There’s no denying that video games can provide an outlet for our own power fantasies. Who doesn’t feel like an action movie hero when downing a giant mech in Titanfall or literally killing a God in one of Kratos’ adventures? These power trips don’t have to be action oriented, though, as some of the most powerful ones have been found in puzzle games. Everyone remembers the moment when Fez finally clicked, and the best puzzle games make the player feel like an absolute genius before reminding them how easily they can be stumped.
The latest puzzle game that will make you feel like the smartest person in the world, albeit momentarily, is TACS Games’ Factotum 90. The unique puzzler, which was previously released on Wii U as Factotum, has the player controlling two different robots around a space station. They’ll need to solve various puzzles to get to the bottom floor, and fix whatever issue that caused the vessel’s life support system to come offline.
This isn’t a Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons scenario where you’ll be controlling the two characters at the same time. Instead, you’ll only be moving one while the other sits in place. While that control scheme could’ve worked, and would provide for a much faster game, the added benefit of camera control is helpful (especially due to the verticality of some later levels). The two robots are identical skill-wise and only have a few features, such as grabbing boxes and being able to access computer terminals. These skills are fully explored, though, and the game doesn’t ever seem like it needs to be introducing more complexity than it does.
Most of the puzzles involve triggering buttons that then change the layout of the room your in. You’re never at a loss as to what section changed, thankfully, as the game draws a line on-screen to what object just shifted. This way, no matter how far away a trigger is, you know what it’s impacting. These little touches make Factotum 90 feel far less frustrating than some other puzzle games, and eliminates a lot of trial and error
While the game won’t leave players completely baffled like The Witness, it did force me to stop and take in my surroundings at certain points. The solution that I was missing always seemed obvious in retrospect, but I always felt smart when I figured out what I had to do to continue. Factoum 90 can be incredibly satisfying, and in some ways very self-serving, as it constantly reminds the player that you’re smart and can overcome the obstacles that are in your way.
There are 30 stages in total, and each one only takes a few minutes to finish once you know what you’re doing. That said, don’t be surprised if a level takes you 10-15 minutes on the first go, as some of the solutions are quite tricky. While it’s not a very long experience, it does feel like a complete one. When the credits roll, you’ll feel like you accomplished something, and that the journey was all worth it.
For those looking for replay value, each level in the game has a hidden symbol to find. These are often placed in areas that will require the player to solve a few additional puzzles to reach, and there is a nice feeling of satisfaction each time you grab one. Only the most thorough gamers will grab all of these on their first playthrough, so this should give completionists some extra bang for their buck.
While the core puzzle solving can be brilliant, it can be rather frustrating moving the robots around the ship (at least initially). Your mechanical allies operate fittingly with tank controls, a la Resident Evil, and can sometimes feel awkward as you miss a platform you triggered due to the slow turning speed of the robot. Thankfully, this is only a problem early on as the controls become second nature after the first few rooms, and a run button makes speed less of an issue.
Factotum 90 could have used a rewind feature, though, as there were many times that I accidentally fell off a platform. This led to backtracking minutes worth of gameplay, and sometimes I would have to send both robots back to the start due to a small error. While annoying, this was a predicament that I set myself in, and fittingly one I had to work out of.
If you’re looking for an Xbox One exclusive that will stimulate your brain, then look no further. Factotum 90 will make you feel smarter than you were before playing which is just about the best praise you can give a puzzle game. While you won’t have any monumental breakthroughs like in Fez or The Witness, the small victories in each of the game’s 30 stages are still extremely satisfying. Small annoyances slightly mar the experience, but this is still a brain teaser that’s worth checking out.
This review is based on the Xbox One exclusive, which we were provided with.
Factotum won't baffle you like The Witness, but it will leave you highly satisfied after solving a difficult puzzle. You'll never feel like a genius, as the solutions are never too far out of reach, but you will feel smarter by the end of the game.