From Portal to Q.U.B.E, when physics-based puzzle games are done well, they stay in your memory and earn a valued spot in your games collection. TACs Games Factotum 90 is a likely contender to this club, taking a unique premise and making you feel like a genius while keeping the gameplay simple and engaging.
Set aboard a beleaguered space ship, Factotum 90 sees the player charged with the task of simultaneously controlling two walker robots - basically little metal boxes on legs - through a series of room based puzzles in order to repair and re-engage the life support system, which has gone offline during a mysterious collision. So far, so standard space drama. There is a narrative that plays along with the puzzling, delivered by the humorously close-lipped character TACS, who pops up in the bottom corner of the screen to give the player instructions and describe the series of events that led to the emergency repair jobs that are necessary. It is hardly ground-breaking material, but remains clever enough through the proceedings to keep the player intrigued and entertained.
Unlike other dual control games, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons coming to mind, the player can only control one walker robot at a time but you can switch between them at will using the Y button. The controls are somewhat tank-like and take a little bit of getting used to. The left directional stick controls all of the robot's movements, including 360 degree rotation, and the right stick is responsible for the camera angle, but it oddly works and is befitting of the mechanical helpers that you are utilising to save the day.
The screen is split into two small boxes, each one representing the camera coverage of each individual walker robot which comes in very handy during levels where it becomes increasingly useful to use the camera of one of them in order to see the path the other must take. A reset option comes in the form of the B button, sending the specific robot that you are in control of back to the beginning of the level, which can seem a little bit like overkill in later stages where there are a lot of elements to the room. We found ourselves looking for a checkpoint system, but it was only a minor gripe that did not become too frustrating.
The entire structure of the puzzles is based on getting the robots to work together. For instance, using one walker robot to press a button floor panel, so that the other to retrieve a box, which can then be placed on the aforementioned button so that both of the robots can progress to a cargo lift at the end of the room. The scenarios start off as simple as that and progress with a generous learning curve until you reach about level 15, where it becomes quite tricky to work out the series of moves needed to get both robots to the end.
As standard, each robot has set skills, with both of them being able to pick up and carry blocks and access computer panels. As the puzzles progress, various obstacles and tools become available for use. For example, ballast blocks act as counterweights or as a substitute for using a robot to hold down a floor panel and in later stages, teleporters are present in the room, zapping a robot that goes through it from one side of it to the other, much to the amusing glee of the narrator. The additions add depth and extra layers to the puzzles but never seem to overcomplicate them, a simplicity that definitely works in the game's favour.
It is by no means as deep or mind-bending as The Witness or as hilariously playful as the Portal franchise but it never tries to be and that modesty is a charming bonus that keeps Factotum 90 feeling like a great game in its own right. We found ourselves returning to it simply because it was a fun and challenging way to pass the time without ever feeling like a burden.
With only 30 rooms to puzzle through, and with only one specific set of collectible data packs to hunt down along the way, some players might find themselves yearning for extra content but the experience as a whole is satisfying and shows what the developers are capable of. With a graphical design that is simple and reflective of the surveillance camera view which the action is seen through and with a quirky and repetitive (yet never annoying) soundtrack, Factotum 90 has a lot to offer and is a great example of what the [email protected] program does so well.
Short, simple and fun, Factotum 90 is a must-have addition to any puzzle game fan's collection. With a unique premise and an interesting plot, it only ever tries to be exactly what it is and offers enough of a challenge to be a satisfying experience. A refreshing addition to the [email protected] collection.