The Cerebral Puzzle Showcase is underway on Steam, offering demos and discounts on puzzle games until Monday. It is quite a lot of puzzle games. If your head feels itchy and your brain distinctly unteased, here, I have a few recommendations to get you started.
Dissembler – £1.99/€2.24/$1.99 (50% off)
As I’ve written before, it takes tile-flipping ideas of match-3 games but has you finding the correct order to make matches and carefully remove every tile until nothing remains. I dig it!
Return Of The Obra Dinn – £10.84/€11.75/$13.99 (30% off)
This murder mystery aboard a cursed ship has been cheaper in sales before, but it’s still one of the very best puzzle games and worth it. The Obra Dinn has been found adrift, her entire crew dead or missing, and it’s up to you to figure out what happened with the help of a magic pocketwatch which lets you revisit the frozen moment of someone’s death. So to fill out our ledger, we must identify bones and uncover what caused them to become bones, by listening to moments of drama, cross-referencing with illustrations, scruntising socks of sleeping sailors, tracking relationships, and so many more techniques to solve the serial catastrophes. A deductive delight. I adore the clanging bells on the soundtrack, too.
See our Return Of The Obra Dinn review for more, and we declared it our favourite game of 2018 too. If you’ve already got it, hey, maybe you’ll enjoy The Mechanic’s chat with creator Lucas Pope about that vital ledger.
Hexcells Complete Pack – £1.79/€2.69/$2.69 (70% off)
That’s a hell of a lot of Minesweeper-ish logic puzzling for two quid. John Walker was a huge fan of the series, reviewing all three games in this bundle across the years: Hexcells, Hexcells Plus, and Hexcells Infinite. In the last of those three reviews, he said the series “offers that ideal position of apparent simplicity, but a depth of complexity.” I have to mention these games, or he’d get me.
Outer Wilds – £11.69/€12.59/$14.99 (40% off)
What a joy to be trapped within a time loop in a solar system about to explode! The open-world investigation game gives us a wee spaceship to freely explore so many mysteries, to figure out what’s going on and what happened before. A whole little solar system running like clockwork, inviting us to learn every gear of the mechanism. Our favourite game of 2019.
“It’s Groundhog Day in an astronaut’s suit,” Brendy said in our Outer Wilds review. “But it is also a learning game, generous of spirit, playful and encouraging. It taps into all those Carl Saganisms that make us look at the night sky and nod enthusiastically at the Big Dipper. Overflowing with a toyish love of astronomy and physics, it jettisons stuffy formulae for adventures on dangerous planets full of sand, and one-way trips to icy comets hurtling around the sun.”
It is currently in Epic’s sale, where it does qualify for a bonus 25% discount coupon. But I’m including it here for serious Steamers.
Into The Breach – £5.69/€7.49/$7.49 (50% off)
Like Obra Dinn, this has been cheaper before, but like Obra Dinn, this is one of the very best puzzle games. Or best strategy games. Or both. Human civilisation is ravaged by rampaging giant monsters, so we control squads of time-travelling mecha jumping between timelines to stop the end of the world. It’s a roguelikelike turn-based strategy game, each campaign a new challenge, but battles feel strongly puzzle-y. Each turn, you know exactly what your enemies will do and what your attacks will do, letting you plot complex chains of attacks, shoves, and blocks. So plan carefully, scratch your head hard, and you can pull of wonderfully complex cascades to save the day while squishing bugs. A joy.
“There are those games whose technology or setpieces or storytelling I thrill to,” Alec Meer said in our Into The Breach review. “Then there are the games where I marvel, most of all, at the elegance of the design, the remarkable precision at which so many interlocking gears are arranged, particularly in something as breezily-executed as Into The Breach. The Spelunkies, the Slay The Spires and, of course, the FTLs. Into The Breach effortlessly joins those ranks, instantly feeling ageless and ingenious, a collecting of long-known designs honed to a glorious sheen.”
It is cheaper in Epic’s current sale (and has been free there before too) but I know some folks prefer Steam.
Gorogoa – £3.41/€4.49/$4.49 (70% off)
John’s glowing Gorogoa review said the picture panel puzzler is “a beautiful story in which you solve puzzles more by instinct than deduction, and their solutions feel as magical as the process.”
Gunpoint – £1.20/€1.40/$1.99 (80% off)
A real-time stealth-action-puzzle game which includes one of the most joyous puzzling tools in puzzling history: shoving men out windows. It’s a few years old now but John revisited it not so long ago and would still push you to have a go. Push, eh?
Stephen’s Sausage Roll – £9.51/€9.99/$11.99 (60% off)
A fiendishly clever and careful Sokoban-y game about cooking sausages to perfection.
“Weirdly for a game about sausages the size of hay bales, I’d say this is all meat and no fat or filler,” Pip said in our Stephen’s Sausage Roll review. “It’s a blessing for people like me who will tussle with it over a series of lovely evenings or keep it running in the background to fiddle with throughout the day. For others it will be a royal pain in the arse, an utterly inaccessible gem taunting them with its low poly style and seemingly-simple gameplay.”
Manifold Garden – £8.79/€8.79/$10.99 (45% off)
I am fascinated and distressed by the infinite repeating void architecture of this 3D first-person puzzler, and I’m not the only one.
“I cannot help but imagine myself, trapped in an endless kaleidoscope. Running through corridor after identical corridor. Walking out of a room and finding myself on a pyramid of steps without end. Just running around the same strange building, and only seeing more of that building. Forever. I cannot imagine a worse horror. Argh,” Alice Bee said in our Manifold Garden review. “Good puzzles, though.”
Oh, this is in Epic’s current sale too. It’s not expensive enough to qualify for a coupon by itself, but if you’re buying a few things?
Baba Is You – £7.97/€8.74/$10.49 (30% off)
A delightful puzzle game about rearranging phrases to redefine how objects in the world work, including yourself. Won the Best Design prize at the 2020 IGF awards.
John’s Baba Is You review declared “this is wonderful. Completely wonderful. Original, inspired, challenging, and most importantly of all, that constant sense of ‘Oh no, how will I ever do this one!’ so quickly followed by, ‘I AM A GENIUS!’ It’s a very, very smart game, that has the humility to let you, the player, feel like the clever one.
Which other chinscratchers and brainteasers would you recommend, reader dear?
Disclosure: Gunpoint dev Tom Francis has written for RPS.