Overall Score 84%
Poor Fred! The warped and anti-social Game Designer, a hooded and mysterious figure living (for reasons best known to himself) at the top of a lighthouse, doesn't make his job very easy. It's no wonder Fred is so grumpy. But Fred plans on unveiling this mysterious being and taking revenge for all the work he's been lumbered with. His last raise was a mere $25 - of cornflake packet coupons!
It's not often that a game features the designer (a post-modern touch reminiscent of Alasdair Gray's "Lanark") and even less usual for said designer to be a cackling, evil mastermind with similar dress sense to the Hooded Claw. Bringing crates of his previous game, Soda Pipes, down to the bottom of the lighthouse is often the main task of each puzzle. Fred, too, is even aware of his game character status - and grumbles about the designer not being able to draw his hair!!
Fred's main task is to jump and run up, down and round his boss's lighthouse, pushing crates down to the bottom. Controls are basically just arrow keys and Escape if you manage to screw up - which you probably will, a lot. These puzzles are sneakier than they first appear. Fred and the crates are the same height, which may explain why he can only push one at a time, and he can jump that same height. If he falls far enough he can stomp down on a crate too, which enables him to smash certain crates to pieces!
The graphical style is a 3D platformer with cartoon overtones - Fred constantly derides his boss's talents and his "programmer art" yet in truth this is a remarkably good-looking game. Fred is irascible yet charming, the 3D effect is convincingly faked (I don't actually know it has been - I've only got Fred's word to go on!) and the humour is brilliant. Sound too is good - the usual sound effects are all present and correct, and there's a few music tracks in the background. Fred isn't impressed with them (or by anything!) but they're pleasant, unobstrusive and suitably retro.
All the right elements are in there. You can replay any level (and try to beat your last time), you can restart as often as you like, and if the game designer sees you get totally stuck he sometimes offers hints. Most of the time pixel perfect jumps are not required - the exception of note being the puzzle called "Pixel Perfect". Lighthouse Lunacy knows all the cliché tricks and traps of these puzzle games of yesteryear and mocks them all - and occasionally uses them anyway.
I haven't yet found anything bad about this game. If I do, I'll be sure to mention it. Even keystrokes like Alt-Tab don't disrupt things. Your progress is remembered, so you can quit any time and resume from there. One downside is the lack of any profiles - if you share the computer, you can't keep your own separate progress - but since you can play any level and points aren't a factor, this is a minor gripe.
Many games have got me interested. A fair few have been so addictive I kept playing them after I finished the review. I can't think of any at the moment, however, that have made me laugh quite like this one - certainly none featured the main character complaining that his boss can't draw hair and then his being turned into one of the bats from Pong. This is a well named and well crafted game worth a look from everyone.
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