I've played some more, unlocked some new areas, etc.
But, it's started to get a bit grindy and I'm not sure I'm up for playing the rest of it. The grinding is mostly from having to gather enough rupees to pay for this or that (and to donate). So, it's time for it to go back on the shelf even as I reflect on the general awesomeness that often comes out of Japanese mainstream studios.
I finished it, and I have more questions than answers. I did start to get a bit tired of the puzzles, there were too many for my taste and it felt a bit onerous to have to do them all - so I did the ones you had to do and left it at that. I'm really curious about the top of the tower, but I got stuck at a point where I needed a code and I could not find said code nor did I know where it might have been found. So, that gave me a great excuse to just finish the regular game and move on.
Overall? I really enjoyed it. The game is definitely more polished that I expected but, more interestingly, through all the reading and the interactions with the other character - I really got into the game and curious about what was going on and such.
The hint system is a waste of time - it takes too long to unlock (A LOT of extra work) for very little payoff (a one time clue, AFAIK), so a huge waste of payoff there...
It's been a while since I've enjoyed a puzzle game that felt "natural" while still being contrived. The Portal games are probably the closest (I haven't played the Witness yet, but I think it would fit the bill).
At this point I've finished the game - partly because I got tired of the puzzles and also because I got stuck. I really wanted to get to the top of a tower, but I needed a code to get access to the 4th floor and I must have missed where that clue was provided. So, I decided to cut my losses and go for the (what I assume is..) the lame ending. As in, I did all the puzzles (except for the secret ones, only did one of those because that seemed like way too much work for not a lot of payoff).
To be fair, while the puzzles were fine - I would have enjoyed a lot fewer of them because what I REALLY enjoyed was chatting to the "person" on the computer terminals in each area, answering questions and reading all the files. I'm super super curious about the backstory (what happened to all the humans?) because all the stuff you find and read says a lot...but not all of it. I wonder if going up the tower was the way to really find out what happened?
Did the humans all die? Leave? I think died...but then, who is running the computer(s) in which I presumably exist? Are they running on auto-pilot or, are they running but being controlled externally by someone else (aliens?)
Fun stuff, and very thoughtful - I really enjoyed that part of the game..
It's not that the puzzles were bad - it's just that there were lots of them, and they're all a bit dry. I did appreciate the following design "tricks" though:
a. I like how a lot of the puzzles built on each other in terms of strategies and things you learned how to do (e.g. put boxes on top of the mines and ride around!)
b. The puzzles were all self-contained, until the game hinted that you might be able to break out...they're still self-contained, but you can get extra stuff if you think outside the puzzle. (the exception to this was one of the secret star area puzzles that I was really disappointed by. I only did one, so no idea if it was the exception, but I felt betrayed that I could not solve the puzzle without bringing in stuff from outside the puzzle.)
c. It felt so good when I broke out of the puzzle area with an object I was not supposed to have. Felt subversive in a non-story way (unlike Portal, which very much reinforces that).
d. I'm glad they didn't mix up all the elements/things in the puzzles. Some of the longer ones dragged a bit.
e. The UI for the connectors was great. Especially once I figured out how it worked - that you could select a target but then move around at will (if gray target won't work, but will still be selected). There was a puzzle later where you had to do this - so I figured that out in time?
f. They collaborating with yourself puzzles were (mostly) really neat. It was fun to plan ahead for them and the restriction that you had to head back to the recording machine is design genius - it really limited the kinds of solutions you could try out in a way that made things generally more manageable.
g. Fast re-starts are the way to go. Also, I'm glad to say that the rest button was not necessary all that much. By that I mean that the puzzles were designed in such a way that I rarely put myself in a position that I could not undo. This was nice, since some puzzles had a lot of "setup" and being able to tweak a solution is so much better than having to re-start. (tweak = vary the placement of something a little so a timing element works out, etc.)
h. Going up the tower also felt really neat, especially when "God" comments that you've gone missing and such. A bit Portal-like, but I am genuinely curious to know what is at the top of the tower. I guess I'll have to hit the youtubes to find out...
i. The messengers were a disappointment - it takes a lot of puzzle-solving effort to find these (3 different?) helpers, but you can only use them 3 times (1 each). So, REALLY not worth all that effort. Also, having the "shrine" where you ask for help was nice, but it was mostly not usable for the entire game because I hadn't found any of the helpers. Sigh.
I can't say I played this A LOT, but I got a strong sense that this wasn't the kind of game I'd enjoy - and it also seemed like a game without a lot of depth.
As far as I can tell the entire game plays like the first "level" (area? zone?). It's a single screen beat-em-up with a variety of different enemies. Sometimes enemies drop single use items (mostly special weapons) you use to get a special attack. You can always hold one, and by summoning an owl "hold" an extra. Better weapons/things drop when your combo streak is higher and...that's it. I think it's 10 waves before a boss and presumably after that it's a new area with...more of the same.
For me, this would be fine for an arcade game - short playtime, make it hard, that's ok. But on a console I just felt like there wasn't enough there to keep me interested. There aren't any real special attacks that matter, it's always the same area and the items can be fun - but it really sucks that they're single use...and there's no progression system as far as I can tell. So, why bother continuing? I guess there's going for the combo streak/score...but that's usually not my style or interest.
Weirdly, there are hints of deeper things to look at - you can craft new items, you can buy items, you get coins...but it all seems for little payoff. Spending a lot of coins for a single use item that isn't that great (basically the same as the things monsters drop)...and the crafting? Never did it, but my guess is that its just for slightly better items? That, again, use once and they're gone.