Baba is You (2019)

It is a rare occasion in which I get to play a truly innovative game. Games that push the boundaries of a unique concept can be difficult to come by. That is why I was excited to try the acclaimed puzzle game Baba is You. This indie game presents an elegant idea: rules are meant to be broken. This is a game about rules, and how you can manipulate them to reach your goal.

1

Like many puzzle games, the premise of Baba is You is to get to the goal. The genius of the game is that the rules are ever changing. Each level is a square grid, and each rule is simply laid out for the player. It starts innocuous enough; the first level begins with rules such as “flag is win”, “Baba is you”, and “wall is stop”. You are a little white creature called Baba, you must make your win to the flag to win, and any wall in your way will stop you. What makes this game special is that the player can manipulate the rules as each word is movable. For example, you can push the word “wall” to break up the sentence “wall is stop”. Now that rule no longer exists, and you can freely walk through walls. Moreover, you can use whatever words are given to you to form new rules. In the previous example, you could use the given words to make “wall is win” to change the win condition of the level.

The idea behind Baba is You is absolutely phenomenal. In every game that I have played, rules are concrete. Through tutorials, text, or simple trial and error the player must deduce the mechanics of the game and how everything interacts. In Baba is You, every level has its own ruleset laid out in plain sight. It’s up to the player to manipulate those rules to their advantage. Breaking up sentences to invalidate troublesome barriers, or forming new rules that could prove useful. As the game progresses, new words begin appearing that could drastically change how levels need to be approached. Part of the beauty of the game is that despite the ever-changing rules, the win condition always remains the same: whatever object is “you” needs to be touching whatever is “win”. This inevitable end-state of any puzzle is a helpful starting point to begin thinking about how you can achieve victory.

6

The most critical aspect to any puzzle game is its level design. Challenges must be creative and fully utilize the games mechanics, while at the same time having relatively simple solutions that are not obtuse. If you’ve played many puzzle games, I’m sure that you’ve run into a roadblock and after finally stumbling into the solution you say “how the hell was I supposed to figure that out”. Designers must avoid this feeling while simultaneously crafting puzzles that force you to think. Baba is You has fantastic level design. Most solutions are simple to execute and don’t require some obscure mechanic. The designs are ingenious in that most levels require some trick or tactic that any other level hadn’t utilized yet, but remain simple and seem obvious once you discover the solution.

Moreover, Baba is You utilizes its unique premise to challenge preconceived notions. Most gamers are going to have internal habits that are going to be broken. You are going to make false assumptions about how to beat a level, and the developer was fully aware of that. Many of the levels have this uncanny quality to exploit the player’s desire to immediately attempt an obvious solution. It baits you into using an object the same way that you’ve used it so many times before, but that assumption will only lead you away from the goal. Many times, you feel so close to solving a puzzle, but in reality, you are so far off from the correct solution.

2

Additionally, for a game that is all about breaking rules Baba is You is remarkably good at stopping unintentional or “cheese” solutions from working. Again, it felt like the developer thought of every way a person could attempt to solve a level and prevented everything but the intended solution from working. The final note on level design that I want to touch on is the ability for each level to foster an “aha!” moment. It’s a great feeling when you figure out some trick that you hadn’t thought of before that makes the puzzle a breeze. Baba is You excels at creating those sensations when a level finally clicks.

One of the most important aspects to Baba is You is how relatively easy it is to get into. Some of my favorite puzzle games are notoriously unapproachable. Stephen’s Sausage Roll and SHENZHEN I/O are both confusing and cumbersome for new players, and as a result many people don’t give the games a fair chance. Baba is You is comparably simple to pick up and play. The game starts with extremely easy levels for the player to grasp the basics. Moreover, while there are over 200 individual levels, you only need to complete a few dozen to beat the game. You can pick and choose which levels you want to do, so if you get stuck on one particularly troublesome puzzle, you can skip it entirely and try something else.

3

Despite Baba is You being easy to pick up, it can be an extremely challenging game. While the beginning sections of the game are there to ease new players in, there is plenty of optional content that will test even the most veteran puzzler. The final few sections of the game in particular are insane. These parts are entirely optional, but they utilize a rapidly expanding ruleset and rely on meta solutions. How you complete one puzzle may affect another puzzle, and how to get to the next puzzle is dependent on how you completed a previous puzzle. I don’t want explain too much, as it may ruin the surprise for people who do want to experience these sections. It suffices to say that Baba is You truly maximizes the potential of its concept and it boasts plenty of difficult content.

My single point of contention with Baba is You comes from the moments where a level truly stumps the player. Baba is You relies on players to experiment with the rules on their own, nothing is explained outright. It is up to the player to figure out how each rule and object interacts. For the most part, this is a good thing. It respects the player’s intelligence and rewards creative use of rule manipulation. It also fosters those “aha” moments I spoke of before. The problem arises in that it can be a common occurrence where a puzzle completely stumps the player.

4

The issue is that nearly every single level in the game relies on some trick to complete it. Once you figure out the trick, the level seems elegant and simple. But if you haven’t figured it out then the puzzle is quite literally impossible. In other puzzle games, there is usually a series of moves or steps to get to the goal; you can make intermittent progress towards the finish as you figure out each individual step. Baba is You on the other hand relies on grand revelations and “aha” moments, so it may so happen that you stare at a puzzle for an hour and have made no progress. While these moments are frustrating, I do have to commend the game for providing a way to avoid this. As previously mentioned, you don’t have to complete every puzzle to beat the game. If one is stumping you, you can avoid it entirely. While I did end up 100% completing every puzzle in the game, any moment of frustration was self-inflicted because the game provides the option to circumvent any particularly tricky levels.

5

Something about Baba is You clicked for me in a way no other puzzle game has. It has a truly remarkable premise and incredibly designed logic-based puzzles. In a way, it reminds me of the enjoyable side of programming. Logically stringing together rules and statements to solve some problem is inherently satisfying to me. It is for these reasons that I give Baba is You a 10/10. I highly recommend this game for anybody who enjoys puzzles as it may be the best puzzle game ever made.

Stephen’s Sausage Roll (2016)

I know what you’re thinking: “Stephen’s Sausage Roll sounds like a joke.” This is not a joke, far from it. The name is goofy, the visuals are ugly, the premise is bizarre, and the price is high. How could a game about rolling sausages be worth $30? The thing is, Stephen’s Sausage Roll is one of the greatest puzzle games ever created, and its unparalleled level design is what sets it apart.

1

Stephen’s Sausage Roll is a Sokoban-style puzzle game. If you’re unfamiliar with Sokoban, it is a subset of puzzle games that revolves around pushing objects to specific locations. You have to plan ahead since you move in tight spaces and everything has to fit snugly. It sounds remarkably simple, but Stephen’s Sausage Roll takes sausage rolling to the extreme. This game is insanely difficult, and from the outset the game is going to challenge you. The player’s goal is to fully cook sausages on grills without burning them. The game is played on a grid, and each sausage occupies 2 spaces. You must cook both sides of the sausage, but if you cook the same spot twice, it will burn. The player also occupies 2 spaces on the grid, which makes the game remarkably difficult to control. You can move forwards or backwards, and you can rotate left and right. These constraints will take a while for any player to get used to, and are a necessary to facilitate the complexity of the puzzles.

5

The beauty of Stephen’s Sausage Roll is that it capitalizes on every facet of the game’s mechanics. The act of simply manipulating the sausages and controlling the character is explored in the first area. Subsequent areas focus on other mechanics: the second area is all about skewering sausages, the third is about rolling on top of them, so on and so forth. None of the mechanics are explained to the player, you are meant to play around in the puzzles to discover the nuances organically. There are six total areas in the game, each consisting of about a dozen puzzles. The sixth area is much longer than its predecessors and it utilizes a ridiculously interesting trick, but I will not discuss it because that should be a moment for every player to experience on their own. I do not want to spoil it.

2

Every single mechanic that the game introduces is absolutely pushed to the brink. No idea is thrown away without squeezing all of the potential out of it. Every puzzle in an area will utilize a different aspect of that area’s core mechanic. Every puzzle is a learning moment. It never feels repetitive or tedious since all the puzzles require the player to encounter an “A-ha!” moment. There were some puzzles where I looked at it and thought “This is impossible.” After playing around a bit, it would click and I would understand exactly what I needed to do. Interestingly, there were also plenty of moments when starting a puzzle that I thought “This is easy.” But once I began, I realized it was much more difficult than I had anticipated. There aren’t really any hidden tricks or techniques to stump the player, instead the stumping comes from the clever implementation of the mechanics.

The brilliance of Stephen’s Sausage Roll is in its level design.  Every level is a unique teaching moment, and every puzzle is also immaculately designed. For the most part, every tile on the grid is needed to complete the level. There is no fluff to distract the player. If something is in the level, you will be nearly guaranteed to use it. This fact is immensely helpful when solving the challenging puzzles that are plentiful in Stephen’s Sausage Roll. I would often analyze all of the elements of any given puzzle before starting. This technique often led me to reverse engineer the solution by just understanding the components available to me.

3

The exceedingly clever minimalism of the puzzles is what makes Stephen’s Sausage Roll so challenging. There is absolutely no way for a player to stumble their way to a solution. There is an intended solution for every puzzle, and aside from minor variations there is no way around that fact. The player must utilize the techniques that each puzzle demands. Every puzzle is carefully designed to maintain this paradigm. This game is remarkable for its ability to stump the player in a fair manner. You never get stuck because you are missing critical information, instead you get stuck because it’s you haven’t implemented a mechanic in the correct manner. I would often get stuck for long periods of time but I rarely felt frustrated.

My lack of frustration is due to the fact that the areas in Stephen’s Sausage Roll have all of the puzzles available at the same. If the player gets road-blocked and cannot figure out the solution to any given puzzle, it is exceedingly helpful to try the other puzzles first. Sometimes you can make new realizations, but most of the time it is a good idea just to refresh your brain. Additionally, the game has two functions that the player will use copiously. The undo button will undo the last move made, and you can use it as much as you want. Often times I would realize that my solution wouldn’t work, so I undid the last few moves to see where I went wrong. Also, it is exceedingly common to do something unintentionally because of the unintuitive controls. The undo button is a godsend. Additionally, the reset button will reset the puzzle all the way to the beginning. If you really screw up, this function will come in handy.

4

My main issue with Stephen’s Sausage Roll is “brick walls” frequently occur. Brick walls are what I describe as moments where you absolutely cannot progress until you make some realization about how the game works. These moments will vary from player to player and can be demoralizing. Many of the mechanics in Stephen’s Sausage Roll have various nuances, and organically discovering these nuances at times can be exasperating. Most players will probably hit a brick wall at the very beginning of the game. The unintuitive control scheme, lack of explanation, and immediate jump into difficult puzzles almost guarantees that fact. Unfortunately, these facets are core components of the game, so there is no way to easily fix this issue.

The high difficulty and unforgiving level design are prone to these “brick wall” moments, and it probably happened to me two or three times. Sitting on a single puzzle for 2 to 3 hours, making no headway, then figuring out the solution hinged on some obscure nuance was not an “A-ha!” revelation, but rather an “Are you serious?” moment. There really is no way to alleviate this problem, as extreme difficulty is a double-edged sword. The vast majority of the time Stephen’s Sausage Roll provides mind-bending puzzles to tinker with, but sometimes you are going to get stuck for a while.

6

Since Stephen’s Sausage Roll hits the player with a brick wall at the very beginning of the game, I think many players will have a hard time enjoying this game. It’s already in a small subset of puzzle games, and its astounding difficulty is sure to make it even more niche. Moreover, the game has no worthwhile qualities outside of its intelligent level design. The visuals, audio, and narrative are all extremely minimalistic. This is a game for somebody who wants to play an exceedingly challenging puzzle game. And that’s fine. Not every game has to be for everybody, and I like to see niche games. That being said, Stephen’s Sausage Roll is so ridiculously niche that nobody outside of a small subset of people will be able to enjoy it.

7

I absolutely adore Stephen’s Sausage Roll, but I realize that is an exceptionally niche game. I categorize this game the same as SHENZHEN I/O. Both of these games are absolute perfection in their respective genres, but I cannot unconditionally recommend them to anybody. It’s a shame that the brilliance of Stephen’s Sausage Roll will be lost on so many people due to its sheer unapproachability. Regardless, this game is ridiculously well designed and executed, and I am genuinely baffled at how much content was able to be produced on the mere premise of pushing sausages around. It is for these reasons that I give Stephen’s Sausage Roll a 9.5/10. If you are a fan of outstandingly tough puzzle games, then you absolutely must play Stephen’s Sausage Roll. If you don’t enjoy puzzles, or prefer less challenging games, than this is not the game for you.

The Witness (2016)

The gorgeous environment and serene island of The Witness is a mask for a complex and challenging labyrinth. This puzzle game plays with the player’s mind and perception of everything around them. In essence, The Witness is a game all about perspective and how you view the environment around you. It may be confusing and frustrating at times, but it is an essential experience, especially if you are a puzzle lover.

1

The majority of the puzzles in The Witness are these screen mazes. They start simple enough, the player navigates through labyrinths on these tablet-like screens. Quickly, new mechanics and rules are added to these mazes. Symbols represent different tasks and rules that must me adhered to, making it to the end is not enough to complete a puzzle. For example, separating different color blocks or having to collect little black dots along the way. Each area in the game seems to focus on a new mechanic and using it to its fullest potential. Many of these screen mazes will combine aspects and symbols from previous areas to add additional challenge. The complexity of these puzzles quickly ramps up and a simple 4×4 grid may take you 10 to 15 minutes to solve.

2

These mazes are the core of The Witness. The game boasts that there are over 500 of these puzzles scattered across the diverse island. You do not need to complete every one of these brain teasers to finish the game, I solved about 400 puzzles before I made it to the end. If you want more out of a game than small labyrinths, than you will probably not enjoy The Witness. There are more aspects than these puzzles, but progression is tied to the completion of these screens. This is not Portal or The Talos Principle, you rarely solve grandiose puzzles that make use of large spaces. To be fair, The Witness does make use of environmental aspects more than any games I have played. Shadows, light, sounds, perspective, and other exterior cues are key to solving many of the areas and mazes. The environment is also used in a mind-blowing manner, but I do not want to spoil this moment for future players, so I have discussed it below in a spoiler tag. View at your own discretion, because if you are planning to play The Witness, this is seriously one of the best aspects of the game that you should really experience yourself.

Highlight to see spoiler:

As you play more and more of The Witness, you may notice some strange aspects of the space around you. Hidden in the environment, there are shapes that mimic the mazes that the player has been solving on the screens. The “oh my god” moment comes when you realize that you can click on these hidden puzzles and solve them like all the mazes in the game. Immediately you begin to see shapes all around the island and try to click on everything to find these hidden shapes. Some you have to line up using different angles and perspective tricks. Others you need to figure out how to even get in a correct position. Ultimately, these are in no way tied to progression and serve no purpose within the game, but discovering this secret is one of the most important and memorable moments in the game. This is where you learn that the island has more to it than simple line puzzles, and that the game expects you to change your perspective on how you see the world around you. End of spoiler.

3

A component that needs to be mentioned is that The Witness undeniably respects the player’s intelligence. There are no tutorials, no guiding text, nothing that remotely resembles handholding. When you encounter a new symbol or type of puzzle, there are a few very easy puzzles that let the player deduce what the symbol means and how to deal with it. Furthermore, the island is an open world that lets you seemingly tackle any area in any order you want. The drawback of this is that many of these areas adopt symbols and rules from other zones. So, if you have not been to the required area, you get roadblocked. Sure, you can realize that you do not have the requisite knowledge to complete a puzzle, but I wish the game did a better job and placing areas in a more logical order. The most blatant example of this is that the town area takes concepts from every other area in the game, yet it is very likely to be one of the first areas you stumble upon to do its proximity to the starting location. This could easily lead to frustration as you try to figure out puzzles that you couldn’t possibly solve yet. This is not a case of me being flagrantly bad at the game, I finished it within a reasonable time (about 15 hours) and never really got roadblocked. All I’m saying is that it can be annoying when wandering around and you can’t seem to find a solvable puzzle.

4

The other major issue that I had with The Witness was that I could not help the feeling that the game was pretentious. Solving some secret puzzles unlocks real life speeches made by a variety of people in academia. These videos range from 5-60 minutes, and serve no purpose other than really wasting your time if you choose to view them. There are also audio logs of famous quotes scattered about the island to listen to, again I drew no meaning from these. Lastly, the ending sequence of the game seems like it was trying to portray some message, but the dialogue just seemed nonsensical. This was reminiscent of Jonathan Blow’s previous game, Braid. In both of these games the vague and pointless dialogue exudes a sense of pretentiousness. Like there is deeper meaning than what was actually conveyed, but in all actuality the story and meaning felt practically non-existent.

5

The island itself on first glance seems to contain some sort of mystery. Why am I here? What’s my goal? What are all these statues? What happened to all the people here? These questions are not really answered in any satisfying sort of way. There seems to be clues scattered about the island to make it seem like there was an overarching story, but just like the audio logs and videos there really was no satisfying conclusion. My final gripe is that everything in the game seems to move slower than it really should. The player, the doors, the platforms, they all take far longer to get to their destination than what is reasonable. When on transit in a boat I was able to get a glass of water and go to the bathroom, and when I came back I was only halfway through the ride. It feels like a joke that is meant to solely waste the player’s time.

6

For the most part, The Witness is all about its screen puzzles. Personally, I quite enjoyed all of the challenges, but I think a lot of people will be turned off by the lack of grandiose environmental puzzles. Like I mentioned previously, the environment is well integrated and a key component to these puzzles, but you rarely interact with your surroundings in a more meaningful way. The elegance of imbuing difficulty and challenge into what initially seems like a simple maze is what makes The Witness so gratifying. When you figure out a puzzle on the first try, you are emboldened and feel like a genius. When the pieces start to come together and you understand what was stumping you, a wave of satisfaction follows. It is for these reasons I give The Witness a 9/10. It’s a collection of fantastic puzzles, but it lacks of any other sort of substance.

SHENZHEN I/O (2016)

As a genre, puzzle games have a few major problems. Namely replayability, singular solutions, and the ever-frustrating feeling of “I must be missing something”. Zachtronics is a developer that creates extremely unique puzzle games that eliminate all of these pitfalls. Zachtronics does this by basing their games in reality, such as chemistry, production lines, or in the case of Shenzhen I/O, programming and electronics. I will admit, Zachtronics games are extremely niche, but if you enjoy problem solving, they will scratch that itch. As a computer science student, Shenzhen I/O drew me in as I was curious how a game could make the obtuse language of Assembly enjoyable.

1

Shenzhen I/O is set in the technological hub of Shenzhen, China. The player is tasked with designing and programming electronics to control a variety of products. You can use microcontrollers, logic gates, RAM, and a few other components to achieve the task you are given. When I said that Shenzhen I/O was niche, I meant it. Instead of a standard tutorial, you are given a 45-page manual as a PDF to read through. Only a few pages are useful, the rest are jargon or in Chinese, so you have to sift through to find pertinent info. Luckily, the programming language is fairly simple and there are not too many parts to figure out how to use. The game starts fairly slow and lets the player learn the basics before moving on to complicated challenges.

3

While I believe that Shenzhen I/O was made for people with some prior knowledge of programming, it could be picked up by beginners. The language implemented has only a few basic commands that are not too hard to learn. The game also highlights any syntax errors for you. For the most part, Shenzhen I/O only focuses on the fun parts of programming such as logic and problem solving and skips the rote memorization that usually accompanies learning a new language.

Shenzhen I/O also is fairly forgiving as it is easy to diagnose issues. To test a solution to make sure it works, there is a verification tab that compares your output to the intended output. The program runs, you can follow it line-by-line to understand where and how something goes awry. I wish test runs worked this way in real life. On the flip side, much of the problem solving in Shenzhen I/O stems from the limited resources given. You can only have a maximum of 14 lines on any microcontroller, there are limited ports, limited space on the board, and some aspects operate in ways that require a workaround. You have to figure out methods to shave off a line or two to fit another action, or how to string controllers together in a way to complete a complex action. In this regard, Shenzhen I/O makes me appreciate the real-life tools that are available.

4

What I love most about Shenzhen I/O is that it avoids the most common issues with puzzle games. Every puzzle in Shenzhen I/O has a wide array of solutions because the player writes the code and places the components. If you get stuck on a problem, you can tackle it with a few different methods. This solves the issue of “getting stuck” and that nagging feeling of “I must be missing something”. Furthermore, after completing a challenge, there are leaderboards for cost, power, and lines of code used. This encourages players to replay puzzles and optimize their solutions to minimize these factors. Going back to redo a puzzle and making my solution more efficient was some of the most fun I had in the game. The fact that Shenzhen I/O utilizes programming to design puzzles is what makes the problems so interesting. It allows for dynamic problem-solving rather than searching for a singular solution.

5

Other than the extreme niche nature of Shenzhen I/O, it has one other major flaw. Zachtronics squeezes out every last drop of potential from Shenzhen I/O, and puzzles get increasingly difficult as you approach the end. As the problems get more complex, so do player solutions. You spend disproportionately more time on the endgame puzzles than the rest of the challenges. If one of your ideas ends up not working, you have to scrap hours of work. Problems become more restrictive rather than offering freedom like the earlier challenges. This issue of extreme difficulty appears towards the end of the game and in the bonus campaign primarily. The bonus campaign is the where the game got frustratingly difficult for me. Luckily, those additional levels are entirely optional, but I still found them far too challenging, complex, and restrictive to be enjoyable.

2

Furthermore, the game for the most part stops introducing new components and concepts about halfway through. With some more tools to learn and work with, these post-game puzzles could be more bearable. There are only so many things you could do with the barebones tools you are given. By the end of the game these ideas have been exhausted. These bonus puzzles are more like combinations of previous problems that you need to squeeze into extremely limited space.

While Shenzhen I/O is very obviously a niche title, I found myself to be in that niche. While the concept of a programming puzzle game may turn some people away, it is the greatest asset of the game. Programmable puzzles are what offer such creative solutions. You are not confined to a single solution. It is for these reasons I give Shenzhen I/O a 9/10. If you are at all interested by the concept of Shenzhen I/O, it is an absolute must play. Not everyone will enjoy it, but those who are in its intended audience will absolutely love it.

Captain Toad’s Treasure Tracker (2014)

One of my favorite features from Super Mario 3D World was the inclusion of Captain Toad and his mini-games. Clearly, many others also adored those mini-games as Nintendo developed a full game using the base concept from Super Mario 3D World. Captain Toad’s Treasure Tracker is a puzzle-platformer adventure game. The main objective is to progress through small stages and collect stars and gems along the way.

1

Captain Toad’s Treasure Tracker is a great game to just chill out for some relaxing fun. This is largely due to its simple level design. Levels are small arenas that the player can rotate to get a better view from all sorts of different angles. Captain Toad cannot jump or attack, so most levels consist of navigating these small maze-like courses, avoiding enemies and dangerous obstacles, and finding your way to the star, which acts as a goal in every level. Along the way, the player must also collect the 3 gems that are hidden in every level, as some stages later in the game require a certain number of these gems to unlock. These gems are often hidden in plain sight, or at least are fairly easy to guess where they might be hidden. Stages are very compact and quick to navigate through, so even if you are having trouble finding a hidden item it takes no more than a minute or two to play through the entire stage again to get another look. For the most part, the gems are out in the open and you just have to figure out how to get to them. Usually it involves a bit of puzzling or thinking of a not-so-obvious way of navigating these tiny courses. This is in stark contrast to a game like Yoshi’s Woolly World, where the collectibles were obtuse to find and required scouring every inch of a level to unearth them. In Captain Toad’s Treasure Tracker, there is no obnoxious combing of entire levels to find secrets, they are in plain sight and you just have to figure out how to get to them, which is how collectibles should be handled.

5

While I find the level design itself to be both simple and gratifying, I think the visuals of each level are also top-notch. The idea of making most levels a small cube that just floats in the sky is actually pretty cool. Every stage is kind of like a 3D diorama that you can rotate in your hands. This is a unique way of exploring all sorts of different environments, which is a key element of any adventure game, but it takes out all the long treks and expanses of nothingness between each important zone. It also allows the developers to space out any theme they want, rather than playing them in big chunks. In traditional adventure games, if you enter a snowy area for example, you know that you are going to be exploring that snow-covered area and that area alone for the next few hours, and after a while seeing the same environment over and over can just get dull. I enjoy the fact that the themes can be spread out across the game instead of having to play them all at once. You can always expect some fun places to explore in a Nintendo game, and Captain Toad’s Treasure Tracker is no exception. There are plenty of visually appealing environments and atmospheric areas to discover.

3

While I did enjoy Captain Toad’s Treasure Tracker, I feel like there was a lot of missed potential here. Nintendo does not have a puzzle game franchise, and I feel like there was perfect opportunity to make Captain Toad’s Treasure Tracker into a puzzle game series. Instead, we got a platforming-adventure-puzzle hybrid, which is fine, but the puzzle elements are fairly lacking. Most puzzles in this game are just involve hitting a switch which changes the stage and opens up a new path to the goal. There are no truly head scratching moments or things that make you really think about how to proceed. There are a couple of optional challenges that the game provides that are interesting, like limiting how many times you can hit a switch during a particular stage. These are fairly uncommon though and are entirely optional. Some levels show a good deal of potential and made me think that I was going to keep track of all the different forms the stage takes from hitting a button, and then hit the buttons in the correct order to progress forward. In reality, you just kind of progress forward and hit the buttons along the way, there is not much thinking involved. I was never really thoroughly impressed by any of the levels, and as a whole the game lacks a “wow” factor.

2

Not every game has to be an industry-changing, genre-defining game. Captain Toad’s Treasure Tracker is just fine for what it is: a short, clever, charming, and relaxing adventure. If you are looking for a cute adventure game with a few platforming and puzzle elements, then this game is perfect for you. This is not an ambitious title that will shape the industry for years to come, but it does not pretend to be. It’s just a simple little adventure game that you can meander your way through. For these reasons I give Captain Toad’s Treasure Tracker a 7/10. I enjoyed the calming pace and nature of this game, but there is definitely some untapped potential here.