Finding Teddy review
I Hear Some Problems
Finding Teddy caught my eye as it showed a strange world a young girl finds herself in after her teddy is taken by a strange creature. Point and click adventuring seemed like it would be a more relaxed pace of gaming after the more action intensive games I'd recently played. Being part of a bundle certainly helped too even though nothing else in said bundle really caught my eye, so I took a risk and threw money at it looking for a more unusual experience. For the most part, this game seems a bit split on how things go. There are elements I really liked and others that made pressing on feel more of a chore than something I'm doing for enjoyment, but ultimately I feel the balance is a bit too much into the negative to really recommend the title.
The pixel style graphics are charming in their own right and the colour usage seems pretty solid. Of particular note is the greyscale colour style of the protagonist compared to the very vivid world she is in, which paints the idea of her being an outsider here very well. Likewise the dangerous creatures that can kill are similarly a dull grey until the girl is able to befriend them and alter them to a more colourful shade. The animations are mostly subtle but effective so I was very interested in what new sights I would discover.
Speaking of which, the various area you visit look amazing. There's a certain alien feeling with the strange shapes used that create imagery that is recognisable but clearly not what the scenes look like in the normal world. Whether it's forests or caves, I was genuinely interested in each new location of this strange world.
The audio is a bit mixed, as the various simple melodies that form part of the puzzles are interesting to hear sometimes especially given their relevance to the overall theme but the actual background music felt too repetitive which resulted in adding to a grinding feeling. Having a more varied music selection would likely have helped to lessen this effect.
The story is presented in a very minimal style - it's really just a tale of a girl seeking to reclaim her comfort in the form of her teddy and having to explore a strange unfamiliar world. It won't shake your very core but I think it is effective to a degree. There are some other story elements that creep into spoiler territory that are likewise effective without going into full cutscene mode for it all. It's an unusual style as there is only a little NPC interaction and the minimal dialogue is cleverly delivered through the music, as the notes in the musical puzzles form phrases that have meaning.
No doubt though you're seeing that fairly negative score and are wanting to know exactly where that is coming from. The biggest faults exist in the gameplay itself. It's different to what I'm used to and I really wanted to like it, but at the same time I'm not going to praise a game just for being different. It also has to work and the overall gameplay falters too much for me to recommend it.
Finding Teddy is essentially a point and click affair where you direct the girl to investigate aspects of the strange world she is in and take anything that isn't nailed down. Well, to be fair you don't actually pick up a whole lot of items but you do use some for getting past obstacles. Obstacles that tend to eat, stab or otherwise maim you if you don't happen to figure out the correct solution. Fortunately, death is a slap on the wrist (and decidedly not gory in the slightest due to the pixel style of the visuals) as the game will just reload you into the same area should you die, ready to try again.
The biggest puzzle element is in the form of music. At any time you can pull down a musical score and score singing notes. Each note corresponds to a letter of the alphabet and by singing phrases in the correct places you open paths to progress. The challenge therefore lies in figuring out what notes are what letters and what phrases you need to sing in which locations. The idea behind it is very clever but the execution ends up being rather mixed. The puzzles that work well tend to be the ones with actual visual clues, which helps for those people that have difficulty is differentiating by sound alone. Those that rely on sound alone tend to be a lot less clear and this can result in some major trial and error as you try to figure out the correct pattern (and hoping you're in the right area that needs it too).
The more normal item puzzles can also end up a bit mixed. Some are pretty clever and did make me realise how much sense a solution made after I'd done it. The puzzle involving the crocodile is the perfect example, which made me think of the items I needed and how. Then you get others that don't flow nearly as well, which can result in a bit of random clicking items in different places because you figure that it's got to be used somewhere around here.
The controls are fairly solid in that you click stuff and the girl walks along, with offscreen clicks used to transition between screens. Pretty simple stuff since there's no need to react quickly to anything. Onscreen icons pop up if you dawdle just in case you've forget what key does the action you need and they don't really obstruct anything which is nice. The girl does move along at an awfully slow pace, and while you can doubleclick to get her to run this doesn't seem as fast as I would like either.
The game isn't very big, where I clocked in at 1.6 hours for a playthrough. This doesn't take into account the new game plus the game apparently has or looking for any secrets. Unfortunately, what this does take into account is the lots and lots of running back and forth through familiar areas because sequential elements of certain puzzles are at opposite ends of winding paths you've already been through several times. Given that I was already backtracking a bit for things like picking up items I had previously missed and had to accept that as my own fault, the last thing I would want is to be forced by the game to do even more of that. The last area is especially bad for this and just feels like intentional padding to make it seem like the game is longer than it really is.
It a cute little game but it's fairly light on content even given the low price point. Looking past that, there is the interesting concept of the musical puzzles and the few challenges that worked well and are interesting, but these are let down by the puzzles that became frustrating due to their heavy reliance on having to pick out precise pitches in sound and the dull back and forth encountered at points in the game. As much as I would want to love it, the experience felt a bit too sour for me to really recommend over the wealth of other cheap indie titles you can find on PC.
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