Dabado Puzzles is one of the most marmite gaming experiences I’ve played in recent memory. It’s full of unique ideas to make a curious and quirky puzzle game interesting . Then it throws in some very unusual gaming progression loops that stretches your patience to breaking point. It’s fun but this is fun for a specific crowd of players.
The short way to describe Dabado Puzzles is Pipe Mania crossed with Tricky Towers as a stacking game. Each level requires you to collect something placed on the level – often a key. You’ll need to build a tower up to it using weird and wonderfully shaped blocks that resemble tree branches. You have a base block to make a tower foundation, medium blocks that are squiggly and balanceable on their edges and light blocks which are not stackable but can be used to capture things to the side of wherever you’ve built. Levels end up like weird trees of blocks as you try to sort out what can be placed where. You can flip blocks but only with a powerup can you rotate things or pause the level from auto dropping blocks from the sky.
To progress the game you don’t need to just collect the key though. Lots of other collectables are included as optional extras but really they are tasks to pick off as and when you can. You still need to collect the key at the end to clear the level but its down to you to make the decision of what extra challenges to go for. These unlock other collectables, scrolls and future levels by giving you light. Light is the currency to let you travel to new levels on the overworld map. Fail or quite out of a level and you lose light so you can absolutely end up in a fail state and need to start the entire game from scratch.
So far, Dabado Puzzles feels like a quirky and interesting game. Here comes the but section.
The pieces that drop from the sky though are totally randomised. Usually this doesn’t cause much of an issue in a game but here the block count to complete a level is restrictive and so tight that if you get a poor block order, the level isn’t salvageable. Indeed, Dabado Puzzles tells you this in its blurbs – you will need to grind the same levels over and over again to gain light to progress. The double whammy means that you’ll replay levels you can’t progress further on over and over waiting for the right block order to then try and execute on it and then move the story on. It feels like a pay to win mobile game set up but the pay to win elements haven’t been implemented. It’s frustrating and a huge waste of players time, expecting you to grind over and over the same four or five levels for hours. It really pulls the game experience down.
It’s a shame as when you can escape these main levels, the unique ones do lots of interesting variants on the main concept. These include trying to cram blocks into playing areas, capturing letters or building lots of mini towers to work your way up to a very high finale. If the game expanded on these variants, it would be far more engaging. Graphically and musically the game is relaxing, soft and beautifully relaxing and ethereal. It’s just a shame the gameplay structure is so stressfully grindy.
So if you aren’t put off by the grind, Dabado Puzzles is an odd, unique and genuinely brain whirring puzzle. It will test your patience and forgiveness. It has plenty of hidden strategies if you can uncover them. I’d recommend this but for hardcore puzzle enthusiasts only.
Review copy provided by developer.
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