December 24, 2012 4:00 PM | Staff
[Guest editor Colin Brown profiles the games currently offered in the Xmas Bundle 2.0 from IndieGames' co-created site Indie Royale.]
Seeing the name Wadjet Eye attached to an adventure game usually conjures images of dark sci fi noir, or maybe paranormal comedy, but there's a fairly wide back catalogue of published games for Dave Gilbert and company, developed by a wide range of talented people and including many different genres. Case in point: Puzzle Bots, a game from developer Lively Ivy that plays out almost exactly like it sounds--bots doing puzzles--while simultaneously serving as a totally fresh premise for the adventure genre. Indeed, I was rather impressed and surprised by the game, enough that it really felt like a sleeper stand-out in the line-up.
Puzzle Bots places you in control of a five strong team of tiny robots, with the prime directive of going on dope adventures. The main puzzly action of the game comes from the constant escape attempts from your tiny fishbowl house, leading to situations where the Puzzle Bots encounter challenges in everyday environments like kitchens and dollhouses. The oversized world certainly offers a twist on the usual adventure game environments, and the ability to swap controls between bots with different abilities adds a wonderful team dynamic to the puzzles, a premise other Wadjet Eye published games would continue to exploit to great effect.
But in all honesty, the bots would be nothing without the dramatic tribulations going on in the background between the five full sized scientists. Each researcher hired by the enigmatic Dr. Hugo has created their own bot for your party, but it is the interactions between these characters that drive the very amusing plot along. Instead of serving as the driving force of the narrative, the inexperienced and confused robots become adorable commentators on the very silly lives of the geniuses, as well as inadvertent meddlers at just the wrong moments. The plotline of the game may be comparatively low stakes, as the world isn't exactly in danger or anything, but the romantic entanglements and slapstick misadventures of Dr. Hugo's staff leads to some excellent excuses for puzzling, as well as some genuinely hilarious writing. It's buoyed by the voice cast, with several Wadjet Eye voice vets behind the humans and some well timed R2D2 chirps for the bots. There is a bit of crackle in the quality, a common thread in early Wadjet Eye VOs, but ultimately the actors usually sell the delivery.
One catch I should mention is that Puzzle Bots doesn't take much to puzzle out for anyone remotely experienced with adventure games. The actual difficulty itself is very low, with relatively easy puzzles and a pretty spoilery hint system if you get truly stuck. Still, even as an adventure game expert, I loved the interactions between the bots themselves and the reflective dynamic with their human overlords. Robots misunderstanding humans is never not funny to me, making for a unique premise that Lively Ivy uses to great effect. Bad at adventures? This is a great place to begin. Awesome at adventures? Stick around for the jokes and writing. In short, Puzzle Bots turned out to be a very pleasant and unexpected surprise in this Indie Royale line-up.
[Colour Bind, Offspring Fling, Namiko, Little Kingdom, Puzzle Bots, Serious Sam: Double D, and Serious Sam: The Random Encounter are available now in Indie Royale's Xmas Bundle 2.0.]