Puzzle games are in a renaissance thanks to the mobile market right now, but while things like Candy Crush and its various knockoffs remain insanely popular, there have been some amazing entries into the side-scroller puzzle genre. Not just inventive, head-scratching play but in some cases unforgettable story lines and daring, avant garde characters. If you've never gotten into one of these types of games before, here is a guide for you to get started.
Thomas Was Alone
There probably has never been a game that broke more molds than Thomas Was Alone. Its characters are represented by nothing more than differently sized and colored rectangles, and yet the narration by Danny Wallace infuses them with more nuance and depth than any Grand Theft Auto protagonist. The graphics are as simple as Pong, but still sharp enough and beautiful enough to keep holding their own into the eighth-generation systems. Are you a girl looking for the perfect equal representation of women in gaming? It has literally never been done better than with the blue box Claire and the purple box Sarah (Laura is pink and a love interest to Chris, but still definitely her own woman).
As a puzzler, Thomas Was Alone is not overly difficult. You'll probably be able to get through it without ever looking up a walk-through even if it takes more than a few tries to get to the exits. The themes of cooperation and personal relationships play out heavily in the actual gameplay, making them powerful storytelling tools. My favorite is one where Thomas and James must slowly and carefully edge themselves across a vast abyss with spikes waiting to catch them if they miss. Not only is it a neat thing to physically do, it actively feels as if it cements the two rectangles as a team. Add in the fact that the plot is basically The Matrix Trilogy if Stephen Fry had written it (and it didn't suck), and it's one of the most engaging games ever.More »