Friday, April 05, 2019
Indie game events like the Microsoft [email protected] showcase we attended last week in London always go the same way. We rock up, see the amount of indie games on offer and instantly wonder how we're ever going to fit them all into a three-hour session, then we proceed to have a mini-meltdown. Then, after we compose ourselves, we start with our most anticipated titles on show, obviously - which for me was of course Night School's follow up to Oxenfree, Afterparty (more on that tomorrow) - then we work our way round the room.
The start of these events always seem to go according to plan. Seeing game after game, making good time and then starting to feel good about ourselves and our time management. Then disaster strikes, you start playing a game that you can't put down and your schedule goes to shit. That game for me was Amanita Design's upcoming title, Creaks.
Amanita Design Games has made a name for itself over the years with wholly unique looking and feeling video games. Perhaps best known for their work on Machinarium and more recently Chuchel, the Czech indie devs have rocketed to the top of the indie development pile with their unique sense of style. Their upcoming puzzler, Creaks, is set to continue that trend. A beautiful-looking puzzler, Creaks is shaping up to be a game sure to test puzzle fans to the nth degree.
In Creaks you take control of a young man, thrown into the depths of a subterranean world of sorts, full with vicious looking robotic dogs, weird looking squids and more, tasked with finding your way out. The concept is simple as are the mechanics, the puzzles are not.
Creaks, in a nutshell, is a 2D puzzle platformer. I say platformer, but there isn't a whole lot of platforming that is actually done, although at times you'll be required to move with pace should you find a timed puzzle in your way. It's a game that rewards careful methodical thinking, one that pays to work out the puzzles before you jump headlong in. Well, early on that is the case, but as the puzzles get more complex, a little trial and error is in order.
With your only objective to escape the treacherous subterranean city lair, the puzzle objective speaks for itself: find the closest exit and make your way there. It's the mechanics that make Creaks a pure joy to play, however. Early on you'll be distracting robotic dogs, trying to make use of pressure pads, but then Amanita throws in another mechanic, one that turns the robotic dogs into pieces of furniture using the light sources in the game.
While early on the light sources are controlled by switches in the world, as you progress some are controlled by a remote device you hold. It's that ability to switch puzzles up on the fly and introduce new elements that keeps Creaks feeling fresh. For instance, one minute the light sources are being used to stop the robotic dogs from passing through them, acting as barriers of sorts, the next minute you're using them to turn the dogs into a chest of drawers that you can use to access previously inaccessible areas.
When Amanita introduces new enemies, that act as puzzle pawns and what not, the end result can be some seriously complex puzzles that will require every iota of your brain power to progress. Whether you're dealing with the squid-like enemies who travel a certain direction until you manipulate their direction of travel or the terrifying looking shadow men that follow your every move, or perhaps even all of the puzzle mechanics combined, Creaks is a puzzle-platformer that evolves at a rate of knots. But it's also one that does it perfectly in tandem with your understanding of the mechanics. It's no easy feat to pull something like that off.
At this point in the preview I'd usually sit here and say that we wish we'd spent more time with Creaks - and that is still somewhat true - but the truth is, out of a three-hour event we spent nearly a third of that on one game. In the grand scheme of things with events like this, where there's usually about a dozen games on offer, the fact I spent a third of that playing one game should speak volumes. Not only does Creaks have a wonderfully unique art-style, as you would expect from an Amanita Designs game, but the gameplay is fairly addictive as well. Creaks is shaping up to be a bit of a treat! Don't believe us, then check out the gameplay to whet the ol' appetite.
Creaks is coming in 2019.