Paul & Percy
Once upon a time, in a cozy little cottage in a wood, there lived two squat little bespectacled gentlemen called Paul & Percy. They loved biscuits. Possibly to an obsessive degree. So when the biscuits one day vanished, and their dear friend Carl told them that the evil thief had vanished through the portals, there was only one thing to do: go after him! Unfortunately the path to the biscuit thief will involve a lot of spatial puzzling and more than a little teamwork in this game from Kipper Digital. Push blocks, toggle little slug creatures, maneuver clouds and more in your quest for crumbly sugary goodness.
The controls can take a little getting used to, primarily because they go against that most ingrained of gamer principles, that up equals jump. In this game, you start at the bottom of the screen and progress vertically towards your portal goal at the top. Therefore, the [arrow] key controls follow the movement of the character on the screen. Paul is on the left and Percy on the right. [Up] walks either character up towards the top of the screen and [down] walks the character towards the bottom of the screen. [Spacebar] switches between characters. For Paul, the [left] arrow key will cause him to jump up one block level, and the [right] arrow key will make him push towards his feet on the block below him. For Percy, left and right are flopped. If you make a mistake, hit [Z] to rewind one step at a time. You can rewind all the way back to the beginning of the level if necessary. You can also hit [R] to reset a level.
Your goal is to get both characters on top of their respective swirly white portals, since these are those special kind of portals that only work in pairs. Some levels feature a bonus challenge in the delicious form of biscuits. You don't need to collect them to beat the level, but collecting all the biscuits gives an achievement, and gamers love achievements almost as much as Paul and Percy loves biscuits.
Analysis: It can take a surprising amount of time to get over the ingrained "up to jump" impulse. I was still making that mistake even as I played the later levels. It's a good thing you can rewind with no penalty to your score, because I had to rewind a lot just for that reason. It's hard to think how the developers could have avoided triggering this reaction in gamers however, since tilting the field to the side would have only allowed the player to use up for jump for one character. The other character would be down to jump, and you just don't do that to gamers. Our tiny minds would explode.
The game is an aesthetic joy, from squishy and fairy-winged Carl to the soothing electronic soundtrack that reminded me a lot of mid-90s console gaming. This soothing music does a lot to pacify a gamer frustrated with the forty-seven clever (and/or fiendish) puzzles between you and the baked goods crook. Although the game has a basic introductory tutorial, for the most part the game requires you to learn what new blocks do through trial and error, so figuring this out serves as just another challenge. The game level map follows a Super Mario Bros. type of conceit with a general path to the end of the game, with frequent branches going to the same destination. This will often allow you to bypass a level that has you stymied. Like many puzzlers requiring spatial logic and planning, this is often a game that benefits from taking a break and trying a different level and then coming back with fresh eyes, so this style of level select really suits the game.
There's a gentle absurd humor to the cut scenes, and as the title for beating the game's achievement implies, it's not a difficult ending to figure out. You won't beat this one for the compelling plot, but rather for the sense of accomplishment gained from smooth, seamless teamwork between Paul & Percy. That can be as delicious as any biscuit.