Stephen’s Sausage Roll
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