I can honestly say that never before have I played a game quite like Coffee Pot Terrarium. It’s a bit of a puzzler. It’s a bit tactical. It’s pretty darn fun.
Coffee Pot Terrarium is a new game out by the Brothers Flint (and I have to say, I dig their logo). It’s a turn-based, tile-based puzzle game in which your objective is to drop your enemies down into the water without doing the same to yourself or getting hit by them. It sounds simple, and it’s easy to explain it that way, but that doesn’t quite relate what the game is like. The closest comparison I have in my gaming experience is when you’re playing an RPG and you’re trekking across the zone map, attempting to avoid the lesser enemies because any fights with trash mobs will just slow you down, right? All you really want is to get to the boss. Except, now imagine the map is a series of suspended walkways that you can raise or drop at will, during your turn that is. And there is no boss. You’re just trying to kill the trash mobs without actually engaging them. Okay, that isn’t a magnificent description, but I think this is just one of those games that you have to see or play to really understand.
In Coffee Pot Terrarium, you have three basic abilities that you can use on your turn. You can move to another tile, you can drop a tile down one level, and you can raise a new pathway between tiles to connect them. You can use all of these abilities in a single turn, but once you do, your turn’s over and the enemies start moving. All of the tiles have to remain connected in some way to "special root nodes", which change from map to map. Therein lies a big part of the strategy: How to drop tiles effectively to kill enemies without disconnecting the tile you’re standing on.
The puzzle elements themselves aren’t too difficult. It may take a few plays to observe the movement patterns of the enemies (they're generally predictable), and then it may take another play or two to come up with the best path. Depending on the map, there may be one best solution or multiple good ways to solve it. If you mess up though, you’ll find that the enemies hit pretty hard. After a few deaths, I found myself going to great lengths to absolutely never take damage, because if I got hit once, I knew death was imminent. This wasn’t a bad thing though. My fearful caution netted me several Steam achievements and, I think, taught me how to play the game better. It’s sort of like when you start out playing a game on the hardcore mode but have to switch back to normal difficulty to get past some point, and you realize, “Wow, normal mode is super easy.”
The art in this game is simple, elegant, and effective...almost Zen-like.
From the beginning, seeing the character’s broken glass helmet, and given the name of the game, I wondered if everything that is taking place had somehow escaped from the protagonist’s mind, an enclosed terrarium of sorts. Maybe I’m reading too much into something that isn’t there, sure, but I still like the idea of it. The audio work wasn’t bad. I did like the sound effects of movement across the tiles and of the dropping/raising tiles, but the background music got annoying after a while. I wouldn’t even describe it as music, more of just a continuous aura of sound. Finally, I just had to mute the entire game because there was only one volume option in the settings which didn’t allow me to mute only the music.
I will admit that despite the audio options, the settings menu in Coffee Pot Terrarium is beautiful and clean. I even like the font they chose. It doesn’t happen often, so I think that it’s important to point out that an options menu can look good and not be cluttered all to hell.
Ultimately, I would say that Coffee Pot Terrarium’s shortcomings are few and not serious. I played the game for four hours straight, so you can tell I like it. Have you ever done something repeatedly, at work or whatever, and then later you dream about doing that same thing? Yeah, that happened to me. I’ve been solving Coffee Pot Terrarium puzzles in my dreams.
Coffee Pot Terrarium is an interesting and unique puzzler. In my opinion, it’s worth it for the price, and I look forward to seeing what else Brothers Flint can produce.