Coign of Vantage
Simplify, simplify. Coign of Vantage is the latest in Bobblebrook's collection of worldly, sensitive casual games, and the gameplay mechanic couldn't be more basic. An icon appears on your screen, shattered into a cloud of its component pixels, and your job is to reassemble them into the original picture. To do this, just point at the correct location on the screen. Once you find the magical hot-spot (no clicking required), the icon will snap into focus and another one will immediately appear, waiting to be re-congregated.
By itself, this is nothing new. I've focused a picture this way in Wario Ware before, and I expect the idea goes back much further. But Bobblebrook casts an audio-visual spell over the whole business that makes a mundane concept feel almost mystical. Your 2-D mouse gestures move the pixels in 3-D space, you see. They wheel around a mysterious point of reference like obedient electrons. You'll start the game clumsy, trying to guess at the right co-ordinates; but soon you'll forget that the mouse cursor exists at all, and just instinctively shuffle the storm en masse like the hand of Genesis shaping life out of molecules. Except that you're just making a cute picture of a butterfly. Or an elephant. Or a sliced lemon.
Coign of Vantage, like Reflexive's Music Catch, gives compelling testimony that video games and classical music make great snuggle-buddies. The theme here is from Bach, who was famous for evoking the divine spirit with his harmonies. It seems an appropriate choice for a game about wringing order from chaos and finding form in a soup of dust.
The challenge—for this is still a game we're talking about—comes from the ubiquitous timer, which starts at 30 seconds and gains a few whenever you complete a puzzle. The chunk of time gained per level gets smaller as you play, so eventually the forces of entropy will get you. The final few levels, when the bonus and your average solving time converge, are just as tense as can be—partly because your high score attempt is about to be strangled, and partly because you'll want to see more of artist Armin Prucha-Stocker's little icons. They really are quite adorable.
I don't know how much longevity the game has. It never did grip me with the slimy hand of addiction, but then, that's also kind of a relief. Again like Music Catch, or Bobblebrook's own Twizzle, the experience sparks with brief wonder and then fades to a satisfied peace. That's fine by me. In the end, Coign of Vantage is just a game where you point at a specific spot on your computer screen, based on subtle visual cues. But somewhere between seeing and pointing, your mind uncurls its new-grown wings and takes to the air.
Bonus essay question! The phrase "coign of vantage" means "an advantageous position", and is probably most famous as the title of this 19th-century painting, by Dutch classical painter Lawrence Alma-Tadema. Why did Bobblebrook give the game this title?