3D, steampunk, tile-based puzzler. That's Cogs in a nutshell. Remember those little square puzzles from your youth where there was one empty spot to slide the other squares around to form a picture? Well, combine that with a bit of Pipe Dream and slap on a really slick interface, and you have on of the more unique puzzle games of the last few years. As part of the third Humble Bundle, you may well own this title and not even realize it.
Released in 2009 by Lazy 8 Studios on numerous platforms including iOS and PlayStation Home (yes, Home, that Second Life thing that hasn't received attention in three years), Cogs is a simple to play game that will challenge your wits and patience. If you can sit and play the sliding puzzle games for a bit, you'll enjoy Cogs for its extra depth on top of the base. If you can't stand that kind of puzzler, well, might as well just skip this game now.
First Hour is happy to present to you another entry in its Indie Impression series: Cogs.
Cogs essentially boils down to a series of 3D slider puzzles with a steam punk aesthetic. If you're a fan of such puzzle games, this one's sure to entertain. I, unfortunately, am not, so this game wasn't able to hold my attention past the first half-dozen or so puzzles before I could take no more. I HATE slider puzzles. Never been good at them. I feel like every time I play one I'm just randomly tiles around until something works.
Now, that said, what I can tell you about Cogs is that the gameplay and graphics are smooth, and the puzzles are pretty neat in their own right. The extra challenge of trying to complete a puzzle (there are over 50, I believe) in as little time or moves as possible is going to give addicts a bang for their gaming buck.
Music is annoyingly repetitive. Luckily it can be turned off. Sound effects are decent, though the ticking of the clock can be annoying if you're not super quick at puzzles like this (like me) and just want to complete them for completion's sake and care nothing for achieving the best times.
After playing Cogs for about an hour-and-a-half, it seems like it's both the best "real" puzzle game I've played and one with the highest frustration potential. Of course, this doesn't say much either, as I don't have experience with many traditional non-arcade puzzlers, having generally avoided handhelds and the mobile platforms on which they proliferate. But I can unquestionably state that Cogs is an extremely solid puzzle/brain teaser game for those who enjoy such a thing. The love-em-or-hate-em sliding puzzle is an interesting source material for a game, and I assume most people have had at least some experience with them. I've personally forgotten everything on how to manipulate them and had to essentially relearn. I made a couple mental breakthroughs over the time I played, but still not enough to truly feel comfortable yet. Cogs' level unlocking mechanism allows the player several different ways to continue, even through skipping levels entirely, so they do thankfully give players time to learn and master the mechanics. It takes both proper mental solution imaging and sliding puzzle execution to pass through levels. If either are not up to par, the game turns into bit of a frustrating trial-and-error game until your mental breakthroughs are achieved.
Cogs' presentation is phenomenal, near-perfect for its type of game and it's definitely technically solid. They even have a separate netbook/low power computer version available for those whose computers can't handle the sights and sounds. In terms of length and replay, I barely even scratched the surface on the game's full content and significant amount of variety, so this is a brain teaser that would last anyone quite a while. I personally doubt I'll come back to this game often, but I could see myself playing it once in a while, and I definitely respect what they've made. For fans of this genre, Cogs is a game they must check out. Props to Lazy 8.
Strip Cogs down to its essentials and you'll have a collection of tile-sliding puzzles: the kind my grandparents used to contain my hyperactivity while sitting down at our favorite pizzeria. But through fancy vidyagame magic, Cogs layers its digital puzzles with complexities and challenges that would be difficult, maybe impossible, to construct with wood and plastic.
In my short hour with the game, I was impressed with the variety stemming from an activity that seems fundamentally limited. You'll arrange color-coded pipes to snake into balloons, swap gears of varied sizes to alter the speed of a rotating wheel, and construct a machine running from one corner of a cube around to the other corners. Though the challenges may be inimitable in the physical realm, the 3D on-screen object has a solidity to it that makes the concept easy to grasp and intuitive to play.
Despite the polished visuals and thoughtful presentation, Cogs doesn't strike me as a compelling sit-down PC game. Like most brain teasers, tile-sliding puzzles are best tackled discontinuously, and sixty straight minutes with the game was enough to burn me out for a while. Thankfully, it's available on iOS devices, where I'm sure it's a great way to kill a subway trip or occupy the kids while they're waiting for oven-fresh pizza.
In a lot of ways, Cogs reminds me of Picross 3D. I spent twenty hours playing that game while commuting to work, and I'd probably enjoy Cogs in the same manner. Although the 50 puzzles might not have the same longevity as the 350+ in Picross 3D, they definitely make up for it in creativity and challenge, if the first dozen puzzles are indicative of the rest of the experience. Compared to the near limitless value of an Angry Birds or a Cut the Rope, Cogs may not be the most frugal iPhone purchase at $1 per ten-puzzle pack. But I think I would be satisfied paying five bucks for a couple weeks' worth of bus-ride brain teasers.
The PC is really the wrong platform for Cogs, but I still ended up putting about two hours of my time into the puzzler. Had it been available on my Android phone, I can see myself easily putting a dozen hours into the game. That said, I still had a good time with Cogs, it's a crazy polished steampunk puzzler that adds a few extra layers to the old tile shuffling game. Without those extra layers, this wouldn't even be worth downloading for free, but Lazy 8 Studios manage to squeeze a lot of water out of this rock.
The puzzle boards themselves are 3D-ish, basically either a flat plane of tiles you can flip around and look at the back of (and sometimes there are important bits on the rear side, too) or a cube that you need to typically use gears to manipulate multiple sides at once. It's quite the wonder to behold, especially since the game boils down to one of the simplest puzzle concepts that exists.
Will I keep playing? Well, my son likes watching the game, so I'll probably only play it upon his request. Like I said, if this was available on Anrdoid, I'd eat it up, but probably not at the iPhone's price of $1 per ten puzzles. This is a fun game that's quite the looker, but you're still just shuffling tiles around.
At first, I was worried that Cogs was going to be a game where every puzzle revolved around moving cogs this way and that to get something important to turn on. If so, it’d be nothing more than what you’d find in a number of big ol’ games as minigame filler, such as the pipe moving in BioShock or the node matching in Mass Effect 2. Just something extra to do before you can progress forward or open up locked content. Thankfully, there’s more to Cogs than just cogs.
Actually, there are multiple types of puzzles here, but they mainly revolve around those sliding puzzles we all played with as kids. You remember them. A four-by-four jigsaw grid of moveable squares, with one piece missing, and if you moved them correctly and got them all in perfect place you’d be rewarded with a picture. In Cogs, you do just that, with some of the squares containing a cog that, when all are connected and spinning, will complete the level by spinning the larger cog at the top. There’s also pipes to move, chimes to hit simultaneously, and rockets to launch; the variety is greatly appreciated. You can move the squares one by one or in groups of two when space allows, and this is key in that you’re graded for how fast you solve the puzzle, earning you stars, which then obviously unlock more puzzles. Things start out simple enough, but the puzzles grow complex rather quickly, often asking you to rotate a box in 3D to complete other sides of it or finish a second puzzle at the same time. This made me feel a little like those crazy kids and their Rubik’s cubes.
The timed and limited number of move challenges show just how difficult Cogs can ultimately be. I did a few levels, but found myself failing too much and getting frustrated, both at my hands and the game’s seemingly cruel timer. Thus, I spent most of my time fiddling around in Inventor mode, which is where the steampunk-inspired puzzler shines. There’s fifty in total to complete, and I’ve done around twenty or so, but plan to dive back in for more soon. It’s both ripe for casual gamers and those that want to test their clicking skills.