Please Fix The Road Review - Clever Construction

4 weeks ago 48

Some games provide you with abstract titles that don't fully explain the breadth of the tasks you will be required to complete to reach the end. Please Fix The Road does not suffer from that problem. As you play through 160 bite-sized puzzles, each one simply asks you to do exactly what this game's title says: fix the road, path, sidewalk, or river so that vehicles and animals can reach their destination. But despite the simple premise and casual demeanor, developer Arielek offers no shortage of clever twists on the core concept and, in the process, kept me guessing at what challenges I would face next.

Each puzzle presents a small, charmingly rendered plot of land with at least one broken road. In the lower-left corner, you have designated moves you must make to solve the puzzle. While I initially found this dictation of moves in a specific order restrictive and counter to the more casual experience I expected, it ultimately pushed me towards some incredibly rewarding moments as I likely solved the puzzle exactly as the developer intended. Additionally, it provides breadcrumbs toward the solution; on multiple occasions, I wondered why a certain move was required in a level, only to learn that I was overlooking an important aspect of the puzzle.

What starts as a puzzle game where you simply plug the provided tiles where they logically fit quickly escalates to one where you must blow up, rearrange, swap, copy, and rotate entire blocks of land to get characters from point A to point B. Usually, problems are solvable within a couple of minutes; I found some solutions instantaneously. For others, I stared at them for several minutes on end while attempting different solutions. As I reached puzzles numbered in the 80s, 90s, and into the hundreds, that trial-and-error element came more into play as the developer threw increasingly complex puzzles my way.

Thankfully, since the action unfolds on a move-by-move basis, Please Fix The Road gives players an undo button that backtracks to the last action you performed. This is particularly helpful for experimentation. On occasion, when I got stuck, I enjoyed using the hint button, which doles out step-by-step hints but not full-on solutions; if I'm stuck on a particular step, I can receive a hint from the developers about the correct first move I should make. It's helpful without the game just playing itself, even as it completes early moves on your behalf.

It is somewhat frustrating to have the hints play out in sequential order, regardless of any correct moves I had already made; it doesn't matter if I got the first three moves right; the hint mechanic is going to undo all my moves and show me the first move that I already made for the first hint. Thankfully, the vast majority of the time, I relied solely on my own puzzle-solving skills. Some of the puzzles later in the game had me staring in bewilderment at what my first move should be, which can be frustrating but ultimately satisfying once I cracked the code.

The levels are not only well-balanced but well-paced. For each stage that took me longer than normal, an easier puzzle was often right around the corner to help rebuild my confidence. This constant ebb-and-flowing kept me on my toes without killing the momentum I built up as I worked through the many challenges on offer. Completing each puzzle grants extra satisfaction thanks to the fun animations accompanying each solution; from the charming art style, relaxing soundscapes, and gorgeously animated transitions between puzzles, Please Fix The Road's minimalist design conventions appeal to the senses in wonderful ways.

Though the gimmick eventually wears thin and the complexity sometimes outpaces the simple concept by the time you reach the puzzles in the triple digits, Please Fix The Road shows that creativity and clever puzzle design are more important than a robust toolset or wide-ranging player freedom. It delivers a tight, curated puzzle-solving experience that hooks you from the very first puzzle and, through steadily evolving mechanics, delivers satisfaction around every turn.

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