|System: PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Lazy 8 Studios||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Lazy 8 Studios||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Apr. 14, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Nathan Meunier
As steampunk fans will attest to, there's something oddly alluring about watching large masses of cranking gears, billowing pipes, rotating wheels, and other miscellaneous mechanical widgets all working in tandem towards some ultimately obscure goal. But imagine what it's like for the person who must assemble this mess into something functional - a maddening or intriguing task, depending on who you ask. If you're up for a compelling but brutal challenge, the two-person independent development team at Lazy 8 Studios might have exactly what you're looking for. Cogs is the perfect puzzle game for tinkerers and sadomasochists.
Some might recall those tricky sliding puzzles that require you to assemble a scrambled picture by moving tiles around one at a time. Cogs takes this core puzzle premise and throws it into a blender with a ton of moving mechanical parts. The result is a curiously entrancing game that's incredibly captivating in its earlier stages and increasingly becomes more brain-melting the further you progress. While most puzzle game fans will be intrigued enough to give it a spin, it takes a very particular type of player - one with nerves of steel, lightening-speed cognitive function, saint-like patience, and an insatiable desire for completion - to fully overcome this beast.
Instead of solving a scrambled picture, these slide puzzles have you moving tiles, with various gizmos attached to them, around on a flat board or 3D object to complete a cornucopia of strange inventions. There's only one empty space in each board (or section on a 3D level) to move tiles into, which makes shifting pieces around to where you want them to go part of the challenge - even when you know where they need to be placed in order to work properly. Only tiles adjacent to an empty space can be moved, and a quick click of the mouse slides them into place. You can also slide a full or partial row of blocks if you choose to cut down on the number of moves. Solving the puzzles is hard enough to begin with, but the inventor mode (the main area of the game) imposes strict time limits and tallies your every move.
Only a few of the game's 50 levels are unlocked from the start, and you'll gain access to more levels as you earn points by completing puzzles speedily and efficiently. Each level is scored in three categories - completion, time, and moves - and you're given a bronze, silver, or gold metal (which adds one, two, or three points to you total, respectively) for meeting predetermined performance benchmarks. Beating a given puzzle automatically earns you a gold metal, but the time it takes you to beat a level and the number of moves can impact the number of points your receive substantially. Replaying previous puzzles to get a better score is always an option, and you can skip over some puzzles if you have enough points accrued.
The puzzles are deceptively clever. Things are relatively simple early-on. You'll chain together rows of cogs on flat, solitary planes to power larger gears, move pipes around to direct steam (filling balloons and triggering other devices), and figure how to ring chimes. Eventually, 3D levels are thrown into the mix, allowing you to right click and manipulate the object you're working on to solve multiple puzzles incorporated into its various sides. After the first dozen puzzles the challenge spikes dramatically. A variety of musical tasks appear; they include moving gears around to get two separate bells to ring simultaneously and getting hammers to strike different bells with just the right timing to trigger a brief tune. You'll quickly find yourself working with combinations of gears, pipes, and other elements in a single puzzle. Then there's the charm of working on recognizable mechanical objects like a bike, a tank, a rocket, a music box, and others.