Since the popularity of Portal, there is a growing trend in video games of making a world that plays with the players, and trying to make even navigating the game as difficult as possible. Few games do this exceptionally well, but when they do, they are almost instant classics – and here are six of the best:
Everyone seems to be playing this game, from kids at home to Kevin Spacey as the President of the United States in House of Cards. Impossible environments combined with a charming aesthetic, you guide Princess Ida – via a tap-to-walk mechanic – through an array of beautifully designed monuments and optical illusions, trying not to get trapped by the twisted space or the eerie Crow People. This game has won a string of awards for its design, and it is immediately clear to see why.
Buy Monument Valley here
A bespeckled, tweet-jacketed man sleeps under a tree. In the true Newtonian fashion, an apple falls from that tree and wakes the man up, leading him to three doors and beyond those … further doors. The Bridge challenges players to guide this man through a series of doors – a simple enough challenge, made more difficult by the world rotating with each press of the arrow keys, so that every floor can become a ceiling and every pair of walls a vertical shaft. Playing through this game is like watching a painting come to life, if you weren’t sure which way up to hang it, and if the solitary character were conscious of the gravity of the situation.
Buy The Bridge here
Three-dimensional space is completely broken in this game, as you try and make your way through a world that would give Escher a headache. Antichamber is the first major game from developer Alexander Bruce; and while his game has a traditional WASD movement setup, that’s the only familiar part of it. Changing the way you view the level – even if it is as simple as the direction you are facing – changes the level itself. On the walls are hints to completion, written in a pseudo-philosophical style. The hint given to you after you fall down a hole in the floor – a particularly ironic section of the game – is ‘Failing to succeed does not mean failing to progress’. How droll, you think, as the dizziness begins to set in…
Buy Antichamber here
BACK TO BED
Back To Bed began as a six-week student game design project, but soon developed into the spectacle of surrealism that it is known for. Taking place inside the head of a sleepwalking man called Bob this game bases a lot of its design off Salvador Dali; players must plot a course through paintings-come portals, past melting clocks and using giant apples as platforms – working as a manifestation of Bob’s inner mind, a four-legged creature called Subob, in order to guide the snoozing rambler safely through his own subconscious and back into his bed.
Buy Back to Bed here
Like Year Walk, Simogo’s Device 6 is a particularly surreal experience that tests the bounds of the player’s puzzle-solving abilities. Less a game and more of an interactive book, the text changing depending on how the player holds the device. It’s a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure for the digital age as you push, pull, and swipe your way through the ‘pages’ to guide the in-game protagonist, Anna, through a mysterious castle full of strange electronic animals rooms full of secrets.
Buy Device 6 here
Gomez is a little pixilated character living happily in his two dimensional life … until he puts on the titular fez that opens his mind to the possibility of the third dimension. Unfortunately, it is because of this hat his world breaks apart, and using the power of 3D he must retrieve parts of a giant hexahedron and put his universe back together. By using WASD to move, and the arrow keys to swap your perspective between four 2D views of the 3D world, the player can explore the edges of Gomez’s world and be reminded that its hip to be square.
Buy Fez here