A delightfully tricky little puzzle game that merges originality with the comfort of familiarity.
In a world of a million and one puzzle games, it’s always refreshing to find an iOS game that balances recognizable influences with a breadth of originality, and The Bearded Hero – the debut from Danish indie Team Square – succeeds on both counts.
This fiendish little puzzler, like its titular hero, is small and well formed, with excellent graphics, straightforward gameplay and a right mix of simplicity and frustration that keeps you picking up rather than launching your device through the closest window.
It all starts easily enough, with a simple point, drag, click game design that is uncomplicated. You click the hero, drag him along the route you want him to take, and click to set him off: collecting rings like a more cuddly Sonic the Hedgehog and avoiding ghoulies (or evilings as they’re called in-game) like a Pac-Man with more time on his hands.
The game is made up of seven worlds, each with five puzzles, plus six bonus levels each unlocked by completing two harder tasks in each world. There’s a story attempting (and mostly failing) to link it all together into a meaningful narrative, but it’s just extraneous detail that would have been better off left out completely.
Those negatives are few and far between. Once you’ve picked up the controls, you’re rapidly put on a steep learning curve. Not too dissimilar to the Flappy Bird style of one slip up and you have to start again, it has mastered the art of making the player kick themselves every time an error is made – whether it’s missing that eviling when you think you’ve finally figured out the one non-death delivering route to completion, or you end up in a part of a level that you subsequently can’t get out of again without killing yourself. Like Flappy Bird, it’s only made worse by the exquisite level design, which seems to make every level appear easier than the last while it actually gets more difficult.
From a puzzler, it’s exactly what you want. The difficulty, plus the illusion of simplicity, equals an addictive nature that means you can’t put down the game mid-level. Like a tough Sudoku without notes, you have to remember every possibility and order of how you tackle each level. By the end of the game there’s only one way to complete a level, and by that point it’ll take you a good twenty minutes to figure it all out. One slip of the finger (especially at iPhone screen size) and the whole level starts again.
That quality at its core is what makes you happily overlook the negatives – which are few but obvious. As much as it wants to be, this isn’t a story-led puzzler of the kind that Professor Layton has mastered, it’s more like an original mix of Pac-Man and Minesweeper – easy to pick up, devilish to master. With no in-app purchases, no ads and decent number of hours of gameplay, the tiny price is well worth it if you’re looking for an entertaining game to simply pick up and play.
Size: 71.7 MB
Platform: iOS Universal (Meant for a larger screen)