Every now and then, you find yourself playing a game and wondering what the hell you are doing. Not ‘where am I going?’ or ‘what quest was I doing again?’ – what am I doing playing this game when there are vastly better things I can be doing with my time?
Access Denied is one of those games.
It’s sad – usually, I try to find something good to say about a game that I am playing, whether for review or not. Someone, somewhere, will have poured their heart and soul into the thing you’re experiencing and you want to find the kernel of passion that caused the game in front of you to bloom. As far as I can see, all I can see here is that whoever made this game was just a fan of samey puzzles.
Access Denied, or ‘puzzles in the rain simulator’ is a linear puzzle game with no overarching story. It offers 36 levels – boxes you must break into to access a little blue orb of light. There is no dialogue, no explanation as to why you’re staring at a blue screen on a silver machine as golden rain pours down outside your window. Digging around the internet will tell you that it’s set in a world where personal information is stored in these little boxes and you’re there to steal what’s inside, but I had to go looking outside the game to discover that. There is no urgency to solve the puzzle box in front of you and no reason why you shouldn’t just skip a puzzle you’re stuck on (I found out on one level that was all trial and error that there’s a skip button). There is no compelling reason I can find why you should play this game.
Looking at the blue screen, the first thing about this game that frustrated me is the fact that your cursor is light green on a light blue tile. This is, straight up, inexcusably poor design – particularly in 2019 when accessibility in games is becoming more prominent, with the likes of Microsoft releasing accessible controllers and Deep Silver going to lengths to improve accessibility in Metro Exodus. I’m not colour blind and I struggle to see the cursor here. Using such similar colours is just poor. A similar problem exists in the levels where they put a dark magenta against a dark green. Who thought that was a good idea?
Going back to cursors, the game feels like a bad PC port. There is a cursor (which looks amusingly like an Aperture Science weighted storage cube) that you drag around the screen to highlight whatever it is that you’re trying to manipulate. This can be any number of things – switches, buttons, sliding panels – the puzzles come in a variety of flavours. Unfortunately, although there are no instructions here, once you’ve figured out one puzzle type, it’s pretty simple figuring out the next in the same style.
Early levels have you twisting and turning the puzzle box in front of you, looking for some semblance of a hint. This can be a sequence written on the side of the box, for example, or finding a side that doesn’t quite match the others. There is a small amount of satisfaction to be gleaned from some of the more tricky levels, but it’s nowhere near enough to qualify for a recommendation – you won’t walk away feeling like Rain Man or Will Hunting. The puzzles aren’t empirically bad, but it isn’t a game for people who love cracking difficult puzzles, but nor is it one for newbies dipping their toes in the world of puzzle games. I don’t know who this is for, or what it offers the medium.
Weirdly, even though this feels like a PC port, it would be far better off as a mobile app. This brings me back to my original point: I can think of no reason why you would want to sit here playing it on the PS4 when there are vastly better games that you can spend your Wednesday night playing. Sure, the game is available on the Vita, and I’m a huge proponent of the little console, but I’m having more fun playing [generic puzzle game] on my phone than I am with Access Denied.
I really can’t find any reason to recommend this game. I love puzzles – my desk calendar at my office is a one-a-day puzzle that I solve as I eat my breakfast and boot my Mac. I don’t love this game, however, and I don’t see how anyone else could either.
*Code kindly provided by the publisher for review*
- The rain sounds are nice
- There is a clock on the screen at all times so you know what the time is
- There is no sense of urgency to the game, no story and no compelling reason why you should play it
- It feels like a PC port that should have been released on your phone
- The aesthetics are bland when looking at a level, with all puzzles following the same sort of look and feel
- I really had to scrape the bottom of the barrel to find two nice things to say in the pros list, and that in itself is another point for the cons list