Review: ‘Hairy Tales’ by Arges Systems

Review: ‘Hairy Tales’ by Arges Systems

Genre: Puzzle 

Platforms: App Store for Mac / iOS, Desura for Windows

Developer: Arges Systems

Release date: October 5th 2012

You will tear your hair out.

Hairy Tales is the debut offering from fledgling indie studio Arges Systems. Developed with the Unity 3D engine, it takes the form of an isometric tile-swapping puzzle-game, with a large amount of inspiration drawn from both traditional board games and the Amiga classic, ‘Lemmings’. In this game, you must safely guide your hirsute protagonist across a board comprised of a number of hexagonal tiles. Naturally, this board contains all manner of hazards and obstacles, and like the aforementioned Lemmings, your charge has very little concern for his own safety. He is happy to blindly rush off in whatever direction you face him, oblivious to his surroundings. By moving and rotating tiles, you must force him to navigate a safe path to the levels exit. Along the way, you will collect power-ups which allow you to clear obstacles and improve your end of level rating. This is all couched in a story about defeating some evil ‘corruption’ befouling the folksy paradise which ‘The Hairies’ inhabit – The Hairies, of course, being the little caveman-like creatures under your command. The backstory is vaguely told in a number of short animated cutscenes, and really serves little purpose in the game save as a framing device for the puzzles.

First of all, right off the bat, we have to confront that title: ‘Hairy Tales’ is one of the worst monikers for a game I have come across in a long time. Not since ‘Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake-Eater’ has a title so invited innuendo and satire. It tells you literally nothing about the game, except for indicating a possible emphasis on story (misleading, to say the least), and a vague suggestion of events of a trichological nature (okay, it’s a little closer to the truth on that one). One should never judge a book by its cover, of course, but having a title that sounds like it was dreamt up by an adult entertainment exec is not really a good jumping-off point for an innocent puzzler.

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Now to the gameplay. Hairy Tales introduces you gently to the games main mechanics, with the early 10 levels or so providing you with simple tutorials on how to manipulate the game world, and your character within it. New elements to the puzzles, such as fences and arrows which redirect your character, and enemies which must be defeated by using power-ups, are drip fed slowly into the levels. Hairy Tales does a good job of not holding your hand too much, and doesn’t condescend you as so many games seem to these days. It trusts you to figure out the puzzle solutions for yourself, and gives you multiple ways to achieve each. However, there is a catch. Hairy Tales gets brutal very quickly, and I mean ‘smash your computer with a hammer and wish terrible things upon the games  creators’ brutal. Literally, one level you are just doodling along, admiring the cutesy animations and folky background music, completing a by-the-numbers puzzle, and then suddenly BAM!….you are hit by a difficulty curve so steep that even Evil Knievel would have soiled himself at the sight of it. Honestly, it’s incredibly noticeable, and one has to wonder how many people looking for a casual, colourful gaming experience a la Angry Birds would be dismayed by it. For a game so innocent in its appearance, a deeply challenging chin-scratcher lies – paradoxically – just beneath its exterior. Those looking for a more complex, longer lasting puzzle experience, though, will find great value for money in Hairy Tales. Because it doesn’t force you to accept a single solution to a puzzle, and guide you to this conclusion with the usual winks and nudges, the game makes you feel a deep sense of satisfaction at the end of each level. They’re not just purely mentally challenging, either. In many situations you must rapidly move and rotate tiles whilst your character is legging it round the map, meaning you rely on your reflexes as much as you rely on your noodle. This blend of quick responses and forward planning give the game a similar feel to Portal, and that same sense of feeling peculiarly powerful when crafting a solution.

However, the gameplay is not without its faults. Its not just the puzzles themselves that pose an obstacle – sometimes, the controls and camera  are as challenging as the level design. I lost count of the number of times that I was nearing the end of a level, only to have my grizzly avatar thrown off a cliff because of a misplaced tile. The controls are incredibly finicky, and when it comes to camera, you’ve got two choices – extreme close-up, or floaty isometric view. Sometimes, it’s not very clear which way a character or tile is facing, and it would be extremely useful to be able to rotate the camera – a feature which, in my mind, is inexplicably missing. Instead, you have to waste a life by just setting your little guy running, and see which way he goes. Needless to say, this leads to some moments of hair-pulling frustration.

The visuals in the game are nice but not terribly unique. It’s the quirky, deformed art style we’ve seen in every platformer / puzzler since Crash Bandicoot – big red toadstools, lanky, large headed characters, the slimy greens and browns of the foul ‘corrupted’ swampland. Nothing here to write home about, but it’s all done nicely and suits the feel of the game. The now ubiquitous cel shading is back for another game, but it’s something the Unity engine seems built to do, and looks good on a mobile screen. Much of the same can be said for the audio – it’s nice and functional, it works, but it’s not going to be something you’re humming at work for days. Also, some of the sound effects the in-game creatures make are incredibly grating after awhile, and I found myself turning off the SFX pretty early on.

The game currently consists of 72 levels spread over three game worlds. Given the games difficulty, it’s enough to keep you busy for a good long time, especially if you’re up to the task of getting top scores on every level. If you like your puzzlers tough, it’s good value for money and should keep you occupied on those long commutes over the run up to Christmas.

Pros:

  • Solidly challenging gameplay.
  • An abundance of levels will keep you going for a long time.
  • Pretty, if uninspiring graphics and music
Cons:
  • INSANE jump in difficulty, from childs play to hellish brain-torture.
  • Frustrating camera angles.
  • Occasionally shonky controls can be irksome.
Final Score:

Rating: ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆ 

If you like ‘em tough, and you’re patient, then this is for you. If not, then avoid (or risk going bald with frustration.)

 

 


Article from Gamersyndrome.com

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avatar Writer, musician, programmer and gamer.... .....Of course, he's not actually any good at any of those things. Based in the English countryside, Dan spends the majority of his time reading horror novels and refining his frankly bullet-proof zombie apocalypse survival plan. Follow him on Twitter @TheGamePunk