I hate puzzle games. I may have enough pointless trivia knowledge to make pub quiz teams across the country quake in their boots, but give me anything logical to solve and I will be face down in a toilet puking the bad feelings out.
I’m not sure why that is, apart from me just being naturally not good at the brain. So whenever I am asked to confront my biggest fear while doing what I love (playing games), one of two things always happen: 1) I grunt my way angrily through it before eventually giving up or 2) I go immediately to YouTube to avoid the pain.
It’s not always the case, however. There are some puzzle games -and even some that don’t truly present themselves as puzzle games- that I can live with, and kind of love. If you hate puzzles as much as I do, here are some suggestions that might spare your controller from its demise.
1. The Talos Principle
From the offset, The Talos Principle is every inch the puzzle game. Head-scratchingly convoluted solutions to what look like easy problems are the norm, but it’s in how it presents itself that makes it so much more inviting to overcome its many trials. It’s a gorgeous game overflowing with character and lore, so even if you can’t quite figure a puzzle out, you can just enjoy a few minutes of taking in the views.
2. Hotline Miami I & II
As much as it may look like a retro-powered nightmare of bullets and baseball bats, Hotline Miami is actually a puzzle game. No, really. Each level is about following the patterns as efficiently as possible to eliminate all hostiles. For instance, once you burst through a door, you know that Enemy A is going to come out at you from the left door while Enemy B is going to want to squeeze a round off. When you strip everything away, Hotline Miami is like a violent game of Tetris.
There’s no collecting gems or rotating cows until they make the shape of a moon in Playdead’s masterful Inside: it’s all about the simple things instead. Like how you can stop a pack of dogs from eating you, or how you can use brainwashed people to help you cross a chasm. You know, the good old things. While you’re playing Inside, try not to marvel at how beautifully ugly it is and get lost in the softly-spoken puzzle platformer instead. It’s really quite special.
4. Portal 1 & 2
More or less the perfect puzzle games for those who otherwise hate them, the Portal series’ USP is one that others have tried to copy but haven’t even come close. Using a portal gun, you are able to reach different areas and also completely mess around with constantly shifting objects. Better yet, Portal II lets you team up with a friend to realise how utterly stupid you both are. Nothing brings people closer together than shared idiocy.
I might be reaching here, but Absolver is a puzzle game not only because it’s a puzzle trying to figure out what you’re supposed to do, but also because of the way it presents its deck system. It’s a genuinely satisfying challenge trying to figure which moves work the best in which slots based against your playstyle; finding out what suits you is going to bring on a lot of pain, though. When you do find the right moves and feel like Big John Studd on growth hormones, it’s magnificent and a puzzle worth figuring out.
Do you have any puzzle games that you would recommend to puzzle strugglers? Drop them in the comments section below.
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