Gateway is an impressive and delightful 3D puzzle game from Anders Gustafsson, awarded Honorable Mention and the coveted Audience Award in our recent Casual Gameplay Design Competition. The game has a very simple premise: guide a robot through a series of rooms; but you will have to solve a mini-puzzle within each room to advance.
Using the mouse for control, simply click where you'd like the robot to move and it will walk to that spot if its path is unobstructed. By moving the robot around each room you can pick up objects and interact with controls and devices. You can even combine objects that you've picked up in your inventory. And you will need to do all of these things at one time or another in order to finish the game (sometimes all of the above for the same puzzle).
Analysis: Although the formula is not an original one, the game does possess a charming artistic style and a wonderfully moody environment. The designer managed to create a world that is at the same time whimsical and ominous, through a film noir style of high-contrast environments and downplayed musical backgrounds. The music is used sparingly but effectively, striking a dark chord from time to time at just the right moment ("PEEPER"!).
I found the puzzles overall to be very easy, with a couple of notable and devious exceptions. The tutorial was not at all necessary, and were I not judging this for a contest I may not have sat through it. Hopefully Anders will address this in future installments (which I very much hope to see).
Jay: The first time I fired up Gateway, slogging through a tutorial was the last thing I wanted to see. I didn't realize until after I had completed the game that it can be turned off in the options menu, but by then it was too late. With the exception of some minor control issues, the design of the game and its interface is quite intuitive, therefore the tutorial won't be necessary for most people. Instead of hiding it away in the options menu, a possible improvement might be to ask the player, via a simple Yes/No dialog when starting a new game, if a tutorial is desired.
Once past the tutorial and into the first room, the game begins to take on a much more mysterious and ominous tone. Anders blends sight and sound masterfully to create an atmosphere ripe for what he delivers in the telescope room, which is both the game's finest achievement and its biggest disappointment. I wanted to see some connectedness between the character we see through the telescope and the player character of the game. As it is, there is no common thread that ties together these potentially powerful vignettes.
There are now two Gateway games to play. Be sure to play the award-winning sequel, Gateway 2.
The puzzles, of course, are all very creative and I enjoyed playing through the game from start to finish in one sitting, which is not difficult to do. I am looking forward to seeing the direction Anders takes with this game and its underlying Blockman engine, as it appears to have a great deal of potential.