Puzzlement is a puzzler that meddles with your brain

Puzzlement is a very minimalist puzzle game that packs quite a lot of clever into its little space. You play a very Pac-Man-esque 2D ghost, who wanders around inside/outside a 3D space collecting red blobs. This element of a 2D creature falling around within a 3D environment is completely bemusing, to the point where playing it for a little while is making just typing these letters in a straight line on this screen a confusing experience.

I have a particular fondness for puzzle games that mess about with spatial awareness in such a way, where playing them causes the rest of reality to start feeling swimmy and confusing for a short while. Like the after-image of a bright light slowly fading from your vision, but twistier. Puzzlement unquestionably achieves this.

It’s set in/on three faces of a cube, but whether it’s the inside or the outside of the cube is a matter determined by the whim of your own brain, seemingly against any force of will. You move your ghostie around the highlighted squares as platforms, changing which way up he’s standing by falling between the X, Y and Z axes… Look, it’s really bloody confusing, OK.

And it works. Pleasingly, only a few of the puzzles create situations where you can fall into a position where you’re forced to restart (I’d prefer if it were none, but since far too many games nowadays opt for all, this is still a pleasing result). And as you progress, it starts to expand the net of cube shapes until it’s, well, you just have to enter a zen-like place of acceptance and try not to think about it too hard.

The big disappoint(puzzle)ment is the presentation. It’s hard to imagine how much less effort could have been put in, beyond the fact that the ghost’s bottom ripples a bit when he moves. Beyond that, it’s incredibly simplistic, to the point of looking a bit tacky. That’s fine, like I say above, it’s still very effective – it just a shame more weren’t put into this to make something that could have been even better. More problematic is the peculiarly bad “lighting”. It’s not actually lighting in any real sense – just that some of the faces are greyer than others, in a strangely unhelpful way. Either all the same white would have made for even more effective brainfuckery, or some proper thought-through lighting would do it all the world of good. Especially if could be done in such a way to accentuate the inverting madness.

The controls are also a hot mess. It wants you to play using the cursor keys, with no option for WASD (nor indeed any options at all, that I could find), but then later on asks you to use your mouse too. Great for the lefties, but naff for the non-witches.

But yes, for one shiny pound, this is a decent, very peculiar puzzler, that does entertaining nonsense to the insides of your brain. Hard not to like.

Puzzlement is out now on Windows and Mac, for £1.60 (currently discounted to £1), via Steam.

5 Comments

  1. hijuisuis says:

    Sold John. This looks great, I also appreciate the space-bending games.

    Back to Bed, The Bridge and English Country Tune were good for this. If people have other similar suggestions please fire away!

  2. Tomo says:

    Bought. If there’s one thing you’re good at John, it’s recommended puzzlington games. Thanks!

  3. tigerfort says:

    Dear game designers: please always make keyboard controls configurable. Lots of people with a range of disabilities find it hard to use common arrangements and/or have weird keyboards or other interface devices. Allowing us to set our own keys is a small change that makes a big difference.

    • junus says:

      Thank you your your feedback. I will fix it.

      • tigerfort says:

        No, thank you. This looks like the sort of game I love, but there’s just no way I can manage cursor keys plus mouse. Configurable controls means I can play after all!