Game

Fast-paced, narrative-driven noir puzzler

Every now and then we get sick of trawling the PR emails in search of something interesting to review. When that happens, we cast the net wider than our inboxes and set off in search of the apps we really want to write about. Unfortunately, we’re often faced with similar problems – scoping out the App Store, we lose track of all the new apps described as “a puzzle game – with a twist.”

The thin ledges in lieu of platforms makes some levels like this more mind-boggling

The thin ledges in lieu of platforms makes some levels like this more mind-boggling

If every app bearing this tagline was true to its spiel then we’d have to stop the game, because there’s no way all of those apps can put their right foot on the red circle while simultaneously placing an elbow on green. It’s just. Not. Possible.

And then we found Framed: a puzzle game with a fantastically original approach to this sometimes stale genre. Set up like a comic book, gameplay develops around a series of short cut-scenes that lay out a narrative. A man with a (presumably stolen) briefcase is trying to evade a number of potential captors. Legging it through each comic-book panel, he eventually runs into one of these assailants, who levels a gun at him and brings the chase to a sudden end. It’s your job to move the panels of the comic book so that the narrative links up in a specific way, allowing the mystery man to reach the final panel unscathed. From there you move on to the next page.

The hardest ones are those that have very similar frames

The hardest ones are those that have very similar frames

Framed is original in both concept and execution. It’s also uniquely stylish. Set up like a crime-noir adventure, the lead characters are all shadows, pork-pie hats, white carnations, and cigarettes. Against the deliberately mysterious silence of the characters runs a fun, jazzed-up music soundtrack.

On first play you might wonder whether this really is a puzzle game, because the narrative seems to be the dominant feature. But soon you’ll realize that it’s your own attention to detail in moving the panels that’s going to keep you alive and get you on to the next level. If your runner gets into trouble, you’ll have to start the level again.

Sometimes they're around every corner. Solution? Flip the corners.

Sometimes they’re around every corner. Solution? Flip the corners.

It may all sound pretty samey, but the difficulty ramps up quickly as new types of panels are introduced, including ones that rotate on an axis, changing the dynamic of the whole scene rather than just swapping a few images around. You also need to figure out the different gameplay techniques required to conquer some of the really tough levels – we’re not going to help you out here!

The overall narrative might feel a little flat but, more than anything, Framed is a celebration of design, and we loved its originality, its playability, and its breathless pace. It comes highly recommended.

Moving the frames around determines at what point in the narrative the guy climbs the stairs

Moving the frames around determines at what point in the narrative the guy climbs the stairs

Price: $4.99 / £2.99
Size: 235 MB
Version: 1.0.0
Platform: iOS Universal
Developer: Loveshack Entertainment

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Review: Framed - Comic book noir puzzler
This fast-paced puzzler takes all the usual tropes of the genre and throws them right out the window (Frame).
For
  • Unique concept
  • Fluid gameplay
  • Uninterrupted action
Against
  • You can't seem to go back to the menu or previous levels
  • If you get *really* stuck, there's not a lot to go back for
4.5Overall Score