We’re all used to those adorable little puzzle games where you move unidentifiable colorful objects into other unidentifiable colorful objects to save a princess, get back a piece of cake, save a precious animal, or even just for the hell of it. In Psychoban, Dedalord gives a big “screw you” to the traditional “cute” block pushing game, and instead you’ll find a much more atmospheric experience with a LEGITIMATE motive. But, is this newfound theme enough to make the game a classic, or is it only a ruse for more of the same thing?
In Psychoban, you control an amicable human being that has had his brain dissected, and the end result turns him into something much like a living piece of bread. An evil “almost” scientist seeks to cure his boredom, therein the plot begins. Evil doctor and his assistant have special plans for you, and these involve pushing around crates onto switches to escape several mental institutions in the hope of ending your sojourn and finding the sweet taste of freedom.
Yes, you push crates onto switches. You’ll find yourself into a cleverly constructed 3D landscape with several layers, your goal being to utilize the different leveled landscapes to get the multiple crate(s) to their green switch(es). This is done with a fairly easy tap to move interface. This registers fairly well, and the landscape rarely poses as an impediment to movement. Occasionally you may miss-tap, but being able to zoom the screen around, as well as your character automatically taking the best route to your destination, all works as well as it should.
There are several techniques and implications in getting your crates to the goal(s), however. For example, since you control a human, you have to be behind (or beside, based on your angle) the block to push it. This is especially important considering that when you push a block down from a ledge, it will land either in a complete corner or with one of its sides facing the wall. Several levels utilize a stacking technique which has you pushing blocks on top of each other either as to form a bridge, reach a height, or even to remove a block from your way. Metal crates are a common gimmick for most of the game, and they are used primarily as scapegoats to get the switch activating blocks to a certain point. An undo feature saves you from that constant “restart level” threat we all fear. As simple as it is, it proves to be rather amusing when mixed with the 3D landscape.
My favorite part of the game though, is in its presentation. The screenshots alone may make it seem like some sort ofcreepy horror game, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Well, alright, maybe at first it may seem that way, but you’ll soon learn that the game’s presentation actually turns out to be one of the strongest aspects of the game. When you first play, you’ll be forced to deal with a horrific looking doctor and his evil lady assistant with their constant taunts, atmospheric blood smeared walls, no sign of hope, and then you actually play the game a considerable amount…
The evil doctor is actually a pretty cool guy. Well, a douchebag, but still kind of nice. At first the side characters add a rather grim mood to the game, but after a while their dialogue turns into a humorous comedy sketch that keeps you playing the game. Whether it’s the doctor discussing his favorite comedy (Animal Farm), or the assistant complaining about the patient’s tendency to choose a toothbrush over his freedom (WHY DON’T YOU LOVE ME?!) , the witty banter between the characters as well as the doctor’s fail attempts to kill add a layer of personality to the game rarely found in ones of this genre.
Sadly, I do have a few gripes. The 3D aspect of the game is cool, but it occasionally leads to confusion over which part of the floor is above the rest. It is somewhat tough to word it, but a few of the levels look like one of those optical illusions, whether or not you’re above the lower floor or on it makes crate pushing an occasional unnecessary hassle. Possibly having different colored tiles for certain levels would easily remedy this issue. Here is what I mean by the illusion, some of it is higher ground, while other is lower:
My only other complaint would be that the game never really proves itself to be all that difficult. I managed to beat the game without ever really being stumped, and even the last world proved itself to be somewhat of a pushover in terms of challenge. At the end of the story mode, you have a bonus 10 level pack where you have to push a specific crate onto a switch, but these levels proved themselves to be not that tough as well. However, to be fair, the game deserves a lot of credit for its handy undo system, which saved me quite a few times, so that definitely factors in to the difficulty aspect. The possible addition of new gimmicks would add a certain depth of challenge, and hopefully the level pack the devs are planning on adding prove to be harder than the levels included.
iFanzine Verdict: Psychoban is a different take on the puzzle genre with its presentation, and with fun Sokoban-inspired puzzles and a good sense of humor, the game is definitely more than just looks. The upcoming level pack will hopefully add more challenge and gimmicks to the game, but as is, it definitely is worth buying for fans of the genre.