As an avid old-school gamer, I grew up on the two-dimensional Zelda games. I still like to break out the SNES and GB versions from time to time. It’s very obvious to me that the creator of Puzzle of the Dead grew up with the same interests as me.
The first thing that greeted me, when I booted up this game was the wonderful musical score. Anyone who’s familiar with the music I write knows that I love ambient creepy music. I really enjoyed the tunes in this game. They set a nice mood. In fact, Puzzle of the Dead is one of the first iOS titles I’ve played, in a long time, where I haven’t flat-out turned the music off. Big props from a professional musician on that fact! The graphics have a nice 8-bit flair that hint back to the great days of the first Legend of Zelda game. If it weren’t for the music being non-chiptunes, I would swear I was playing on an NES.
The gameplay is very toned down to keep the game from being overly complicated. The goal of each level is to move Pip through the cemetery, collecting the souls of the dead. Once you get all the souls in one level, a key appears to unlock the gate to the next level. There’s no jumping, attacking, or anything getting in the way of things, you just move around. The reason I keep mentioning Zelda, is the puzzles. You’ll need to push blocks around to solve each puzzle (ala Zelda dungeons). A tip for those who’ve never played Zelda: If you see three side by side blocks, push the outer two up and the middle one to the side (a life saver at times). New things get added as you progress, like statues that shoot fire at you unless you block their view. The difficulty curve is pretty balanced, I think.
Puzzle of the Dead features a lot of these puzzles, and new levels were just added in the game’s first update. As long as the developer continues to support this, the game delivers quite a bang for the price.
My only complaint are the controls. On a game like this, where precise grid-based movement is needed, you need a solid controller that allows you to move one step at a time. Unfortunately, the game’s only option is a joystick that appears wherever you place your finger, eliminating all chance for you to lightly tap to make a single step. I’m sure this could be fixed in a later update, and even be done as an optional thing (which control would be preferred by the player, for example).
Overall, Puzzle of the Dead is a great title for puzzle fans, especially if you’re an admirer of the old Zelda games. I’ve been enjoying it immensely!