Riddle me this – If there is no discernible reason for a puzzle room, but there is an entrance and a solution to exit it, is it worth entering?
As a universe traveling archeologist in Faraday Protocol, your goal is to figure out the purpose for the existence of a very strange space station, one with no living quarters and only switches and a whole lot of buttons.
With sharp unreal 4 graphics providing the intrigue and spooky audio facilitating the tension, you – and your Buzz Lightyear gun – have a legitimate reason to believe you might be about to embark on a galaxy expanding epic within the opening moments, with you exiting a cool space pod and walking through grassy areas and collapsible branches, but you soon come to realize that this title is more a jigsaw puzzle inside a planetarium than the Millennium falcon about to go into HyperDrive.
Settling into a first-person version of The Crystal Maze, you are confined to puzzle rooms for the vast majority of the game with every room looking like the same space-age Egyptian museum exhibit that utilizes the same five gimmicks arranged in a different order. They require patience and there are plenty of them, totaling a runtime of fewer than 6 hours if you get the hang of things quickly, but unfortunately, that is the starter, the main and the dessert all in one.
Without knowing why you are being referred to as a ‘recruit’ you are assigned these levels as ‘tests’ and each new one is progressively harder than the last, until the game decides that your sole tool is surplus to requirements, transforming you into the greatest button-pusher known to man. Pushing buttons on a controller to do so in-game to progress into yet more rooms to push yet more buttons? Just the thought of it pushes mine.
Escape these compressible item-filled buildings and the game shows its potential for a hot moment, only to be fed back into, for all intents and purposes, the exact same building. Looking at what essentially is the same room over and over makes you wish there was at least one other ship/world in which to explore, and that the puzzles themselves could have been more elaborate far sooner. Being congratulated as a recruit for each completed level makes it seem like you’re stuck in a tutorial mode – for the entire game.
There is a sprinkling of a story here, a seedling that explodes into a redwood in the game’s final moments, but like the joy of the puzzles, it loses its ebb early on and by the time it offers something worth experiencing, its almost too little too late.
With the restricted gameplay on a loop from start to finish, the game never really lets loose until the exciting flurry of a story at the end, but – puzzle-lovers rejoice! – this will more than suffice if you’re just looking for a puzzle game with a space-age twist. Personally, I can only enjoy my Rubiks cubes if their existence are justified in a detailed world full of context, otherwise, it feels like I’m disappointing my overbearingly underdeveloped attention span that wants full immersion from an in-game world.
Longevity is also not another of the game’s strengths with nothing extra offered in terms of recordable times or extra challenges, so there’s little pick-up and play value and – apart from the ending which gives you two options to choose from – there’s little reason for an entire second playthrough.
‘A puzzle game with nice visuals and an intriguing but underdeveloped story’, would fit the description of many a title in this genre, and in that sense, this title blends right in with the crowd, but as someone who can love even the worst of stories, the effort is more important than the execution and it’s, therefore, a shame that not enough of one was made to make Faraday Protocol more of a well-rounded offering. Having said that, the story is worth your time assuming you have the patience to stick with the puzzles through to the end.