by Steve Watts, shacknews.com, Apr 16, 2012 7:15AM PDT
Miegakure is a rarity in modern games. Puzzle titles are common, and puzzle-platformers only slightly less so. But most puzzle games have simple, basic rule sets that iterate in creative ways. A puzzle game that introduces a wholly new concept and forces the player to learn a new way of thinking is unusual, to say the least.
The indie game from single-man developer Marc Ten Bosch was shown off at PAX East 2012. It's named after the concept of concealment in designing a Japanese garden. Features are intentionally hidden to be revealed in a set way as you explore the landscape. Similarly, Miegakure uses its core mechanic to obfuscate certain elements of the environment until it is explored further.
Miegakure bills itself as "a puzzle platformer in four dimensions." The settings are split into strips of land, each of which can be toggled to different dimensions of time. Sometimes a new time will open new strips, which themselves can be toggled as well. You may be blocked from entering the other side of an area, for example, but you could toggle your time to when that wall didn't yet exist, cross, and then toggle back. That simple example barely scratches the surface of the puzzle concept's applications.
In the tutorial demo, most of this had to do with block and climbing puzzles. Occasional NPCs would offer vague hints that they remembered the landscape having a different appearance, but the game doesn't offer much in the way of explicit instruction. The concept of moving blocks to reach higher ground has been established enough in video games that we can grasp that simple mechanic as a vehicle for the more complex time-bending puzzles.
Sometimes, learning how to solve a puzzle is a matter of trial and error. Toggling the time periods to see what can be found in different periods can lead to a solution bordering on epiphany -- or a puzzle can be solved entirely by accident. The revelatory moments are infinitely more satisfying than stumbling upon a solution, but both methods achieve the desired effect of visually displaying a four-dimensional puzzle.
The video above displays an older build than I experienced, but even my time with the title seemed early. It has no announced date or platforms, and some of the graphic elements like the checkpoints could still become more complex and visually interesting. As a proof of concept and a glimpse of brain-bending puzzle implications, though, Miegakure left me convinced that the genre still has plenty of depth left to explore.