When it comes to music there are very few types that I actively go out of my way to not listen to. I’m not especially fond of rap, but that has more to do with the stereotypes that are portrayed from that genre. Compositionally, rap can be some of the most complex music accompanied by smart lyrics, yet I just would rather not subject my ears to that style of music.
The same can be said for video games. I’ll play pretty much anything, but I tend to avoid sports titles. It’s not that I don’t enjoy them, it’s just that modern sports games tend to be the same thing year after year and often try too hard to put every aspect into a title, which can muddy the core experience. With indie video games, small developers tend to focus their efforts on one specific aspect of a game and hone the title until their game is a perfect gem. Over the last few years indie game development has proven that smaller titles with a more narrow focus can be both fun and successful. When I get the chance to play hidden gems from indie developers I find myself completely drawn into the little details. One such title I’ve had the fortunate opportunity to play recently is Loc from Birnam Wood Games.
Currently available for PC or Mac from the developer’s website and also planned for release on iPad in September, Loc is a combination of a water pipe puzzle game and a picture jumble. You know, the ones where a picture is broken up onto a scrambled grid and one space is purposely left empty so that the other pieces can be slid around to recreate the image. Puzzles consist of a set of tiles, each depicting a small section of a path that can be linked together with other pieces to form a trail. These tiles must be slid around and rotated on the Loc so that a green aura can travel along a completed path connecting a starting point to the finish. Puzzles gradually increase in difficulty by requiring certain puzzle parts to be included. These particular pieces have a greenish hue to them and cannot be moved or rotated, adding extra challenge to the process of figuring out the correct tile configuration.
Each stage of the game adds additional sides of the Loc to the overall puzzle, until eventually the pathways begin to snake around entire 3D cubes. Stages of the game are broken into roughly twelve puzzles each and achievements are awarded for accomplishing certain goals, such as completing a puzzle under a set time or finishing a puzzle in a different way than the developer intended. Even though there is a timer counting up, there is no punishment for solving a puzzle after a set period. There is also no punishment for attempting to solve a puzzle without using every single tile. Early on, I often found myself trying to force the glowing aura to follow one path only to realize where I’d made a mistake, but in the later stages I learned that it was best to first take a look at each side that contained pieces just to see what potential pathway was expected to be taken as the pieces on one side of a Loc cannot be moved to another side.
The whole premise of the game is that you have been captured by the Queen of the Faeries, who is vengefully looking to punish mankind and those who have destroyed all that she loves. The queen promises that if you can solve her puzzles, she will release you. While there is a bit of a story, I found myself more transfixed on the notion that each new stage added yet another side to the Loc. Even though the story isn’t necessarily the strongest, I wouldn’t expect it given that it is obvious so much care and detail went into creating each puzzle.
Loc takes me back to the days when small puzzle games were a mainstay in my everyday gaming life. Each puzzle slowly adds more depth and challenge, and before you know it the complexity of the puzzles becomes both awe inspiring and even a little intimidating. For only $5, there is no excuse to pass up playing this unique indie puzzler.
+ Easy learning curve
+ Nice mellow music
+ Tons of levels
– Leaderboards and Achievements aren’t tied to any friend list infrastructure like Steam or similar service
Platform: PC/Mac (Coming to iPad in September)
Publisher: Birnam Wood Games
Developer: Birnam Wood Games
Release Date: 4/4/2012
Source: Review copy provided by publisher