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Brief Impressions: English Country Tune

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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John Walker

Senior Editor

One of the original co-founders of Rock, Paper, Shotgun, I'm now a senior editor and general hero of humanity.

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