[Game: Portal, Valve, 2007]
Thinking, with Portals:

Why Portal‘s Campaign is Superior to Portal 2‘s Campaign (in Tone and Design)

 

Introduction:

I think it’s fairly trivial to say that Portal is a significant and influential franchise, and that both titles in the series are excellent experiences well worth the time of any player. In fact, I would go so far as to say that the original Portal is such a cohesive and nearly flawless gaming experience that it should be remembered alongside such other towering encapsulations of solid game design and execution as Shadow of the Colossus, the original Half-Life, and (with an asterisk for its incomplete sections) the first entry of the Dark Souls trilogy.

But my praise for Portal 2, while still extensive and enthusiastic, is simply nowhere near as unmitigated or unending as my praise for Portal. In terms of its narrative, Portal 2 opted for a lighter tone, with a heavy emphasis on blatant comedy which marred the established atmosphere of Portal and the established character of GLaDOS. Meanwhile, in terms of gameplay, Portal 2‘s single-player campaign opted for easier puzzles overflowing with a large number of lightly utilized new mechanics.

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[Game: Portal, Valve, 2007]
Thinking, with Portals:

Why Portal‘s Campaign is Superior to Portal 2‘s Campaign (in Tone and Design)

was last modified: June 9th, 2021 by Daniel Podgorski

[Game: Tricone Lab, Partickhill Games, 2015]
Salubrious Cells:

The Relaxing, Fluid Feel and Fresh, Stylized Design of Partickhill Games’ Tricone Lab

 

Tricone Lab screenshot with many chambers - Partickhill Games Limited

Introduction:

A few weeks ago, your Mid-week Mission was a review of a new indie puzzle game centering on triangles. This week, your Mid-week Mission is a review of a new indie puzzle game centering on triangles. Superficial similarities and kidding aside, Tricone Lab by Partickhill Games offers a totally unique and enjoyable tour through an alternate-dimension chemistry and biology. It is a logic-based puzzle game that I enjoyed enough that I finished its suite of 100 included levels in just three sessions.

Still, with the game in early access at present—and not having scratched the surface of the community-made levels on offer—I am by no means finished fabricating Tricones as of yet. And don’t be fooled by the screenshots in this article looking grey and lifeless, by the way; the levels are in constant motion, and the constituent elements feel lively and organic when playing. It’s not all peaches and cream, as you’ll find below, but overall I want to spend this article convincing you that playing Tricone Lab is a relaxing and fun use of your time.

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[Game: Tricone Lab, Partickhill Games, 2015]
Salubrious Cells:

The Relaxing, Fluid Feel and Fresh, Stylized Design of Partickhill Games’ Tricone Lab

was last modified: January 7th, 2021 by Daniel Podgorski

[Game: Volvox, Neotenia, 2015]
A Natural Selection:

On the Strong Core Gameplay and Puzzle Design in Neotenia’s Volvox

 

Volvox, an indie puzzle game developed by the small Italian team Neotenia, was one of the bold (or unfortunate) few to have a release in the weeks directly preceding a Steam Winter sale, which seem every bit as capable of eclipsing new Steam releases as they were prior to the sales’ recent regrettable-but-understandable format changes.

Volvox‘s store page boasts 250 levels in its campaign (and accordingly 60 hours of entertainment), which had me both intrigued and wary. A promise of that much content makes me wonder if the quality keeps up throughout, and whether it strays at times into repetition. As you can probably tell from the title of the article, my concerns were laid to rest; let me tell you how and why.

Volvox screenshot with cutscene sequence - Neotenia - difficult puzzle game Continue reading

[Game: Volvox, Neotenia, 2015]
A Natural Selection:

On the Strong Core Gameplay and Puzzle Design in Neotenia’s Volvox

was last modified: March 26th, 2020 by Daniel Podgorski

[Game: Spacechem, Zachtronics, 2011]
Lost in Spacechem:

The Addiction, Atmosphere, and Exquisite Challenge of Zachtronics’ Spacechem

Introduction:

Last week was another slightly heavy entry into this series, focusing on the interpretation of pixel art, and pixel art as an artistic movement. So, just like my post on Offspring Fling! from two weeks ago, I will be making this post another lighter recommendation. The game which I would like to recommend, however, is hardly light, and it goes by the name Spacechem.

No true fan of puzzle games should go through life without having experienced this title. Spacechem is an amazing piece of software, elegant in its game-design simplicity and staggering in its gameplay complexity. But also like that Offspring Fling! article, it is not the primary gameplay of Spacechem which is going to the focus of this article: instead it is an aspect of the game that I haven’t seen many people mention: the game’s atmosphere and story. Yes, this game is a satisfying yet relentless challenge, but its virtues do not end there.

Spacechem Screenshot - Zachtronics - atmosphere, aesthetics, story

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[Game: Spacechem, Zachtronics, 2011]
Lost in Spacechem:

The Addiction, Atmosphere, and Exquisite Challenge of Zachtronics’ Spacechem

was last modified: March 26th, 2020 by Daniel Podgorski

[Game: Offspring Fling!, Kyle Pulver, 2012]
A Hidden Gauntlet:

The Brutal Platformer Hiding Behind the Lovely Facade of Offspring Fling!

 

Introduction:

After the heavy subject matter and dense theoretical prose of your last Mid-week Mission, I am just going to make this one a brief recommendation of another cheap, oft-overlooked indie product. This might just be another outlying opinion on a tiny title, but when it comes to Offspring Fling!, I love the game.

After beating Offspring Fling! casually (or as soon as you care to notice it), the real challenge of the title opens up: one of the most precise and challenging speed-run systems built into a game of which I am aware, which upon completion unlocks a suite of precision platforming bonus levels.

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[Game: Offspring Fling!, Kyle Pulver, 2012]
A Hidden Gauntlet:

The Brutal Platformer Hiding Behind the Lovely Facade of Offspring Fling!

was last modified: August 26th, 2020 by Daniel Podgorski