PEGBRJE: Brushwood Buddies and The Subject

Time for friendship and DEATH.

Time to bring together my friends and figure out what to smash and create.

Brushwood Buddies is a curious puzzle adventure made by Steven Colling, a solo dev out of Germany who frequently does asset packs as well. In this title, players are a cute little individual who is looking to tread forward in this world through many different biomes. To do so, players will craft different recipes through differing means to ‘beat’ each level.

It’s really hard to describe Brushwood Buddies, but at it’s core it is a crafting game that uses the materials and how to acquire them as the puzzle players must solve. There are a set amount of platforms available, each with their own material on them that can be ‘crafted’ or ‘destroyed’. At first, these simple components will solve the problem until a certain Turnip arrives to complicate the game slightly more. With the extra help, players can now select two platforms to perform the ‘craft’ or ‘destroy’ actions, which can then be used to also combine two crafted materials together. Once created, it is added to the recipe list among about 100 others. These can then be referenced later on throughout the levels as more platforms and helpers get added. It actually reminded me a bit of ‘Doodle God’, the old flash title of creating new resources by combining two already discovered resources to find their ‘recipe’. Where Brushwood Buddies differs is not just in execution but also approach, as players will also need to handle each companion’s ‘heart’. Doing certain actions will cause certain companions to lose heart, such as destroying items with the Turnip will cause her to become sad. Sad creatures cannot perform actions, so knowing what boosts their moral is imperative to ensure that actions can be carried out smoothly and quickly.

It took some getting used to, as the tutorial was a tad confusing, but once it opens up to multiple platforms the formula becomes quite straightforward and satisfying. The art style is phenomenal, reminding me of small felt characters to play with as a kid while combining relatively simple yet challenging puzzles. If you’re looking for a simple set of puzzles to try out, and even take your successes online to create your own, this might be a title to try.

I had a heart attack on the way to this room I think.

The Subject is a puzzle horror title made by DarkStone Digital, a solo dev focusing primarily on cinematics and horror. In this title, players are as the title would suggest; a subject. In this futuristic era of commercial prisons and draconian law, prisoners are sold to help pay for the expenses and free up space. Players are one such prisoner, sent to a confusing location and equipped with a collar before being told to enter the testing grounds. That’s it. Happy… testing?

In reality, players are stuck in an atmospheric testing grounds with no real pretense as to how to escape besides their own curiousity and wits. There’s a tutorial area to prepare players for the styles of tests ahead, in which there are different panels and levers to uncover and locate in order to get the elevator open. Much of the challenge is in understanding exactly what the puzzle is as many of the puzzles rely on their visuals to convey their solution possibilities, from memorizing number combinations to locating specific buttons to press. These on their own don’t seem all that challenging outside of frustration, but that’s why the testing facility is in a labyrinth. The twists and turns of the detailed walls makes it hard to remember exactly where one has gone, even though there are only 4 paths to start from the hub. The point is to add confusion to the challenge, adding it as part of what makes it hard.

The other part of the challenge? Survival. That collar put on the prisoner’s neck is rigged to kill if not deactivated in time by these scanning stations, which also double as save points. There’s a beep that goes off to warn players of their imminent destruction, which should give ample time to race back to the last one that can be remembered. It’s to add to the tension, to ensure that players aren’t just wandering aimlessly forever and to ‘keep them honest’. That’s not the only beep that players have built into their collars; there’s another. See, these researchers don’t just want mild tension and frustration, so they add something else into the facility as well. This is where the pressure started to compound in my brain. Solving puzzles, trying not to get killed by the collar and avoiding a monster is a lot to worry about, especially when the player is hiding and only hears a simple ‘beep’ released to warn them that they’ll die of injection if they don’t save soon.

The Subject focuses on being cinematic and large to draw in its audience, while delivering a solid horror survival experience to compliment it. The puzzles can be frustrating, enabled by these two constant threats, but that can just add to the feeling of wanting to live and escape this hellish nightmare of a ‘science lab’. For the record, I did make it to the end, albeit on the casual difficulty as my heart couldn’t take it.

If horror and cinematics are your best way to relax on a Saturday, then this is definitely a title to try out.