Puzzle games are a dime a dozen these days, and it takes a little something extra to stand out from the crowd. Whether that’s by implementing current trends in technology like while True: learn() did by focusing on machine learning, or simulating an entire microprocessing language for your imitation day-job (complete with its own printable manual) like Shenzen I/O, that little extra polish can take what would just be another run-of-the-mill puzzler and really make it shine.
Take Prime Mover for instance, the core mechanics of the game have you creating circuits to solve a given number puzzle, however, developer 4Bit Games has added a reason for you to be creating these circuits in the first place, and they’ll all help you find out the story behind the “Byte of Burden!”. It presents itself with a retro-inspired pixel art style, where the story cutscenes are very reminiscent of something along the lines of 1991’s Another World. The only place this ever feels off is in the main menu. Because the text is floating around it tends to shift the pixels it’s displaying. Thankfully, you’re never at the menu screen long enough to notice - or care.
There’s a pleasant, somewhat otherworldly musical backing, that does well to not be distracting or otherwise remove you from the gameplay allowing you to concentrate on the puzzles, though there is the option to mute the music and listen to your own should you prefer that. You’d be doing a disservice to Jonathan Geer though, to not give the soundtrack at least one playthrough.
The meat of Prime Mover then, is in its fiendishly difficult puzzles. Not so much in the fact that they are difficult to solve (at least not in the early levels), but in the statistics it gives you when you do complete a level. Only to find out that there’s actually a much more efficient way to solve the problem. This mechanic always lights a spark in me to try and find the better solution. Not because I absolutely need to have the best solution - but because I enjoy the challenge in finding out whether I can solve it in the most efficient way possible. This is the beauty of an open-ended challenge like this, in that there’s no one “correct” solution.
Overall, it’s a nice little puzzler that you can just as easily pick up and put down 20 minutes later, as it is a game that will have you firing all of your logical brain muscles for 3 hours into finding ways to better improve your circuit. This is a fact that’s emboldened by the ability to save your circuit at any point and come back to it, storing up to three different solutions for each puzzle.
Prime Mover (Reviewed on Windows)
This game is great, with minimal or no negatives.
Awesome little puzzler that’ll do well to keep you busy when you want it to, challenging enough that it will give even the most die-hard puzzler’s brains a workout, but clever enough to not have you needing to complete the level at a time, so you can put it down and come back to it when the thermal throttling on your brain has returned to normal.