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Pretentious Game

For: iPad   Also on: Android, iPhone, Steam

Combines basic puzzles and the intractable sadness of the human soul surprisingly well

Product: Pretentious Game | Developer: Keybol Games | Publisher: Bulkypix | Format: iPad | Genre: Platform, Puzzle | Players: 1 | Version: Europe
Pretentious Game iPad, thumbnail 1
Pretentious Game is a puzzle-platformer about different strands of a broken relationship further damaged by tragedy.

It plays a little like Thomas Was Alone but coupled with a rough-edged charm - there's no Danny Wallace here to provide narration, no high-def graphics, no lighting effects.

Instead there's a clearly defined story artfully told through abstract means - not unlike Braid, I suppose, with the whimsy filed off and none of the time manipulation.

Little Blocks

There are characters in the game, but only in the sense that the little blocks you control in this bright, pixellated world are different colours. There's a blue one that deals with a breakup, a pink one that deals with heartbreak, an orange one that deals with exclusion, and a grey one that deals with alcoholism.

The clever thing about Pretentious Game is that - as long as you've played the game - none of the previous sentence sounds ridiculous. This is clearly a story about heartbreak, about a lack of communication. It just happens to be told through pushing 'left', 'right', and 'jump' to get a block through a maze.

So many of the puzzles - and there are quite a few, and the solution to almost all of them involves some brisk but not over-challenging lateral thought - deal with interacting with another one of the characters (reaching them, moving them as you move, avoiding them) or progressing through a landscape using rules that are ever-changing.

It's a clever representation of the endless puzzle that is other people - how can we tell what other people want, until it's too late? When do we know it's too late? How can a focus on ourselves work to the detriment of others?

Is it worth buying or not, though?

But that's all a bit philosophical, really, and this is Pocket Gamer, and you came here to see whether the game is worth buying or not, and it is.

The basic version - with three chapters, and more promised to arrive soon - is 69p / 99c, and you can buy access to wallpapers and the soundtrack if you feel like supporting the studio any more once you've played it.

For that 69p you get a grab bag of puzzles that are very pleasing to solve. There's not much to draw you back in once you're done - for the majority of the puzzles, the solution is binary (either you work out the trick from the clues presented in the flavour text that adorns each level, or you don't) and there are no rewards for, say, playing it faster or more accurately.

But replay value is not what Pretentious Game is about. For that 69p you get access to some neat puzzles and an engaging story. As the story forms the clues for solving many of the puzzles, you're forced to interact with it to progress - the narrative is not a thing you can skip, a separate entity, but a vital part of the solution.

Very clever

It's very clever on a lot of different levels - narrative, gameplay, challenge - and it deserves your attention. It's not the most polished game you'll ever play, and it doesn't have the slickest visuals or crispest UI. But it is pleasingly abstract and surprisingly deft at illustrating the human condition.

And that's not something you can say for a lot of games where you move a block through a maze.
Pretentious Game
Reviewer photo
Grant Howitt | 20 December 2013
A bag of surprises inextricably bound together around a well-told story
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