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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.”
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.
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.
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.
Price: $4.99 / £2.99
Size: 235 MB
Platform: iOS Universal
Developer: Loveshack Entertainment
- Unique concept
- Fluid gameplay
- Uninterrupted action
- 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