There are few games as unassuming as Lily in Puzzle World. It could have been drawn in an exercise book. The graphical fidelity is about the level of one of the 79p games that crop up on the Xbox Store from time to time. There’s no story. It’s chopped up into fifty levels, each fitting into a single game screen, and there’s no more than five or six obstacles per level.
It would be easy to write it off immediately. It certainly demands that you overlook its art, and be interested in platformers that keep things pure. But if you can accept it with these warts, Lily in Puzzle World is one of those indie games that keeps you hooked from the beginning to its short end. We gobbled it all up in one session.
We couldn’t tell you who Lily is, why she’s in Puzzle World, or why she looks something like an Ibuprofen. But she’s got one cunning ability: when she steps on a block with a smiley face on it, she turns into a smaller, aspirin-shaped Lily. That version of Lily can fit through small gaps, and has a large leap, too. Ibuprofen-Lily has nothing. You suck, Ibuprofen-Lily.
Levels develop a simple but satisfying pattern. The first task is to find Little Lily. Then you need to find a key. That key opens the exit that takes you to the next level, so is reasonably vital. On the way is a coin, and that coin serves as the game’s out-of-the-way collectible. You don’t have to grab it, and grabbing it can be risky, but it is spent on a medieval helmet for Lily (other hats are available). If that doesn’t tempt you, nothing will.
The obstacles are fairly traditional. There are no enemies – this is Puzzle World, not Combat World – so you’re dealing with spikes, crossbows on timers and spinning blades. The platforms are slightly more unconventional: there are those that fall as you step on them, some that automatically move and – our favourite – ones that move only once you step on them. None of them are revolutionary, but there’s simple cleverness in the way that they are combined to make minor conundrums.
More importantly, the controls are tight. There’s very little chance that you will swan-dive off a moving platform and believe that the game is at fault. We even found ourselves dying and laughing at our own lack of forward-planning. That’s a good sign in our eyes: if we’re taking the piss out of ourselves, it means that control is thoroughly with us.
Lily in Puzzle World’s shortcomings are reasonably predictable. We’ve already mentioned the sketchbook art, but the lack of challenge is another. If you’re patient, take your time with each obstacle (there’s no time limit to worry about), then you will barely hit a hitch. That might be a dealbreaker for the Super Meat Boy crowd. And while the levels are constructed with cleverness, they’re not working with much. There are only seven or eight ingredients to work from, and it can make the levels feel somewhat basic.
We can’t make a case for Lily in Puzzle World’s presentation. Most people will have dismissed it outright from a single screenshot. It’s in the awkward spot of not being attractive enough for casual players, and being too easy for the hardcore. We suspect it won’t do particularly well, as people assume it’s shovelware masquerading as a £4.19 game.
Dismiss it, though, and you’d be missing out on a pure, tiny platformer. It’s got very few pretensions, but it gets the important stuff – the controls, the levels – right, and it gets them right for long enough that you will reach the end in a single session. If you like your platforming bitesize, then you will regret nothing about picking up Lily in Puzzle World.