The Control Panel
Ah, curiosity. It may have killed the cat, but it is one of the most defining characteristics of humanity. From the person who wondered; "hmmm, what if I shave off the corners of this block, flatten it on two sides, put a stick through the middle and see if it will roll?" to the one who thought; "what if I take a fissionable material, say, and surround it with shaped charges that will rapidly compress it from all sides equally and then maybe drop it on a city?" The answers to these questions have changed civilization (for good or for ill is up to you to decide) and reinforce the fact that occasionally we're just too inquisitive for our own good. We simply cannot resist tinkering. So, what will a naturally curious person do when confronted with a point-and-click puzzle like The Control Panel? Why, push the button, of course!
Well, push several buttons, anyway. And maybe some switches, too. Created back in 2005 and designed by Shaun Salzberg, The Control Panel is something that you just can't resist playing with. What will happen if you push that button? Or slide that knob? Or rewire that panel? Or...
The game begins with a simple statement: turn on the uppermost lights to solve the mystery. Easy, yes? If you choose to solve the mystery you will be confronted by a simple panel comprised of different controls and a basic monitor in the middle. There's no looking around the back or sides, no movement involved at all (except the movement of the switches, buttons, and wires). The Control Panel is an exercise in pure logic. There's no navigation involved, just click on things to see if you can affect them or not. If you can, then the next step is to determine what to do to activate the lights. What numbers do you enter? What switches do you flip? What happens if you do...this?
Analysis: The Control Panel is an oldie but a goodie. Despite its age the game is a tight, well-constructed puzzle solving treat. Stripped of everything that usually accompanies a puzzle of this sort, no story, no background, no instructions, be prepared to sit back and let the gameplay blow your mind (and perhaps cause a concussion, if you end up banging your head against the nearest flat surface in frustration).
The graphics are, well, pretty basic. Primary colors and flat, cartoony visuals make up The Control Panel. However, the unreality of the visuals do not detract in any way from the joy of driving yourself nuts trying to get those darn lights on. There's no music, but that's all to the good as it would soon become distracting, and when trying to solve this puzzle the last thing you need is distracting. A save button would have been nice for those who would like to take a break between the cursing and the headbanging.
So if you want some casual gameplay that involves lots of logic without any of that messy story stuff, then pull up a chair, hunker down, and start flipping some switches. Just remember: curiosity did, indeed, kill the cat. Will satisfaction bring him back? Perhaps...
Cheers to Black Drazon for the suggestion! =)