Surrounded by sheets of paper, I notice that my normally adequate handwriting has descended into an output of unintelligible scribbles. With my mobile phone in one hand and a Biro in the other, I furiously scrawl pictures that a primary school teacher would throw in the bin – but I’m not here to become the next breakout artist, I’m here to decipher the puzzles of Device 6.
Device 6 is like the “difficult second album” for Simogo. Even though they’ve been developing iOS titles since 2011, Year Walk, released earlier this year, was a defining moment for them, and for mobile gaming as a whole. It’s pretty incredible, then, that they’ve managed to do it again with Device 6.
Anna wakes up in a peculiar place that she doesn’t recognise, and she’s none too happy about it. As the story’s protagonist, her main goal is to, firstly, figure out where she is and then get as far away from there as possible. However, as you tap your way through six chapters, it becomes clear that everything isn’t as it seems and there’s much more to Anna’s story than meets the eye.
The main objective within each episode is to solve the many puzzles in front of you, and keep advancing the tale of Anna’s escape from this surreal situation. The narrative is largely told through on-screen text that becomes more and more intriguing as you scroll through. Unravelling the bizarre nature of Device 6 and its cast of characters is made all the more engrossing because it is exquisitely written. With class and aplomb, the language is of such a high standard in this interactive novella that reading the next chapter is the best possible reward for resolving the (at-first-glance) unresolvable challenges.
As the words are being displayed, arrows will appear, directing you toward the next area to swipe toward. Flipping your phone/tablet sideways is also a requirement as Device 6 doesn’t adhere to any iOS rules that other applications may conform to. There are occasions where branching paths will give off the illusion that you’ve jumped into a Choose Your Own Adventure book, but these avenues are just more points of interest where clues may appear. I say that because each level has something akin to a cul-de-sac – primarily a locked door of some kind, equipped with an odd keypad. This results in players going back over old ground in order to pick up on subtle clues that they may have missed, which pertain to the sealed exit. Hints occur everywhere; they can be hidden within the passages, the scattered images, or they can be audible cues that happen at specific points within that particular chapter. Device 6 expects you to be attentive and take note, literally. Trying to retain every bit of a stage’s information is almost impossible, so that’s why a pen is just as important as an iPhone for Device 6.
Although, paranoia quickly sets in and you would be forgiven for writing down every possible thing you come across. The kooky setting is something that Simogo play with, wonderfully. As so many items of interest are unconventional, the strangest plot devices might not even relate to the puzzle’s answer at all. However, they might – and thus, a vicious circle of doubt takes hold, affecting your judgement and forcing you to involuntarily sketch frantic little doodles that may or may or may not be of use later.
Just like their previous efforts, it’s tough – there’s no doubt about that. There were a few moments (one in particular), where I was completely stumped and advancing didn’t even appear to be an option. However, while Device 6 has the power to make you lose all faith in your mental capacity, it can also reassure you of your genius capabilities. Like any good puzzler, the most euphoric moment is in the build-up to the resolution – when you know you’ve got it. Device 6 achieves this because of its formidable trials. But, it still must be said that the later challenges are pretty unforgiving and will lead some people to frustration.
VERDICT: Mobile gaming is sneered at because of the copious amounts of shovelware readily available on all app stores. Yet, to determine the platform as nothing more than second-rate is to discredit the work of a developer such as Simogo. Ever exceeding expectations, the developer has followed up one of 2013’s highlights with another title that can be classed as such. With a compelling story that keeps you guessing, and a pin-point utilisation of the platform, Device 6 is an accomplishment in games design, mobile or otherwise.
SUPERB. This is the mark of greatness, only awarded to games that engage us from start to finish. Titles that score 9/10 will have very few problems or negative issues, and will deliver high quality and value for money across all aspects of their design.