Surely you remember Within a Deep Forest? Perhaps you loaded up some unique user levels in Knytt Stories? Maybe you demoed and later purchased Saira? Then you have experienced programmer Nifflas' fare and I'm willing to bet you're ready for more.
Fire Nuclear Crocodile Killer (FiNCK for short) is a downloadable puzzle platformer for Windows, but don't let the title fool you. In fact, out of the four rather unrelated things it suggests, I only encountered one during the whole game. As a Nifflas game, FiNCK must live up to a certain standard of cool relaxation instead of firey, manic arcade action. However, it differs from the author's previous offerings in that it forgoes atmospheric exploration in favor of a puzzle-driven, often hair-pullingly-frustrating experience. The game itself is free, but to access custom level support, you'll need to purchase it from Nifflas' site.
The central gameplay mechanic of FiNCK has you picking up objects and using them to suit your needs. Use the [arrow] keys to move. Stand on top of a block, bird, or bomb and press [A] to pick it up. Press again to throw the object, or press the down [arrow] to place it directly below your character again. There are a variety of things with which to interact, and all have different properties. For example, metal bricks limit your jump height when you hold them and can withstand bomb explosions, while birds will give you heightened jumping abilities. Blue blocks will slide, ignoring all previously established rules of friction. Bombs...explode. They're bombs. Furthermore, every object you pick up will give your character a small boost when thrown down. This technique is important to master in order to reach all the areas of the game.
FiNCK is deceptively large. The world covers five levels and can be navigated using the doors found scattered throughout each level. Careful, though: while some doors will move you between two areas interchangeably, others will lock you out once you go through them. You will always be able to come back, but the lack of an overworld map means the experience can be a little frustrating. The whole point of the game is to gather just 25 coins scattered throughout world. Gathering each one presents a unique challenge, whether it be withstanding a wave of creatures or building a tower just high enough to reach a small precipice.
Enemies, while not hugely varied, stand in your way and are difficult to destroy since your character has no true offensive capability. Touching an enemy means a one-hit kill which adds a further dimension of frustration to an already challenging game. Combine that with areas in which you can get stuck and believe me, you're going to die--a lot. Brave the obstacles, however, and you'll be surprised at how satisfying the collection of that one last gold coin feels.
Analysis: I'm a huge fan of Nifflas' games. FiNCK, from its goofy title to its charmingly simple graphics, is no different. The visual design of the game is not revolutionary, but everything moves and flows well enough to make up for a few imperfections. The original soundtrack is looped in the free version, but is pleasant and at times even enjoyable. I admit, however, that I muted the game after a while because although the music fits the game, the sound effects — particularly those that accompany jumping — drove me nuts after a while. But we are not here to get hung up on sound and visuals. How is the puzzling?
The complexity of the puzzles range from "I think I see what he's getting at!" to what I like to call "Keyboard Breaking Death." Since each area is self-contained, you will have everything you need to get to that next door or coin — you just have to figure out how. The thoughtful level design means that "out of the box thinking" is a must. Since areas reset when you die or leave and return, an object will sometimes be used for more than one purpose. For example, to access one door you might have to blow up some bricks with a bomb. When you return to the area, you might need to access a different door, meaning the bomb you used before is needed to give your character an extra boost up to a ledge. This sounds complex, but Nifflas' design is so effective that even if there is only one way to solve a puzzle, you'll feel like the solution is what makes sense and not simply what the designer wanted you to do.
All the puzzles are interwoven in an increasingly complex but relatively easy to follow map. If you want to get to a seemingly unreachable door, you will probably find your way back to it at some point. So while it's a bit overwhelming at first, getting around the world starts to feel natural and rewarding. FiNCK lacks some of the immediate exploration appeal of the Knytt saga, but improves on the problem-solving formula of Within a Deep Forest by giving the player more puzzle variety. Altogether, FiNCK is a welcome addition to Nifflas' growing library.
If you're prepared for some creative thinking and want a challenge, FiNCK will certainly provide. I did not find any crocodiles in the game (or fire for that matter), and the game really isn't about killing anything. What it is is a pleasant romp through a puzzling world that feels rewarding with each collected coin.
Download the free full version
Remember, if you would like to support the author, you can purchase access to custom levels and a full soundtrack on his website.