With deadlines approaching, I was looking forward to pretending they didn’t exist. This meant browsing itch.io at 1:00 AM. But I suddenly realized I was having fun when I thought that pausing a game and clicking on onomatopoeia would be the key to beating a level.
When not being played in a late-night delirious fit of procrastination and sheer stubbornness, Detective GUI is an innovative 2D puzzle game. Developed by @joqlepecheur, the first chapter of Detective GUI was released on May 14 of this year. The game has the player enter with traditional platforming mechanics and familiar 8-bit sprites, only for them to find out those familiarities are not necessary to progress through the game. The crux of Detective GUI is in the player’s ability to think outside the box.
Easy, So Easy...?
The first chapter starts with a quick tutorial, only telling the player how to move the character. You are then confronted with a seemingly immovable barrier. There are three things to interact with in this scenario. The first is you, the player character. The second is a Music Toggle button in the settings menu. The last is a Help button, which for any puzzle game enthusiast, is nothing more than a taunt. To click the Help button is the same as admitting defeat.
I took embarrassingly long to complete this tutorial. And at 1:00 AM, with alternative options being less than appealing, I refused to close the game. After a few minutes of ramming my character into the walls and clicking random things, I finally thought to click the Music Toggle button, which seemed like a setting unrelated to the game. After doing so, I noticed the small face inscribed into a barrier. It opened its eyes and began dancing out of the way so I could get to the flag marking the end of the level. I audibly sighed with equal parts relief and exacerbation. It was time to sleep... after a couple more levels.
The rest of the levels go the same way in that clicking buttons you wouldn't normally click, other than for game settings in normal games, actually help solve the puzzles and remove obstacles.
A Puzzling Investigation
I found Detective GUI to be unexpectedly charming. The game draws references to classic tropes in its audio and visual design, but claims a unique style. You think you’re playing a simple puzzle platformer but are eased into a strangely compelling story. I don’t expect to witness a literary masterpiece in future chapters, but the inclusion of a basic story line behind the puzzles definitely helped motivate my progression. I became curious about the perpetrators of the crime I was investigating. I liked seeing the recurring characters with strange, lumpy designs. By identifying with a character role, I found I became far more invested in the playthrough.
So far, the game looks like it has everything you want from a puzzle game. Levels have enough ambiguity to make success feel rewarding without being overwhelming. Game mechanics are discovered and then implemented in future levels to create layered progression. But at the end of the chapter, just when I felt like the game was just starting to ramp up, I was disappointed to realize it ended. I hope that with future chapters, Detective GUI will continue to scale its complexity.
Give It a Try!
Detective GUI’s first chapter is a quick playthrough, but it's got a lot of content and a lot of potential. If you’re a fan of puzzles, you’re sure to have a fun time.