffin himself. Although it’s been done a few times in the past, this adventure/puzzler is one of the only games of its type that keeps you entertained when you fancy a break from the logic.
The puzzles themselves start off incredibly easy – move this box here, switch this control panel on and in a matter of seconds the door unlocks, allowing you to move deeper into the building. However, just as you start to feel like a puzzle genius, they gradually become harder and harder with more objects to interact with (the most annoying one being a block you can only push one way. And the doors. Sometimes you just want to snap them off their hinges.). And before you know it, you’ll be restarting the room over and over again, slowly growing more and more insane, tearing your hair out and scribbling down your every move onto sheets of paper. Slight exaggeration aside (we’re kidding, there’s no exaggeration), the sudden increase in difficulty is what really makes this a strong contender in the puzzle genre, you have to stop and plan out every movement and one wrong move could be detrimental, which is what makes logic games so insanely good and addictive.
If you get to the point where you have no clue whatsoever as to what to do, you have two options before rage quitting – you can receive a hint or get the puzzle solved for you anyway. Rather than these being done by some godly force, you have to contact your shady ‘friend’ via walkie talkie and he can twiddle a few knobs or press a few buttons in his van to open any door in that specific room. The downside to this is that the door is only open for the one time and if you have to come back to this room at any point, you’ll either have to contact him again or get round to solving the puzzle yourself. It’s always nice to be given a second (or third or twentieth) chance at a puzzle rather than never being able to figure it out for yourself again. However, don’t become dependent on the magic man with the technology as sometimes he won’t be around to help, only to offer a snarky comment, leaving you feeling somewhat stranded and vulnerable. But definitely in a good way.
He’s not the only person you’ll be talking to though, since despite there being a lockdown in the city, there’s a nice range of interesting characters to meet, most offering a side-quest or information about the main quest for you, but some are there purely for you to have a chat with and this being a comedy game, these conversations will almost always leave you chuckling to yourself. Some important people will have speech options for you to choose from, whether you want to be nice or just snarl at them, the direction of the conversation is up to you. Well, maybe not always up to you as nothing bad will happen if you pick the wrong option, they won’t stop talking to you, you’ll just get sent back to the previous options until you get it right. It’s not really a bad thing though, as you can tell that the speech choices weren’t the main part of the game and are really offered for more comedic instances rather than being more puzzles for you.
It’s not just the people hanging around the city that offer hilarity though, almost everything from their talking to Lucas’ thoughts to the loading screens offers a pun or two. And they’re certainly punny (what? I’m not here for the giggles, that’s the developers’ strong point, we just have the book of lame jokes no-one wants). Even the creepy characters (such as the girls in the park) are toned down by a laugh making the game seem very carefree and a place to come back to when you want to relax.
Had enough puzzling? There’s really no need to turn off the game as there’s much more for you to do in-game. The other thing that you’ll be spending a great amount of your time doing is wandering between locations searching items that contain treasure (helpfully shown by surrounding lights), which comes in the form of either gold to be spent or pieces of a comic that can be put together and viewed from the menu. Gold can be spent at the pawn shop where you can buy items for your house or music to play on your jukebox (which needs to be bought first. This world isn’t free you know.), slowly making your run down old building feel a lot more like home, for both your daughter and grandma as well as yourself. It’s always nice to take a break every once in a while and walk around your house, seeing your new items and engaging in conversation with your family, who have the very same sarcastic attitude as you.
As well as this, you can read files on everyone you’ve met, flick through your quest log or generally nose through your menu. Though this may not sound unique or innovative, the developers have included a feature into the game that has rarely appeared in any game before, and even then it’s been an easter egg or two. If you enter an area which doesn’t have a puzzle in, you can read a note from the developers. It offers comments about the characters, personal experiences or changes from the first drafts of the game. They’re fascinating to read, offering an insight into the work behind the product without having to trawl through the internet for pieces of trivia. Worth a look at while you’re exploring.
The game looks very simplistic at a first glance – it’s 2D, top down, nothing is groundbreaking in it, but that’s because it doesn’t need to be. It’s not being sold as the latest eye-candy on consoles, the graphics aren’t important and indeed, shouldn’t be what put people off or draw people into a game. However, when you look at the characters when they’re talking or the objects lying around, you see the amount of detail that’s really gone into them. The whole game is inspired by the art style of comic books (to the point where the cutscenes are just panels of a comic) and so, much like the best comics available, look simplistic at face value but really hold hours of work and delicate lines bringing everything together. At this point, you realise that the game doesn’t hold the same artistic beauty that you may see on you xbox or PlayStation 3, but it’s gorgeous nonetheless.
Not only are the graphics something to drool over, but the animation is great too. Everything runs smoothly, actions are simplistic but don’t have to be anything more as they still carry across all the information needed for you to take in. As you walk through to the next street, the whole screen will scroll across with you, bringing each individual puzzle together into a vast game in one flowing move.
The quality of sound doesn’t bring the game down either. Each sound effect, each voice clip is carefully placed to convey a message, some much stronger than words, which is a relief as the game offers no full voice-acting. The music itself plays faintly in different areas, really pushing the mood of you, Lucas along with the feel of the area itself. Walk through the museum and the music is eerie – a warning that you’re really not supposed to be here. Unlock a door however and a cheerful jingle plays as Lucas dances around – lifting your mood and rewarding you. Because sometimes, music can be the nicest reward of all.
Sure, it has its faults such as making you walk a little too slowly sometimes, glitching into a bookcase or not being available to buy unless you have Steam or an Apple device, but this game is a pearl of the indie world. You’ll never have to quit due to frustration and as such, you can waste away hours at a time pushing around little pixel boxes or decorating your house.
A howling success from Brawsome and Green Stripe Snake, 8.5/10.
MacGuffin’s Curse is available on Steam and the Apple app store today, the 19th April 2012. Why not share your own thoughts and comments on this wolftastic adventure below?