If you’re currently reading this article at your office job and are searching desperately for a distraction from the stack of papers that has slowly built up on your desk, or the mundane task of data collection and building spreadsheets, then look no further than Bark and Fester’s, RoTopo. This 3D-pathfinding-twitch-puzzler is played through any web browser and is the perfect outlet for you to regain your sanity. Plus, you’ll be stimulating your brain too, which will make you a more productive team member, and that’s the only defence you’ll need if you get busted by your superiors.
RoTopo’s design is simple and clever. It takes the pathfinding concept found in the classic arcade game Q*bert, and flips it up, down, left and right (minus the pursuing Coilys, Wrong-ways, and Uggs). So basically, you manoeuvre your avatar through, or around, a linear or three-dimensional object, with the task of stepping on each tile to complete the structure, in order to progress to the next level.
Successfully navigating each puzzle will grant you an additional score multiplier, which will amplify the return of gimbles you receive from completing each brainteaser, and the better you are, the more gimbles you can earn. But, any wrong turn could spell doom for your multiplier and ruin your perfect run.
The in-game store is where you will spend these hard earned gimbles on new level packs and avatars. It may be a good idea to watch the tutorial videos provided here, to gain an additional boost to your multiplier, because it will drop fast on the harder challenges. There is no cheating though, you’ll have to wait through a fourteen-second timer to receive the bonus. Fortunately, the multiplier does have a cap, so you’ll always receive some amount of gimbles in return for completing a challenge.
Some of the avatars come with a special ability, which can potentially save you from failure, but not all the time. I have struggled for hours (days even) on one single puzzle on insane difficulty, even when I was using an avatar with a special ability. I just couldn’t figure it out, and there is no help option either. Which is good in my opinion, it will force players to spend time on the puzzles and figure them out on their own. But, if they do decide to include one in the future, I think there should be quite a high penalty for choosing this option, such as resetting your multiplier bonus to zero.
The colour scheme is simple and pastel, which worked well for my eyes in the early morning hours. Some of the alternate avatars switch the colours and puzzle textures too. Zippy_trexo, the space cadet, traversed a moon surface, surrounded by flags and rockets. You also have the option to keep it windowed (for a quick alt-tab when the supervisor walks past) or you can proclaim it proudly and flick it to full screen. There are low, medium, and high-resolution options, and also a retro theme for those who don’t mind a pixelated puzzler.
I enjoyed the digital piano sound effects and music used here, it is perfect for this game. The mellow tones weaved together nicely, and also added to that unique retro style. I have wondered though, if the different tones from stepping on each new tile, is a subtle hint to a musical path that can guide you towards completing the more difficult puzzles.
RoTopos accessibility makes it so easy to load up and play for a short period or even a few hours. There is also a lot of content available already, for any completionist to sink their time into, and if you have a Facebook or Google account, it will save your progress.
It is incredibly fun and addictive, but can be frustrating too, in a good way. During the easy level packs, this game is a piece of cake, but the advanced and insane difficulties will require quick reflexes and decision making, and are the cause for many broken keys on the keyboard. But, I can say that all of my mistakes were my own. The camera does a good job of following your path, but you can switch between the automatic or follow camera settings if it’s troubling you for any reason.
RoTopo is currently in early access and is free to play, and you can also check out the development progress over at bknfr.com. And if it’s successful, it will allow Bark and Fester to continue working on their other titles in the future, such as a reboot of Phantom Dust, Frog Factions 3, God Hand 2, and Star Wars 1313. So, put those sales charts down and get to puzzle solving!
Tim Pearce is a freelance journalist and contributor to PN2. Go say hi on Facebook via MeatBaitMedia!