Like so many of us, my kitten enjoys seeing shapes and colours move. But while she usually watches games and television with casual interest, she's losing it over Sebil Engineering. The great new physics puzzle game involves repairing roads while vehicles zoom across, endless streams of cars and buses that skid and flip and crash and tumble and oh, she cannot get enough. On one hand, I'm glad she enjoys me playing it. On the other, it's quite difficult to play when she's leaping at my monitor and batting buses. The game is good, and my cat is cute. Yes, absolutely this post includes a video of my cat.
The roads of Los Anjeles are in a right state, we don't have the budget to re-lay roads, and cars certainly won't adjust their driving. In we come to fix particularly terrible spots by raising and lowering terrain, creating all sorts of ramps and rims and ditches to guide cars to their destination mmmostly intact. Each level is small, a single stretch of road or intersection, but that's trouble enough when the current setup sees cars smash into walls and over cliffs.
Rather than build anything new, all our fixes come from raising and lowering roads and ground. You can only manipulate sparse specific points in the low-poly terrain and roads, which shift only their own sharp-edged triangle. Left-click to raise a point, right-click to lower it. It would be easier with more nuance, sure, but that's not the deal here. You're working within a budget too, each alteration costing cash.
Early levels start simple, having you route cars down bad roads or ramp over a fallen pizza parlour sign. Soon, multiple directions of traffic are smashing together, different vehicles nead to reach different destinations, gravel roads bring new problems, you're ducking obstructions, and so on. It's a joy to feel out freeform solutions in real time.
Unlike boring building games where you lay out a design then run a test, here an endless torrent of simulated vehicles stream in as you work. Raise this bit and watch them now drive off the left. Prop up the far end and no, now they're losing too much speed. Lower the point on the other side and oops, now the buses are ramming into the cars and no one's getting anywhere. Yes, of course they slam and nudge each other about. In some levels, a bit of argy-bargy has even been part of my solution.
You're not building a proof of concept, you're building a working chaotic road. The solution is to get a certain number of cars to their destination without too many losses, and it can be tense watching goal numbers rise and fall as a minor backlog turns into a pile-up then clears. But maybe that pile-up will let others drive over the top and reach the goal, or someone slamming into the back of a car will give it the final push it needs. While I'd like to think I can engineer clever and elegant solutions, sure, I've won a level or two by embracing violence.
My little cat adores watching Sebil Engineering. Even the sound of the cars can bring her running to watch. Her little head shakes from side to side as she watches cars come and go, sometimes trying to catch one. As buses tumble off the edge of the level, she pokes her head under my monitor to see where they went. She'll even rear up and try to slam a particularly enticing vehicle with both paws. While normally she might tap a game or movie once or two, here she cannot stop herself. I'm not trying to encourage this but it is very cute. I might feel differently when she breaks something.
I agree with her that think Sebil Engineering is great to look at. The levels are low-poly diorama fragments hovering high above a flat low-resolution city map, cars tumbling over the edges into the void. I appreciate the vintage practicality of this look being undercut by the sheer indulgence of extravagances like silly shop signs using as many polygons as the rest of the level, or a lawnmower pootling about cutting grass off to one side (also falling over the edge into the void). And it is simply nice to watch a load of physics-simulated cars stack it.
It's pretty funny beyond the inherent daftness too. An engineer introduces each level with a funny explanation, his giant abstract model standing in the middle of the road and gathering a collection of crashed cars at his feet. And I really enjoy the dashboard camera view which pops up after you win a level, showing quite how terrifying my solution is to drivers. I also appreciate the silly/terrifying option to run about the level on foot, rather than floating in the sky, and build in a first-person perspective while dodging cars rocketing off the ramp I just created. Good japes, good puzzling.
Sebil Engineering is out now on Steam and Itch.io (where you get downloads plus a Steam key), priced at £10/€12/$12. It's good. My cat is good, too. It's important that you recognise how good my cat is.
The game came out earlier this month and has already added variants of levels for extra challenge on return visits. Future plans include new levels and co-op multiplayer.