Access Denied is a puzzler developed by Stately Snail and published by Ratalaika Games S.L. The player takes the role of a professional safecracker and problem-solver that must put their wits to the test to complete a series of increasingly difficult puzzles. You are introduced to a simplistic room with a box in front of you and given one objective: sit there and study that container. These boxes contain hidden information and it is your job to retrieve as much as you can. Are you capable to crack the code or will those sweet secrets be safe forever?
Mechanics are everything when dealing with games in the puzzler genre. The environments add atmosphere and the characters add personal flair, but without proper game mechanics, this genre would just flop before it entered the door. Lucky for all of us, Access Denied follows these practices and excels in the categories that matter. We are presented with thirty-six different puzzles, each being harder than the last. Every puzzle contains up to four different contraptions to test your knowledge and problem-solving skills. Most of the time, you will get a box that requires you to use each side in tandem and build one off of the other, but sometimes nothing really matters except one sneaky switch that you thought would have been too easy to be the answer. I love this aspect and believe that it keeps you on your toes with nothing being for certain. One minute, you think you solved this ridiculous enigma and then you get shut down by nothing. Yeah, it sucks a bit and you are back to square one, but the game is amazingly built around this and you never feel that you were screwed by this random nature. It just makes you think harder and that is the best preparation for what is to come in the later levels. This process works phenomenally due to the nature of difficulty in this game. There are no time limits and no penalty for failing other than having to start your brainstorming process over again. It makes the game a lot less hectic and allows the player to spend their time thinking on the correct solution, instead of being frustrated because they ran out of time or guessed wrong too much.
The visual aesthetics are rather good too. While you are confined to a singular room, the room is filled to the brim with detailed secondary objects. I felt that the room actually had some character to it instead of an empty shell where our character resided. Too often do we get sucked into our main prerogative and forget about the world around us. Yes, I agree that they could have done more or even on the other end, saying that less is better in some scenarios. However, the minor details of tools thrown all around the room and an overall clutter shows us the inner workings a busy mind. One that sticks to their task until they complete it and they use everything in their arsenal to accomplish that. Pairing this intriguing environment with the design of the contraptions display a fluid motion of aspects working in harmony to immerse you into the role of the safecracker. The visual design goes hand-in-hand with the mechanics of those pesky boxes, but the fact that every single box is different from the last just expresses the time put in to create unique puzzles. Unfortunately, there isn’t much to say about the soundtrack. It is rather bland with the occasional ambient noises that resemble a thunderstorm. I guess it adds a bit to the immersion as I remembered hearing it, but it isn’t much and I feel there could have been better sound bites that populated the occasional dead air.
I began my experience with Access Denied with high ambitions. I enjoy puzzlers and this game immediately reminded me of Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes, a game in which I adore. The games feel very similar and I believe that is a nice point that helps anyone familiar with the title. One aspect that I feel that shaped Access Denied over the other was the freedom I mentioned that allows the player to take their time. You are not rushed, and I think that is great for anyone that is new to the genre or just likes to relax and think to themselves. Additionally, everything you need to solve the problems is right in front of you, so no need for the frantic moments of communication between yourself and a partner. Now, one is not better than the other and I feel they both have their respective places on the board, but Access Denied just seems like it took all the great aspects from titles similar to it and made it more family and user-friendly. Gaming nowadays can always seem so rushed, so in-the-moment, and that is great. However, sometimes it is time to settle back, relax, and do some great critical thinking to get the job done. Hell, that is what this genre was framed around, and it is nice to find such a quality game like this, especially at the price of $5 USD.
*Note: A copy of this game was provided for the purpose of the review.
Final SCore: 8.5/10
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