After I posted about the very splendid Void last week, another group from DigiPen Singapore, also finalists in the IGF China Student Prize, got in touch with a link to their entry, Terra: The Legend Of The Geochine. It's a 3D third-person puzzle game, with the rather splendid feature of being able to tilt the world on a central pivot, as well as run around inside it.
Think Monkey Ball - the way you didn't roll the ball, but rather the world underneath it. Except here you're also a character on the screen, able to run about independently of your god-like tilting. So it is that you can rearrange objects to create pathways, flip levers from afar, and also roll your own created fireballs into useful positions. I think a video is helpful at this point:
The idea is used really smartly, making this something of a special treat. It's great fun to realise how you can complete a puzzle by rolling the screen around, and they keep finding smart ways to explore that. I especially liked the clever implementation of the classic sliding block puzzle, but here creating a pathway for you to reach a higher platform.
That's not to say it's perfect, however. The movement of the girl is often frustrating, her jump clumsy and awkward. And unfortunately, there was that all-too common sign of a lack of confidence in the puzzles by the introduction of entirely superfluous enemies. The puzzles are strong enough not to have needed annoying ball creatures rolling toward you an exploding into noxious purple gas, and it's hard to understand what they're meant to add to the game, offering no challenge, but only being an irritant. The other enemy is a plant creature that'll grab hold of you if you get too close. This makes a lot more sense, with your fireballs able to make them hide away, and avoiding them often a part of a puzzle.
It has great potential though. I'd love to see this getting a remake in an engine slightly more suited (it's currently in Source, and they've done flipping well to bend it into this), and obviously made longer. It's about 45 minutes long at present, which for a free student game is splendid, but there's definitely potential for this to be expanded into the real thing. It has that Trine vibe about it that could, I think, quite easily be realised.
Definitely take a look. It's smart, if frustrated by issues, and you can say you played the original when the big-selling version comes out.