25 Nov 2011

Everything in its right place: English Country Tune

English Country Tune by increpare games is a brand new puzzler with a fairly abstract design aesthetic. The menu screen itself is a collection of interconnected spherical worlds around which you almost float as you select each part to play. But it works terrifically.

The completion of the puzzles themselves can centre around several conditions. You might be maneuvering little orange balls into their wireframe cages, or you may have to remove solid blocks known as ‘whales’ from the world by knocking them from the edge of existence. Although victory conditions may differ, the kind of structures that the game takes place on remain the same, albeit becoming far more elaborate as the game progresses.

Each level is made up of a collection of cuboids over which your avatar - a flip-flopping square of equal size to each cube’s side - can travel over in any direction (providing their are no barriers). It’s a really interesting game to control, simple in its visual stylings and only the arrow keys are required to move. After a few tutorial levels, you’ll start to get the hang of just how things work and, despite how complicated navigation could have been in this environment, increpare has done great job of keeping things simple here.

The variety of puzzles in English Country Tune is commendable considering how restrictive the basic mechanics initially appear. The game does a good job of adding in little tricks and twists as you progress and, although things can become overwhelming, for the most part I found the puzzles to be far simpler than they first appeared. It’s an interesting feeling, spending ten minutes on a puzzle, racking your brains, only to discover that the solution was only a few short steps away, down some pathway that somehow just didn’t occur to you.

That’s not to say that there aren’t some real brainteasers here. There are many. I’m completely stumped on several puzzles, but most solutions do come with great elation and often a facepalm as punishment for your own stupidity. Problems do arise when complexity of the setup of an individual puzzle makes it tricky to pre-plan a solution, after which you end up madly testing directions for some kind of undeserved epiphany, but this is not often the case.

English Country Tune is both minimalist and calmly executed. The persistent ambient music makes a decent attempt at soothing any brain-ache from particularly difficult puzzles and generally the game is thoroughly pleasant to dip in and out of. It’s hard to take for long stints as it rarely lets up in required concentration once it gets going, but there’s plenty to be rewarded by here and a good deal of content to make your way through.

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