Adjacency is a puzzle game, pure and simple. The game presents the player with a series of puzzles that can be solved using a mix of critical thinking, experimentation, and knowledge gained from previous solutions. As the difficulty of puzzles rises in Adjacency, the game’s simple puzzle concept evolves, forcing the player to re-think their strategies and expand their understanding of how solutions work. Adjacency takes the best parts of the puzzle game genre and presents it in a simple, clean fashion.
A puzzle in Adjacency is a series of shapes. Triangles, octagons, and other polygons sit together, each one’s outline either red, blue, yellow, and so on. At the start of a puzzle, a few shapes are filled in with a colour, while most are blank. When you click on a shape that is coloured-in, all of its adjacent shapes take on that colour as well. It’s an easy concept to grasp visually, but it is also deceptively simple. I soon realized that puzzles couldn’t be solved just by clicking randomly on shapes and hoping for the best. Critical thinking is paramount to getting through the game, especially with later puzzles, which introduce new and clever concepts to the gameplay.
There is no tutorial in Adjacency, and it doesn’t need one. The initial gameplay is intuitive and obvious, but this knowledge-through-intuition phenomenon steeps into the entire game, not just its beginning. Initially frustrated with puzzles I couldn’t solve, I found myself learning aspects of the puzzle system simply by playing around with different parts of the puzzle and with the effects of clicking on certain shapes in certain orders. Puzzles are ordered in such a way that they gradually reveal a bit more about how to work within the system, and it is largely in the various ways that the player gains knowledge that Adjacency succeeds as a puzzle game.
The ability for the player to experiment with the puzzles without any punishment is a massive boon to the enjoyment of Adjacency. There is no limit to how many times you can click on a puzzle, the game will tell you when you’ve dug yourself into a hole, and undoing a move is just as easy as resetting the entire puzzle. Skilled players can test themselves by trying to beat each puzzle’s par score, while the rest of us will be challenged enough by simply finding a solution in the first place.
As for presentation, Adjacency’s is straightforward. Puzzles are presented on a black background, and buttons to reset the level or skip it are obvious in their placement. The music in the game is ambient, subtle, and inoffensive. The game’s presentation won’t amaze with its style, but it does what it is supposed to without complications. Those who play the game for a long time won’t grow annoyed with user interface issues or annoying music.
Great puzzles games are challenging but not frustrating. They allow the player to play around with puzzles, experiment with ideas, and test possible solutions without punishment. They also pass knowledge to the player through each puzzle’s solution, rewarding players for their time invested. While Adjacency may be missing that small something that makes a game really special (a great story or a masterful presentation style, for example), it still remains a fantastic game thanks to its welcoming gameplay and clever, challenging puzzles.
Adjacency releases on Steam on Friday, June 9th.