Best Puzzle Game of 2021

by
Lee Mehr
, posted 1 day ago / 1,380 Views

Whether you’re racing against the clock or afforded all the time in the world, the satisfaction of a completed puzzle can’t be understated.  Whereas most critic and fan darlings in other genres tend to rely on established templates, puzzlers don’t get enough credit for their inherent flexibility in mechanics or tone.  2021’s nominees highlight that in obvious ways. Some have a heavier emphasis on darker narratives or world-building, while others emphasise mechanical challenges.  Out of all the genre awards, these nominees are arguably the most varied.

The Shortlist:

Unpacking

Little Nightmares II

Big Brain Academy: Brain vs. Brain

12 Minutes

  

The Winner:

Little Nightmares II

Runner-up: 12 Minutes

As someone who wrote up this genre award for 2019 and 2020, it’s a pleasant surprise to see these story-focused puzzlers net 1st and 2nd place.  Why Little Nightmares II earns gold isn’t strictly thanks to the puzzle-platformer mechanics; it’s how those mechanics come to life in the title’s unsettling atmosphere and world design.  There’s also the addition of Mono to consider.  As our own Issa Maki put it: “Puzzle-solving becomes a vastly more manageable task when Six is around; very rarely will players ever be put in a position where they have no idea about what to do next.”  By harnessing the great qualities of the first title and incorporating an AI companion to improve pacing, Tarsier Studios knocked it out of the park.

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