If you want to know what Forest Puzzle is all about, well the clue’s in the name – it’s a labyrinth-style puzzle game set in a forest! It’s actually quite a mysterious little offering: there seems to be very little information available anywhere about the game, aside from the few details provided by Sony on their minis page, and I can’t even find a website for the publisher/developer, IBA Group A.S.. They really should stop hiding their light behind those forest bushes, as it turns out that Forest Puzzle is in fact a very clever, fun, and absorbing game, so it would be nice to know a little about the folks behind it and what other minis they might have in the pipeline for us.
Essentially, it’s a maze puzzle game, set in a very gothic dark forest wherein lurk all manner of creepy creatures out to prevent you from fulfilling your main task of saving the shimmering Sparks that are lost in the forest.
To save a Spark, you simply have to walk over it, and then lead it to the exit. When you rescue several Sparks in a row, they’ll all trail behind you like a sparkly crocodile. The exit will only be unlocked under certain conditions, however, which depend on the current game mode.
There are three gameplay modes in total: Time Trial, Puzzle and Survival. In Time Trial you must rescue a certain number of Sparks before the exit will open; in Puzzle mode, you have to solve simple switch puzzles in order to clear a pathway to the exit, and in Survival mode you simply have to stay alive long enough to earn at least a Bronze medal.
All the modes are equally challenging, although you’ll probably find that there are certain modes that you love, and others you’re not so keen on. I really like Puzzle mode because you have a lot more time to think without any enemies chasing after you all the time, whereas I found Survival Mode to be very frantic and quite hard at times, especially when you have relentless ghosts on your tail and you’ve run slap bang into a dead end!
At each location that you visit there are several different mode stages to get through, during the course of which you must rescue the required number of Sparks for that location in order to progress to the next location on the forest map. This means that you can’t just stick to playing your favorite mode and hope to get away with it, as you’ll need to be at least competent in all modes in order to move ahead.
The only controls that you’ll need are the analog stick or directional buttons to move, X to activate a lever, and R to throw torches (when you find them) to distract zombies. The gameplay is all about finding your way around the mazes and trying to avoid the ghosts, zombies, firebats and blind golems. I found it really enjoyable and absorbing and quite hard to put down once you start playing, and with 60 levels in total to complete it’s certainly great value for money as well.
I also really liked the game’s overall presentation: it keeps it simple, but the sharp level design, modern-gothic soundtrack and intricately drawn main map screen really help to enhance the forbidding atmosphere. You certainly get the feeling that a lot of care has gone into the design of this title.
My only complaints are very small ones – the locations are all quite similar to each other, and I found the controls a little sluggish at times, especially when you’re running away from a load of ghosts, but it’s not enough of a problem to spoil the game, which overall I was really impressed with. If you like puzzlers, especially maze-style games, don’t hesitate to give this one a go!