Stephen’s Sausage Roll

PC

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It’s al­most as if Stephen’s Sausage Roll doesn’t quite be­lieve any­one will take to it. Its Steam page de­liv­ers the barest of de­scrip­tions: “A sim­ple 3D puz­zle game.” And, chances are, you won’t take to it, not at first. It doesn’t tell you what you need to do, and it looks ugly. Your char­ac­ter is a low-poly blob with an odd fork-like struc­ture pro­trud­ing from its face, and it stands in a prim­i­tivist pix­e­lated is­land en­vi­ron­ment of clash­ing colours. Yet this Sokoban- like block-shift­ing puz­zler has one of the high­est user rat­ings on Me­ta­critic. It’s a work of con­found­ing bril­liance.

The ob­ject is to cook sausages by push­ing or rolling them on to grills. The sausages con­sist of two sides, two blocks long, and each must be cooked evenly to beat the level. Burn them by grilling twice or push them into the sea and you fail. It’s a sim­ple con­cept, but the com­pli­ca­tions are many, and at first they come from the char­ac­ter’s awk­ward­ness. Its fork swings around as you turn, un­in­ten­tion­ally shov­ing sausages and getting caught on scenery. It’s ini­tially en­rag­ingly ob­tuse (the undo key is a con­stant com­pan­ion), but with per­se­ver­ance you be­gin to learn how the fork can reach from sur­pris­ing an­gles, how to back into spa­ces, and the spa­ces it can ne­go­ti­ate.

But it’s up to you to di­vine all this. Lev­els are found scat­tered across the open is­land, so you’ll of­ten come to them with­out ex­pe­ri­ence of sim­pler ones to give you an idea of how to ap­proach them. Even with ex­pe­ri­ence, you’re usu­ally fac­ing new chal­lenges. This is a game with lit­tle pad­ding, and you can rarely di­rectly ap­ply learn­ings from one level to an­other. But while daunt­ing, see­ing the frame­work ex­pand in sur­pris­ing, cre­ative and mul­ti­far­i­ous di­rec­tions is greatly re­ward­ing. A par­tic­u­lar high­light is the as­cen­sion to the sec­ond is­land, where a whole new set of in­ter­ac­tions be­comes ev­i­dent, ex­posed by new level de­sign con­fig­u­ra­tions.

Not only are the game’s puz­zles dizzy­ingly in­tri­cate, but, like a jig­saw, they also com­prise the land of the is­land it­self. This re­la­tion­ship be­tween puz­zle and world lends the game a sim­i­lar sense of co­her­ence to that of The Wit­ness, and even some of its weird grav­i­tas. And for all its ap­par­ent crude­ness, you’re soon aware of the great care de­vel­oper Stephen Lavelle has in­vested in every as­pect, from touches of an­i­ma­tion and the feel of the char­ac­ter’s move­ment to the greater struc­ture. Yes, it’s con­found­ing, but Stephen’s Sausage Roll’s ge­nius hooks into you. It’s a game you’ll come back to the next day, hav­ing faced con­stant de­feat in lev­els that are surely im­pos­si­ble, and find your­self beat­ing them. The re­sult­ing sense of achieve­ment is some­thing only the very best puz­zle games can reach.

The is­land is pep­pered with pink blocks and shad­ows of your char­ac­ter. Ma­noeu­vre into the shadow and the is­land around it sinks into the sea to re­veal the level, the pink blocks be­com­ing the sausages

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