Brief Impressions: English Country Tune

By John Walker on August 2nd, 2012 at 9:00 pm.

I love how abstract this is. How it doesn't represent anything in real life.

At RPS, we’re hardy men. Jim can often be seen carrying a shed on his shoulders, packed with all his tools. Alec and Adam run a side business as fix-it gentlemen for logging machines, while Nathan is officially San Francisco’s Sturdiest Man. And I once fixed a tap. But English Country Tune is too much for us. (Well, for me and Jim, as we’re the ones who tried it.) A really beautiful puzzle game that Quinns once sent a biscuit. But by golly it’s hard.

There are two modes of play (that I was able to reach), and even describing them is tricky. The first, called Larva, requires that you move a flat square across a 3D set of cubes, by flip-flopping it over from tile to tile, pushing a ball onto a particular tile, or into a hole. However, the balls – or larvae – don’t obey gravity, and will fall according to the direction in which they were hit. Which makes for immediately exceedingly complicated challenges, as you try to work out not only how not to trap larvae in corners, but also not knock them the wrong way.

The other is Whale, where this time there are large yellow blocks that can only be moved by pushing the horizontal and vertical beams of light that extend from them, rather than the blocks themselves. This means, of course, moving around the playing area becomes extremely tricky, as you attempt to manoeuvre yourself to push the ‘whales’ in the right direction, without pushing them in the exact opposite one getting there.

Both are smart, if not wholly original puzzles, and the presentation is absolutely exquisite. Again, it’s a familiar style for these sorts of abstract, geometrical puzzle games, shimmering, floating levels, focus slightly off in the backgrounds, but it’s done tremendously. Along with some lovely, ambient music, it conjures the perfect atmosphere.

It’s just, well, it’s too hard.

You know that feeling of dread when you’ve finally figured out one puzzle, and you see the next? Now there’s two of everything, and you realise getting anywhere is going to involve thinking seventeen moves ahead, and even then you’ll likely have blocked yourself in, and it’s just too much to want to start.

It’s a real shame that there isn’t a slower build up, or at least a mode for idiots like me to enjoy. Because as it is, while I had a great fun 45 minutes with it, after that I find myself looking at the next puzzle and just not wanting to start it. Maestros of this manner of puzzle would do very well to take a look, of course – it’s gorgeous presentation, and clearly extremely well crafted. But I quickly ran out of things to do that didn’t make me want to have a little cry.

You can get the game for $10 via developer Increpare’s Humble Store,

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15 Comments »

  1. maxwell says:

    It’s not too hard. Buy this game. I completed it on ios and thought it was great.

  2. ChrisGWaine says:

    I think it’s brilliant.

    There are definitely some very hard puzzles, but whether they’re too hard or not, I wonder if it comes down to the player’s own confidence whether you look at them and give up or, even though you have absolutely no idea how to even start tackling them, at least believe that by starting and working on them you’ll enjoy that process and will eventually crack them.

    • sharklaser says:

      i agree with you, they are not some “only way to solve is try every possibility” type of puzzles. they actually require you to think. real thinking with brain lol : ) but i am surprised at timing of this review, this game is almost one year old

      • increpare says:

        Indeed the timing is curious. Maybe it’s in anticipation of it appearing somewhere in the next fortnight. I wonder where a game might appear.

        • RabidZombie says:

          How is Unity 4, if you’ve tried it? Excited about any of the new features in it; particularly some of the exporting options?

  3. MondSemmel says:

    Surely this is the perfect article to mention that the game does, in fact, have a demo? It’s in the link mentioned in the article.
    I tried the demo when the game was previously mentioned on RPS, and came to essentially the same conclusions as those above. But I don’t think I managed to play even 45 minutes. Either the puzzles were too hard, or just not enjoyable enough for me to try longer. Maybe a mix of both?
    That said, I don’t like puzzles in the style of Sokoban – if I can _lose_ a puzzle level (rather than, you know, just not beat it for hours), I often don’t enjoy myself as much. You can give up in SpaceChem, but you cannot lose, for example…

  4. zaphos says:

    “There are two modes of play (that I was able to reach),”

    There are additional modes beyond that as well, including some really interesting/surprising ones.

  5. Robert Yang says:

    This is really one of the greatest puzzle games ever made. You know that moment when you’re in the shower and you suddenly realize something? ECT has at least a dozen instances of shower-logic. Amazing amazing design.

  6. Bhazor says:

    Well here’s a puzzle game on the RPS level of difficulty.

  7. HilariousCow says:

    I really enjoy ECT. I’m not a sokuban or puzzle expert by any stretch of the imagination and I am finding it punishing.

    But it has taught me that I just don’t care if I can’t finish it first time. This, or other games. I’m very happy for it to be a nice time sink that I pick up from time to time and bust my noggin over. I don’t feel the need to be placated by a stream of victories.

    I let it destroy me.

    I move away from the computer to think.

    I come back.

    It still destroys me.

    I love it.

  8. Dreforian says:

    Just played the demo. I didn’t time it but there was one or two levels that had me scratching my head for awhile. For the most part I could tell when there was a technique to learn but that may be from years of puzzle and Zelda gaming. The larva mode seems at least to be the next logical step to games like Bloxxors (on addictinggames) and Cuboid (on PSN). I will buy. BUY I SAY. And then probably save it for a day when the internet is out and I’m denied access to 99% of my games.

  9. RabidZombie says:

    Love this game. Got it when it came out. I’m thoroughly stuck on one of the construction levels where you paint every other tile. You’ve reminded me I need to go beat that level. Goodbye, day…

  10. Visualante says:

    How does it stack up to Puzzle Dimension or Cogs in terms of difficulty? Even harder it sounds…

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