by William Thompson
reviewed on PC
I have always enjoyed a good puzzle game. The opportunity to test my mental powers – albeit not in the same way that Professor Xavier of X-Men fame has mental powers – can be rather rewarding when a tough conundrum is eventually overcome. I’ve been known to complete puzzles such as Sudoku whilst I eat my lunch, so when news of Side Decide, an independent game from Australian developers Blue Volcano dropped into our inbox, I was certainly keen to test my brain with some new challenges.
Side Decide has players moving a six-sided wooden block across a board littered with shapes that correspond to the icons pictured on the sides of the block. The moveable cube has a circle depicted on opposing sides, a square on opposite sides, and two versions of an equilateral triangle to make up the six sides. Moving from a starting point to the finish line, players must roll the wooden cube so that the shape on the cube matches that of the tile it moves onto.
It is a simple premise, and as with most games of the type, the early levels start off with reasonably small and simple playing fields. These early levels introduce gamers to the various game mechanics. Moving onto a circle shape allows gamers to rotate to cube with the circle on the bottom remaining the fixed point. Early on, levels only have the three main shapes depicted on the field, but as gamers progress, they are introduced to wildcard spaces that enable any shape to be placed, a special wildcard space that disappears after the cube moves off from it, and a Teleport space – that as expected teleports the cube from one space on the board to another.
Simple Mechanics, difficult puzzles
Each of these mechanics are not at all difficult to use but working out if they are required in a particular puzzle - or indeed, the right time to use them – can be devilishly tough. The puzzles have been extremely well designed though, requiring gamers to think strategically through the solution required to navigate the infant toy to its destination.
Upon completing each level, players are awarded a score based on the number of moves it takes them to reach the end point. A Gold, Silver or Bronze star depicts how well players performed. Perfectionists will aim to achieve the gold status on each level, but I have to admit that there were several levels that I was just happy to reach to end, and as such just wanted to move onto the next puzzle. Although having said that, Side Decide isn’t linear at all. After completing the tutorial levels, players can choose their path through the levels. This is great as it allows players who have trouble with one of the more difficult puzzles to try a different one before trying again later
Control is via the keyboard or controller with the WASD keys (or left thumbstick for the controller) moving the wooden block in different directions. The camera angle can also be rotated to allow players to view the playing field from different. The camera movement works well and lets players plan their movements in advance as well as viewing each side of the cube at any time. Visually, the backgrounds are quite minimalistic and it almost feels as though the decorations have been added as an afterthought. I’m not sure the game needed them anyway, as the sparse nature of the decorations allows players to focus on the task at hand rather than being distracted.
Thinking it through
With 121 levels to work through, there are plenty of challenges to be had. The levels come in varying difficulties, but with no time limits, they can be worked through at your own pace. The soundtrack - which is quite lively for the most part - sets a relaxing mood too. The only real downfall in Side Decide is the lack of variety in game mechanics. With most of the game mechanics introduced fairly early, some of the latter levels can become monotonous, particularly if you’re struggling to find a solution. It would have been nice to have some new features added further into the game. But with that said, the puzzles in Side Decide are well designed and most have an elegant solution that, when solved, provide for a high degree of satisfaction upon solving.
Remember to follow us on Instagram for reviews, news and more.
Simple gameplay mechanics, relaxing atmosphere
Can feel monotonous on later levels