A lot of games these days are simply too easy. First person shooters with constantly regenerating health, platform games with infinite lives, and a general feeling of games not wanting to make you do sections more than once or twice.
Puzzle of the Dead doesn’t play by those rules. Not in the least.
It’s a puzzle game of the old school variety, perfectly happy to make you do a level time and again. Death is only ever a moments loss of concentration away, as is discovering that you have made a mistake right at the start of the level when you thought you had nearly finished it.
Luckily, these things aren’t negative points, but they are just one of many things that mark Puzzle of the Dead out as a fantastic game.
The game is essentially a block moving puzzler, viewed from above, with the action taking place on single screen levels. You play Pip, a boy who suffers from a case of unrequited love, and enlists the help of a witch who promises to make the object of his affection fall in love with him, but requires souls of the dead in payment for this. The best place to start gathering souls? The graveyard.
Each level has a number of blue souls to collect, the completion of this unveils a key, which then allows progress to the next stage.
The blocks in each level perform a variety of functions, from stepping stones across streams to blocking lasers from enemies, of which there are many. Zombies and their other undead pals are out to get you, and one touch of an enemy and its game over. Planning is required to survive, and especially as some of the levels are just insane with their complexity, but no matter how good you are at forward thinking, there will be many times where you will be stuck, repeating levels again and again.
The game allows you to skip a few levels, but you are limited in the amount of skips you have, so be sure that you are truly stuck before using one. The beauty of this system is that you can skip a level that is giving you a headache, and then always come back to it later when you need your precious level skip back.
The game has style is spades. Looking a lot like a classic NES game, the game has a minimalist style that retro players will find beautiful, with all of the characters memorable in their own way. The music is perfectly set with a nice mix of the haunting and the jaunty, again very much like an updated 8 bit soundtrack.
There are sixty levels to plow through, with the journey starting in the graveyard and ending up in Hell, and the difficulty doesn’t let up at any point. There are even bosses along the way, and story cut scenes to keep you interested.
There are a couple of negatives here though. Firstly, there is a quick restart level button, but this is far too close to the menu button, and as the level just restarts as soon as you press it, without a query, there are a couple of times where i have accidently restarted a stage when i meant to pause the action. Putting it the other side of the skull timer would be more sensible.
Secondly, the controls, while decent in that they allow you to swipe to move one square along, or hold to keep moving, aren’t for everyone. An option to have a simple dpad or stick for those that want to change would be nice, as it can become quite tiresome swiping around blocks over a period of time.
Fret not, as these are both small problems, and easily fixed by the developer.
What you are getting here is an atmospheric, challenging and gorgeous puzzle game, and if you are a fan of the classics from the past, then pretty much an essential download.