Every once in awhile I’ll land on a game that blows me away with how much it can do with a simple concept, and today is one of those days. Games like this start out with a gameplay loop that, on its own, should be no more captivating than tiddlywinks but build up something far more worthwhile around it. And it’s not a long and engrossing experience that I’ve just surfaced from, but working through the simple, unique puzzles for the mysterious payoff made simian.interface++ a better gaming experience than many longer or larger titles out there.
The name is actually spot-on this time, as the game is posed as a graphic user interface for monkeys. You play a test subject working through trials of the system, simply following the implied instructions for a curved and yellow reward you know too well. Puzzles come in batches of 10 or so, bookended by login screens and performance readouts. I doubt I need to worry about spoilers here but things start to happen as you work through the game that hint at a larger plot afoot.
Don’t come for what little story there is, but rather the experience of seeing it told. While not much happens plot-wise the feel of how it unfolds has a definite charm, situated right between sinister cyberpunk and silly cat pictures. I found myself speeding through the puzzles just to see how ridiculous the next glitchy reveal would be, and I was not disappointed. The presentation helps sell the technicolor madness, particularly the soundtrack which is some incredibly catchy techno that takes loads of inspiration from old NES chiptunes.
I’m four paragraphs in and haven’t even touched on the puzzles, which are clever permutations of an old gimmick. Each puzzle places a number of squares or lines or boxes on your screen, which you can move and/or rotate simply by moving your mouse. The goal is to snap them back into place, anything from getting a white square into a square outline to realigning a screenful of plaid. They’re simple challenges made surprisingly engrossing by how much fine control you have over the figures. You’ll also encounter a wide variety of shapes and patterns to make across the six tiny chapters of the game, and more still in the infinite, timed, and secret modes.
This is the total package in terms of kitschy puzzlers, but a small one at that. I saw everything the game had to offer, secret level included, in just over 30 minutes. The infinite and time attack modes could suck up some more of your time, of course, and I wouldn’t be opposed to playing through it again once my memories of the two runs I just did (to unlock the secret mode) fade a bit more. With that caveat in mind, I can happily recommend simian.interface++ to anyone looking for a fresh new take on puzzlers. It’s got charm, it’s got challenge, and it’s got the best kind of weirdness to puzzle through.