Chants of Sennaar, the upcoming game by Rundisc, will soon put another fresh spin on the puzzle-platformer genre. The game will combine the classic M.O. of combining hand-eye coordination with puzzle-solving skills. With its unique angle of deciphering languages and its tower of Babel inspirations, we can’t wait to play it. In the meantime, there are plenty of other great puzzle platformer games to play.
Puzzle-platformers have become far more popular in recent years, with the number of titles becoming so vast, it can feel a little overwhelming. Despite the similarities of game-type, the genre and tones are often vastly different. So, while we wait for Chants of Sennaar, here is the cream of the crop when it comes to games that combine platforming with solving puzzles.
The first in Frozenbyte’s trilogy, Trine gives the fairy tale genre a fresh, multi-faceted twist. Released for the PC in 2009, the puzzle platformer style and graphics have a timeless quality. It leans hard into the fantasy and DnD elements with the soothing voice of the narrator, and 3 stock characters with unique abilities. Trine has all the trappings of a classic adventure.
It is a time of turmoil after the king dies without an heir to replace him. An army of undead sweep the kingdom, leaving only the bravest warriors to wander the land in search of treasure, knowledge and the chance to become a hero. You play as a thief, a wizard, and a knight, each utilizing unique skills like magic, swordplay, and a grappling hook. Navigate the ruins and seek the green potion bottles to upgrade your abilities and health. A magical object called the Trine allows all three souls to combine. This gives you the ability to switch characters to solve the problems that arise. It becomes your duty to seek out the way to break this connection. The key to doing so reveals the secrets that allowed the army of undead to rise, and therefore contains the key to saving the kingdom.
4. Little Nightmares 2
Little Nightmares 2, the sequel to Tarsier Studios’ horrific and wonderful creation, is a chilling journey. It gives players a longer, more varied experience than the original, with a more vast world to sneak through. Mono, the main character, has the ability to fight back against some enemies, and can store keys without holding them. What’s more, you rescue Six from the original to aid you.
From a dark forest stalked by a fearsome hunter to a TV tower controlled by ‘the Thin Man,’ this sequel ups the ante. More than just sneaking, running, and solving puzzles, you can smash the porcelain students with a hammer and even defeat larger enemies. Six can help you jump to taller and further areas. You can travel through TVs. As a prequel, the game adds intense layers of intricacy to this puzzle of a story. Players and Youtubers have offered theories of what’s going on beneath the surface, and there are rabbit holes to tumble down. From time paradoxes to souls torn from bodies, the world of Little Nightmares is almost certain to give you nightmares of your own.
3. Portal 2
This hilarious and gorgeous sequel is a classic. Portal 2 improves on nearly every aspect of the first game. The mind-bending solutions to puzzles by creating portals are more varied and exciting. It had a lot to live up to given how beloved the first Portal is, but it managed to blow everyone away again.
Re-awaken as Chell inside Aperture Laboratory after a thousand years. A funny robot named Wheatley leads you through the lab, navigating its training modules to escape with the reserve fuel. The callbacks and self-awareness elicits genuine laugh out loud moments. Just about everything from the original either returns in its glory or is improved upon. The puzzles are more difficult but manage to feel less frustrating. Glados returns funnier and meaner than ever, as does JK Simmons as Cave Johnson. It’s a great time, especially if you enjoy being lightheartedly bullied.
2. It Takes Two
It’s been a while since there was a co-op game as good as this (maybe not since Portal 2). Winning game of the year in 2021, It Takes Two tugs at your heart-strings and your brain-strings. It has a delicate sense of child-like innocence while dealing with the difficult topic of divorce. It’s a game that feels borne out of a kid playing with ‘Mommy and Daddy dolls’ in a therapist’s office. And that’s meant in the best way possible.
So much happens through the course of the game, summarizing would be useless. Just experience it for yourself. The graphics are gorgeous, straddling realism with distinct, cartoony style. Cody and Mandy are turned into their daughter Rose’s doll versions of themselves. Both Rose’s wish and her parents are guided by Dr. Hakim’s Book of Love. It’s a tear-based magic- best not to question it too much. The challenges this nearly unmarried couple face are as narratively brilliant as they are diverse and engaging. There are a ton of different team mechanics to utilize, and the story takes turns you’d never expect. It’s so good, we’ve praised it before.
1. Little Nightmares
Little Nightmares is the perfect game to stay up all night playing, and beat it in one go. Definitely not because you’re afraid the Janitor will get you in your sleep… *gulp.* It may not be the most jump-scarey, or the most graphically stunning, but its atmosphere is unique and sensational. While some may prefer the sequel/prequel, the simplicity and quick pace of this game left us with a fonder experience to look back on.
You play as Six, a starving little girl in a yellow raincoat. You must escape the hellish, unnatural island called the Maw. Horrifying inhabitants will be trying to catch you. Creepy, dark magic gets involved when ‘The Woman’ is revealed. The more simple and straightforward approach allowed the game to feel more real. Six’s starvation and sparse inventory makes the playing experience feel truly personal. You feel her hunger.
Some of the more advanced sequel mechanics become difficult enough that the fear gets lost in the repetition. There’s far less of that in the original. While it may be too easy for some, it feels more riveting the less you have to try, try again. The mystery of the world it presents is a grotesque tragedy you can’t look away from. The awareness of being stuck in the Maw, surrounded by water, adds to the dread and hopelessness. Less is more with this little, nightmarish, giant achievement.
Get ready for Chants of Sennaar
Chants of Sennaar will release September 5, 2023 on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and PC.
As we get ready for the indie breakthrough Chants of Sennaar, these games should be enough to hold you over. From the laughs of Portal 2 to the screams of Little Nightmares, there’s a wide variety of puzzle-platformers. We’ll see how Chants of Sennaar fares against the others soon enough. What do you think, do these titles deserve their spots? Let us know in the comments.