Indie Game of the Week 81: Puzzle Puppers

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Mento

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Welcome to the latest episode of "let's clear out some DRM-free games that have been sitting on my desktop for long enough", a feature-within-a-feature here on Indie Game of the Week. Puzzle Puppers is one of those Indie puzzle games that quite obviously began as a mobile game; it's not so much the basic controls and interface that gives this away but the sort of simple appeal of the aesthetic, where there's a lot of texture-free low-poly environments colored with a palette of light pastels. That's not to denigrate the game for its origins - if you're making a small puzzle game, a portable device is the ideal place for them - but this sort of codified appearance makes them all start to run together after a while.

The goal of the game is to maneuver a pupper around a grid so that it reaches its food bowl, where it can chow down contentedly. There's also chunks of meat scattered around the stage, and collecting those can make the difference between a one-, two-, or three-star result (the last being "perfect") though are strictly optional otherwise. The puppers don't actually move from their original spots; instead, they stretch out impossibly like the snakes from Snake (or, as I imagine this was the influence, the excitable Lesser Doggo from Toby Fox's Undertale) and create winding circuits around the stage in their wake. This becomes a secondary issue as you figure out how to navigate past where you've already been or else have the pupper's head trapped inside its own flank. These issues are exacerbated further when you have multiple puppers, each with their own color-coded food bowls to get to, and various stage obstacles like a water flume that automatically moves puppers downstream or subterranean tunnels that are linked together in pairs.

They're stretchy puppers, Brent.
They're stretchy puppers, Brent.

In spite of the building complexity of the stages and the amount of Snakebird-tier hair-pulling that could ensue, the game stays on the right side of challenging but not impossible. This can lead to an uneven challenge curve at times, where I was moving through stages at a clip before and after the harder roadstops, but there's so much of that process that's subjective: it could be I blew past those stages because I lucked upon the right solution immediately. Another point to the game's credit, and a possibly serendipitous one considering the screen size limit of a mobile game, is that the stages were compact enough that I was rarely intimidated by the number of options available. Even if I couldn't always visualize a hundred steps ahead for my stretchy doggos, you could feasibly trial-and-error it for a while until either an epiphany hit or you simply lucked into the solution. With eighty stages, I didn't mind the game's quick pace, and it's rare that I can actually complete one of these spatial awareness puzzle games let alone do so in a few hours. If this was the aforementioned Snakebird or Stephen's Sausage Roll, I imagine I'd still be trapped in the first set of puzzles.

Puzzle Puppers is breezy, cute, and not particularly demanding, which is really all I could want from a casual puzzle game. I ran into a slight snafu with my DRM-free version with a glitched meat collectible on the final stage, so I couldn't get the full three-star clear, but it sounds like that issue was patched in the Steam and iOS/Android versions. It wasn't enough to sour the whole experience, at least. The game could've benefitted from a few more ideas and stage obstacles to mix things up and push it to a nice even 100 stages, maybe switch around the current stage order so there's a bit more of a building difficulty curve than erratic spikes, or even added different backgrounds and stage music for the sake of variety, but it's hard to be too critical about a game like this. It'd be like kicking a... well, yeah.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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frymillstrum

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Genuinly thought the OP had tried to create a thread title called Puzzle Fuckers and the GB censoring changed it to puppers.

Good times...

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millionthlayla

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I bought this one during the last Steam summer sale and had a fun time playing through it. Puzzles are good, puppers are good, elasticity is good(?), so the three of them combined? Pretty good. Probably the only thing I really didn't care for was the last level. There were entirely too many routes to keep track of, and my memory isn't that great, so it took some persistence. Other than that, it was an enjoyable way to pass a few hours. Good blog entry. :) It's always nice to see more obscure games get featured that I wouldn't expect to see any discussion of.

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