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Framed iOS Review

There is something really aggravating about Puzzlers when it comes to writing a review. The really good ones, with a compelling mechanic, are usually the hardest to write about. I remember trying to explain 2007’s Portal – a game where you can put a hole on any surface that instantly transports objects, or the player, to a hole that can also be placed on any other surface. It is a blooming complicated exercise trying to explain those mechanics to someone that, at the time the review was written, likely never touched the game before. However, now that most have played Portal, the game easily made people understand its complexities. This happens for a few reasons. It is much easier to learn by doing, and people who choose to make games are much smarter than the guy who is writing this review.

Framed can get complicated too, but at its most basic it is an interactive comic book where players can move panels around, to alter the outcome of the story been told on screen. If there is no interaction from the player, the protagonist will be caught or get shot. Sometimes saving the hero makes more sense than others. Let’s look at this screenshot for example…

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The solution here is pretty simple. If there is no bullet in the gun, then our hero cannot be fatally wounded when the trigger is pulled. So moving the panel that shows the chamber of the gun is empty before the shooting takes place in the next means everything will be a-okay – well for a while at least, as another quick glance up at that screenshot’s last panel shows he’s about to land himself in quite a troublesome predicament. Things get more complicated than this though, much more complicated.

Some of the story panels can be a bit of a head scratcher themselves. There are some with various platforms and ladders that the protagonist interacts with automatically, and many panels have various alleyways and roads in them too. And you can be damn sure there will be someone waiting for you in the next panel should you leave the one before from the wrong place. Wrapping your head around which panel should be where, so as everything is in the right place to safely pass through the whole page of action without coming a cropper is quite the fun mental exercise to partake in.

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Even more complexity comes when the game introduces new mechanics. The first of these is panels that can be rotated. This can alter what happens in a singular panel – for example making the character run down a flight of steps rather than go up them. However, rotating one of the larger panels can change their orientation from horizontal to vertical, altering how that page is read, meaning action on that whole page will now flow differently. Trickier than that, some panels can reused. For example, the protagonist can walk through a panel with a stack of suitcases, knock them over and progress onto the next. You can then drag that panel down the page, and those suitcases will now be used as a makeshift staircase to climb onto a high ledge. The game is filled with clever moments like this. Moments that initially feel like they break previously established rules, but ultimately add to the appeal of the game as a whole – once you wrap your head around what’s happening.

To the game’s credit, even during these head scratching moments, it remains an entertaining endeavour. The fact that it is nice to look at, with beautiful noir stylings, and is great to listen to, with a smooth jazz soundtrack layered atop of the onscreen action, certainly makes it easy to love. Additionally, the fact that the game’s puzzles have an overarching, well told, story connecting them further adds to its appeal, enticing you to keep going to see what happens next. Furthermore, I really appreciate the game’s story is told entirely visually, with no text on screen at any time – not even to tutorialize game mechanics. Framed really is a lovingly crafted game, there is no doubting that.

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In similar vein to the title mentioned at the start of this review, Framed is not a game with a very long lifespan. Unless one of the puzzles absolutely stumps you, the credits will come before the 2-hour mark. That might be too soon for some, but what matters more is Framed is a game that never wears out its welcome, with every second a joy to play. When you reach the last panel of the last page, there is every chance you will long to see more, which is a flaw worth highlighting, but it is also happens to be one of the kinder criticisms I’ve ever levelled against a game.

9 out of 10