Open Doors 2
A sequel to one of the most interesting puzzle games of last year has arrived, with an arresting makeover and just the right amount of extra spice. While the first game eventually wore thin by working its lonely gimmick to the bone, Open Doors 2 features compact puzzles with just the right number of new doors and mechanical gizmos. With a sparkling presentation and superb level design, this is one of the best puzzlers we've seen so far this year.
Your objective, as a pillowy square in a graph-work maze, is to reach the "X". You only need press the [arrow] keys to get there, but your path is complicated, naturally, by a whole lot of doors. Shove them closed from one side; open them by going the other way.
Your progress saves automatically, and if you are a completist, you'll come to appreciate that. There are two seperate medals to collect for time used and steps taken on each of the game's 36 levels. The difficulty caters to both puzzle-heads and more casual travelers. It's not too hard to beat the game (not all that easy, either), but collecting all the golds, especially for the time-based medals, will mess you up.
Analysis: Developer Ozzie Mercado has replaced the stylish but messy blueprints from the first Open Doors with a bright, almost glowing palette that makes it absolutely clear how to interact with things. I can't stress how important it is, no matter what "style" or "mood" a designer is reaching for, to entwine the look of game objects with their behavior, and that's exactly what the makeover here has accomplished. It also doesn't hurt to provide six different color schemes. Extra bravo for that.
Rather than overloading the game with new features, Mercado added just enough moving parts to keep things interesting for 36 levels. You have your levers, which react to your movement only along their primary axis. You have your floors that disappear after being used (always my least favorite part of any tile puzzle, these appear in blessedly few levels). You have your double doors, which act as traditional one-way obstacles.
Each level blends these elements together in exactly one unique way, and that means there is exactly one problem to solve at a time. When your brain starts to swim, just break it down in pieces. The previous Open Doors could be overwhelming once the levels got too large and complex, but here each puzzle is vigorous, asking assertive questions and rewarding you cleanly when you find the answer.
Top it off with a curious, folky soundtrack ("I'm going ho-o-o-oooome…") and you have something that could be the standard for casual games. A simple idea, an attractive approach, and an agreeable length. Good show.