Do you like slide-puzzles? You know, these things. Cogs is essentially an in-depth version of this classic toy. The game totals about 50 puzzles and really nothing else. I don’t recommend it, even as a puzzle game, but if you happen to enjoy slide puzzles, you can’t really ask for more than Cogs.
There isn’t really much to talk about with Cogs. The game has 50 puzzles that can be played in three different game modes. The main mode, “Inventor Mode,” has you play through the 50 puzzles, each one unlocked with a certain number of stars. Completing each puzzle will get you between 3-10 stars, depending on how fast or efficiently you reached the solution. Since there is a five star gap between almost all the levels, you will have to do more than the bare minimum on some of the levels to reach the end.
Whatever levels you manage to unlock become available in the game’s two challenge modes. The two modes, “Time” and “Moves,” are brutal versions of the standard mode. In each, either the time limit or moves count are reduced to their bare minimums. You’ll probably want to practice quite a bit in the standard mode before going on to challenges.
As for the aesthetics, the pseudo-steampunk style looks blocky and a little boring, but isn’t terrible. Likewise, the two-minute looped music is inoffensive but gets old in a hurry.
So let’s get one thing straight: I hate Cogs.
A few weeks ago, I played Cogs for the first time. It was part of a Humble Indie Bundle that I had picked up and hadn’t demanded my immediate attention. Within 15 minutes of starting it for the first time, I was already uninstalling it and adding it to my “Banished” games category on Steam. I couldn’t think of a bigger waste of my time. The game was dull to the nth degree. The challenge wasn’t in finding a solution, it was just maneuvering things to reach the obvious solution. It was like making a platformer that lets you move one frame at a time. I decided I wouldn’t waste another minute on it.
Then I saw it up on the review list here at GRH and realized Cogs was a chance for me to review a game that I not only knew little about but also was predisposed against. It was an opportunity to force myself through a game that wasn’t convenient.
After two hours and 20 puzzles, I found that all my initial assumptions were still more or less correct. I exited the game and began writing a scorching review that sarcastically praised the game for being predictable and repetitive; it was all typed up and ready to be submitted.
But I couldn’t do that. This is what I had wanted from Cogs, right? I had wanted something that wouldn’t be easy to review. So, over the next couple days, I played for another four hours and completed all but two puzzles (I did appreciate the ability to skip the occasional level). Having experienced the whole game and having invested time and energy, I felt like I could finally see Cogs in its entirety, understand it, and make an accurate judgment call… The game still sucked.
Of the 50 puzzles, there were about six where I actually needed to spend more than 15 seconds figuring out what needed to be done. The rest of the time was spent trying to finagle things to where I wanted them. Just like when I was a kid, I never bothered to plan for more than a couple moves in advance because sliding everything around aimlessly usually produced some kind of progress. Even with the “Time” and “Moves” bonuses present (which conflict with each other), I felt no desire to go back and do a puzzle efficiently. I only played through old puzzles for bonuses when I needed more stars to unlock new levels.
It isn’t that I hate puzzle games. I’m well over half-way done with SpaceChem and I’ve played through Crayon Physics Deluxe and I positively adored both of them. The difference is that both of these games are simply more creative in every way. Aside from the embellishments, like better music and an actual plot (SpaceChem), the fundamental design of their puzzles require more creativity. You are given a goal but aren’t confined to how you do it. You know the parameters and rules to the system, but the design of the solution is totally up to you.
I’m not saying every puzzle game should be for everyone, just like I’m not saying Cogs is for anyone. Every kind of puzzle requires a certain kind of fan, and if you don’t love slide puzzles, I’d recommend staying far away from Cogs. Yes, it’s cheap. Yes, it’s challenging in its own way. I know there must be a target audience somewhere out there, but for me, the game just needs so much more. Cogs is monotonous, uninspired, and just not worth the money. I think it may have helped me grow as a reviewer, but rest assured that I do not like or recommend this game.
Released in spring of 2009 by ‘Lazy 8 Studios,’ Cogs was featured as part of the third (and fourth) Humble Indie Bundle. It was also part of the ‘Potato Sack’ that was tied to Portal 2, having themed levels added at that point. The game is available for PC and Mac (via Steam), iOS devices, PlayStation3, and Linux.