Word/Puzzle Game of the Year 2013 Runner-Up: Device 6

By Owen Faraday 06 Dec 2013 0
"Why aren't there any cigarettes on this island?" "Why aren't there any cigarettes on this island?"

Putting things into neat categories is a problem that befalls zoologists, librarians, protagonists of Nick Hornby novels, and people who attempt to make year-end awards lists.

There's a big difference between the zoologist's job and mine, though: the acquiescence of the subjects to be categorised. Trying to decide if a platypus is a bird or a fish or a mammal is a decidedly one-sided affair -- the platypus doesn't have an opinion on the matter, it just wants you to feed it a crawfish.

Device 6 on the other hand, has lots of ideas about what it is. If you're playing it with an eye towards putting it in a neat category, you'll find that Device 6 resists that effort. In the course of unspooling its story, Device 6 ponders what the definition of a game even is, like a platypus that looks up at the zoologist and asks if perhaps she shouldn't have majored in economics instead. And Device 6 won't settle for a crawdad.

Everything in Device 6 is beautifully designed -- every corner, every detail. Everything in Device 6 is beautifully designed -- every corner, every detail.

Is Device 6 a puzzle game? When I reviewed it in November, I tagged it as "interactive fiction", which in hindsight seems lazy. Simogo's game packs in quite a lot of reading, but it's not a choose-your-own-adventure gamebook. Indeed -- that's the whole point of the experience, which is fundamentally asking why we play games at all when most games offer only the illusion of choice.  So it seems like Device 6 itself would reject the idea that its an interactive fiction game -- not least because Device 6 scoffs at the notion that interactive fiction is actually interactive.

But Device 6 isn't just a frame for a Calvinist argument about free will. Like everything Simogo makes, it's beautifully designed and polished to a chrome sheen. The writing of Anna's tale of escape from her mysterious island prison is effective and the integration of sound effects and music into the story is without equal. The puzzles that you encounter on your adventure are inventive and memorable, as well.

Suffice to say: I've been thinking about Device 6 quite a lot since I played it. I haven't played it again since I finished it -- and I don't think I will. That fact alone keeps it from getting the top honour in this category, and doesn't in any way diminish the fact that I found the experience of Device 6 to be stimulating and fun. The memory of it has a tenacious grip on my mind, like an interesting film or a challenging book. That's not something a lot of games do, whatever category they fit into.

To see all the games recognized in the Pocket Tactics Best of 2013 Awards, visit the awards index page.
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