The puzzle platformer is a genre that I have a distinctive love/hate relationship for. It just depends on the mood I’m in. At times these games satisfy an itch deep inside my cranial cavities that only wishes to validate my intelligence. Other times these games actively repulse me, mostly because I’m too stupid to solve the puzzle. I won’t lie, I kind of suck at puzzle platformers, yet they still fascinate me. The Portal series is commonly referred to as the puzzle game to end all puzzle games and I would generally agree. It has outstanding puzzles, unique mechanics, and absolutely stellar writing. It succeeds in nearly every aspect of what it takes to be a near perfect game. Anther one of the most fantastic puzzle games ever created is the incredibly neat Antichamber, quite possibly one of the most mindbogglingly beautiful games I have played to date. It’s funny because that game confused me for ages. Some of the puzzles were rudimentary and archaic and at times I felt like I was unpleasantly bashing my head into a wall for hours on end. Yet, I persevered through the puzzlescape and felt a strange satisfaction.
That’s the beauty of the puzzle game.
There is an elusiveness to what is required of the player. There is an inherent manipulation of mechanics and utilization of logic to further advance the narrative and it is all derived from player agency. The player must do these things. It doesn’t matter how, they just must, and there is a sense of satisfaction in that. The player feels like they are accomplishing something. It’s a stimulating experience, even if at times, the experience does not always resonate with me.
Anomaly 1729 continues to scratch that same itch that it’s predecessors had done once before. Anomaly 1729 is a puzzle platformer from developer Anvil Drop. It was released in December of 2015 to little fanfare yet it is decidedly one of the best within the puzzle platformer genre. It’s a title that is challenging yet still manages to ease you into the ever increasing difficulties in step by step manner. The main mechanic of this game is the utilization of your unidentified gravity gun to manipulate the gravity and position of you and other objects. The game has a unique art style that borders between hushed minimalism and high detail. Now, this isn’t to say that the actual visual fidelity is sharp because it really isn’t. The game is pleasant to look at but manages at times to feel a bit low quality which isn’t necessarily a bad thing but it is just something that I noticed. Another significant issue is tearing. V-Sync seems to be nonexistent causing some screen tearing. At certain times the game is virtually unplayable, which is tragic because I just want to play more of it.
The core mechanics revolve around shooting your gravity gun, which has two alternate fire modes that alter gravity accordingly. With these abilities you must shoot nodes which alter your placement on the field of play. You must continue to manipulate gravity until the level is completed and you reach the door. The two different firing modes allow for some interesting gameplay decisions which will help further your purpose of reaching the door.
Gravity is a huge part of this game (and life but don’t tell anyone that) and I can only compare it to the mediocre third-person shooter Inversion. I know very few people will even know what Inversion is but it is the closest comparison I can find too it but please don’t let that confuse you. Anomaly 1729 is nothing like that dumpster fire of a game. Anomaly is unique and most importantly fun. During my play through I can’t deny that I was having a good time. The games mechanics are fun and refreshing and I definitely would consider playing through the game again.
One of the things that caught me straight away when I booted Anomaly 1729 up was the music. Oh my, the music. There’s nothing flashy to it, no heavy synths, or guitars, or electronica beats, or a symphonic melody. It’s just simple and that suits this visually simple yet mechanically complex game. It fits everything that’s happening.
I really want to commend the storytelling throughout the game. It’s simple but it uses some interesting techniques to make the story grow in its length and complexity. Symbols and words from some unknown dialect scatter along the usually clean cut walls around the levels. At times random scribblings will appear at the bottom of the screen in the unknown, indecipherable language. It’s really exciting to be thrown into this world with absolutely no background into what’s happening. It’s a ton of fun and reminds me a lot of the language deciphering from Fez but significantly toned down in its severity.
Now that the gushing is done with, let’s get down to some issues that I had. As mentioned earlier, screen tearing was a big problem through the duration of the game. Another issue that I encountered that seems minimal, but is bizarre nonetheless was clipping through objects. As I manipulated gravity and the physical level changed as well as my position, my character would clip through particular objects and it would require me to jump out of the block. It’s generally harmless but it is immersion breaking. Other than these minor issues there isn’t really a lot to complain about.
4 out of 5
I enjoyed my time with this game. It was an incredible experience and I sincerely urge others to go out and play this. The puzzles are never unbearable or unbelievably difficult but they are enjoyable. Pick this game up, I don’t think you’ll regret it.