Platforms: PC, Nintendo Switch (reviewed)
Publisher: Surprise Attack Games
Release: 17th May 2018
You can think what you want about mobile games but sometimes there are some true gems hidden behind the flood of money-grabbing idle-games. Especially the puzzle genre got some magnificent new titles solely on this platform. So while series like The Room slowly make their way to PC and alike, developer Loveshack and Surprise Attack Games chose to include yet another one in their combined release of the FRAMED Collection: The Switch. A puzzler based around moving tiles is just the right fit for the console after all.
Fitting for a game originally made for quick play sessions, FRAMED 1 and 2 don´t feature much of a story nor voice acting. Instead, they centre about different persons chased by the police while trying to escape with a mysterious suitcase. Unfortunately, all their attempts end in them being caught, requiring the player´s interactions to guide them to safety. This is done by moving the different tiles every level is divided into. What may end in a tragedy, may certainly result in a safe escape if you plan the right route.
It´s a very simple system in a very simple environment and setting, naturally, the games don´t last that long with 4-6 hours for each of them. Still, simply moving tiles around can quickly become stale if done for several hours. In order to prevent this exact thing, Loveshack did one of the most important things for any good puzzle game: They add all kinds of new mechanics to the mix every few levels. Beginning with the ability to flip panels or even reuse them on the fly, to build new, way larger corridors than seemingly possible. All of them are unique and achieve exactly what each puzzler needs: Diversity. However, due to the mobile nature of FRAMED, there aren´t many points where more than one of those features has to be used. Instead, the gimmicks just switch each other out.
This is especially a problem for someone who craves a challenge since none of those two titles is actually hard to complete. While Loveshack came up with many ideas, besides those previously named gimmicks, for the level design, all of them are mastered in no time. For example, perspective plays a huge role, because of the comic book style. Understanding when the character is in what section after each panel plays a huge role. For example, there are sections with crossroads, differently coloured backgrounds or ladders you have to avoid or use to achieve something. Those are all great ways to play with the chosen medium and camera, particularly because they work so flawlessly well here. Yet, as I said, the short levels never give room to actually create harder puzzles.
Even when I was stuck for some minutes, it wasn´t due to the difficulty but rather the weird design. Normally, FRAMED does a great job at communicating usable objects through colouring. Sadly, when that´s not the case, you´re doomed to restart the level over and over again, until you´re lucky enough to find the one thing needed to progress. This happened to me at least twice in every game, making the experience more trial and error heavy than necessary.
Though, besides those little dips in quality, I was surprised at how easy it was to complete every game in almost 1-2 sittings. Especially with mobile games, the pacing is normally designed to provide motivation for 5-10 minutes, before becoming repetitive. Surprisingly, not here, since spread in-between those rather draining puzzle levels are short “story-passages” where nothing else happens than seeing how the characters “interact” with each other. Sometimes accompanied by story twists, they never require anything more from the player than switching 1 tile. They act as downtime, for both the game and player to breathe and prepare for the next couple mind-challenges. An easy trick to both be able to introduce new mechanics and create a rewarding, highly motivating pacing.
What´s most striking about the FRAMED Collection is its style though, after all that´s the first thing one sees. Oriented on old movies, Loveshack created a beautifully animated experience with a presentation to fall in love with. The black and white persons, which tell a story without words, to the colourful environments. Every new gimmick has a whole new theme, colour palette and even soundtrack variations. Speaking of which, the underlying jazz music is just as enchanting as the rest. Given, it´s not a revolutionary style but executed in a perfect fashion, especially for a mobile game.
Despite minor flaws, FRAMED Collection is nonetheless an amazing little puzzler. Especially considering its mobile nature and the price tag of 9.99, there really isn´t anything worth complaining about. Anyone ready for a stylish, well-designed and interesting indie game shouldn´t miss out on this amazing collection.
[A Review Code was provided by Surprise Attack Games]