Hello and welcome to ‘The Twelve Games of Christmas’, a highlight reel of some of my (Dann Sullivan, Editor-in-Chief) favourite games of 2017. As regular readers will know, we’re extremely eclectic in our tastes here at B3; hopefully these little suggestions, essentially recommendations, will match that. Enjoy!
Zachtronics have earned a well-deserved reputation for making intelligent, if sometimes unintelligible-looking, puzzle games based around science and programming. Opus Magnum is the latest in this very specific space they occupy.
Before all else, Opus Magnum feels like a refinement of the developer’s works so far. Puzzle solving is, as ever, key to the game, however there’s a loose narrative following the journey of an recently qualified alchemical engineer in their work for a wealthy city family. The game is also vastly more kinetic than the other coding titles, with spinning, sliding and extending arms among the tools you have to use to assemble and mix your solutions. There’s something deeply satisfying about a game of spinning and passing parts — like watching a clockwork machine or a marble run.
As the various components that can be used for solutions are introduced at a steady pace, and can be tested at any point, it’s all quite easy to digest — especially when compared to TIS100 or Shenzen’s text-based code. This definitely increases the accessibility of the game, something which is becoming increasingly important in puzzle games, as most attention spans have shortened.
All that aside, there’s a reason why Opus Magnum made it onto this list, and that is the fact that it instils a desire to improve. There’s no in-game reason for it, no reason to tweak and finesse the parts to get the movements required down, or reduce the number of pieces involved in the solution. However, the fact that the game monitors, charts and displays how you are doing within these two areas (and also with cost of components), the fact that it has well-kept leaderboards, and the fact that it’s really not that hard to accidentally stumble over some of the masterpieces and deft solutions made by other player — it all builds awareness of the opportunity to improve, and tugs on the same strings which drove us to improve with arcade games.
The latter point is largely a thing because Opus Magnum contains an excellent feature wherein players can export a single loop of their creations once they finalise a solution — this led to a massive explosion of people showcasing their creations and successes almost the moment the game launched.
It’s the drive to refine which makes Opus Magnum memorable more than anything else — the urge to remove those six sliders and instead try to assemble the parts earlier just to drop the component count down by two, or to build a monstrous train of one lonely component just to finish the challenge with the lowest possible expenditure.
Opus Magnum launched earlier this month for PC, Mac & Linux.
Images used from Steam storepage