Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Mood, Music, and Perfect Puzzles: Obduction

Image from Flinti Game Walkthrough: Scrapyard Cash Register Puzzle

Third Review, No Spoilers: Obduction by Cyan

Four worlds—well, five, if you count Earth. Three alien species. Dozens of mental puzzles, hundreds of physical conundrums, and several numeric problems to solve. 

You've got help. Sort of. There's a curmudgeon named Cecil who has some clues to offer, but mostly wants you to connect a cable to his battery. Little blue wisps of light guide you through the maze of possible paths. Notes, ledgers and journals provide hints. But it is up to you to explore, try things, and figure out what's really important here—and what is dangerous!

Four trees, and lots of powerful seeds. These seeds swap things; they grab people (and machines) from one world and move them to another, swap chunks of landscape around, collect specimens from one universe and dump them somewhere else. We need to keep the trees healthy, and control those seeds.

Idle machinery, some of it totally alien, and scarcely a clue how to get it working. You know you need it running, because you're stuck in a dead-end without the elevators, trolleys, and other motor-driven equipment that sits there, waiting for power. Or the right code to turn it on. Or another machine running first.

Mysterious noises and music help set the mood, like Farley's Theme, or the Mayor's pompous ceremonial march. Thrums and clinks of machinery, rumbles of thunder—maybe—or perhaps it's a bird. Or a frog. Or an alien bug. You can't tell until you get there, and most of the doors are locked.

Everything twists and turns; everything is connected, or it isn't. You don't know until you try, and then go away and think about what worked, what didn't, and what you know so far. These are the moody mental puzzles we loved from Myst and Riven, multi-sensory like the real world, requiring intellectual dexterity, memory, and persistence to solve them. You can't shoot your way through (with one or two exceptions!), and you can't muscle your way past them. You can only think, and ponder, and keep trying.

Get carried away. Obduction will do it to you.

Liner Notes:

  1. I've noted in a previous review of this game that you may need to drop resolution and features in return for speed of game play. There are many YouTube videos of Obduction game play that will allow you to view those high-res images you've traded for quicker play. One of the best is from Flinti, who tells you in the title image for each video which puzzle he's solving. Yes, you can peek ahead if you get totally frustrated, but I use them to watch a hi-res play-through for the ones I've already solved. Flinti shares his thought processes as he solves them, too, which is an additional value to the player.
  2. My second review noted crashes or halts in the game, as well as super-long loads for transition screens. Much of this has been amended by game updates. Initial load time is still far too long.
  3. Proportional sizing of windows, I now find, is automatic when you select the window frame size (if you also have the Appear in Window Frame option selected.) Some images, text in particular, still black out at the bottom, even when the proportions are handled automatically. This may be a memory/loading problem.
  4. Screen grabs are a feature, but appear to only be viewable from inside the game.