There are days when I crave a long, narrative-driven adventure, sometimes I just want to shoot and kill things, and then there are times where I want to keep my brain active by solving a few puzzles. Access Denied falls into the latter category as it stimulates your mind with over 30 logic-based puzzles for you to work your way through.
Imagine, if you will, that you’re part of a bomb disposal team; you arrive at the site and in front of you lies an unknown device that has been created by a madman. It’s your job to ensure that the device is stopped before it goes BOOM. Access Denied isn’t as intense as that, but it follows the same principle. So, armed with no instructions or guidance, could you solve a bunch of puzzles when the criteria for their solution changes with each and every one?
As with a few of the smaller games I’ve been looking at recently, Access Denied doesn’t come with a story or any form of instructions aside from how to move your cursor and interact with things – this is what makes this game so interesting. You see, you’re in some sort of test chamber and you can’t move – you’re basically fixated on a table that opens and brings in new puzzles for you to solve.
However, you can rotate the devices which appear, zoom in to look for small hints, and randomly press things without the fear of anything exploding. As I mentioned in the opening statement, it feels like a bomb disposal game, only if the bomb was made by a logical madman with no skills in attaching explosives to the device!
I’ve seen a few reviews about this game where some people got annoyed or disappointed that there was no story involved, I personally don’t feel every puzzle game needs a story if the puzzles speak for themselves. This is where Access Denied shined for me, the puzzles were a joy to work through with each one offering a new cryptic solution. Although, it does have its issues which I’ll touch on later.
If you own a PSVR headset and you want a similar game that has a story, I strongly recommend Statik. That’s a game where you hold your controller and once you don the headset, your hands are locked inside of a box. You must move the controller and escape by figuring out what all the buttons do. It’s a similar concept but implemented differently through the medium of VR.
So, what are the issues I spoke of… the controls. As the game came to the PC first and was later ported to all consoles, including two which are touch screen (the Switch and Vita), some of the control methods aren’t really optimised for controller support. Don’t get me wrong, the game ‘works’ fine with a controller, but you can tell that finger and mouse input is the main focus here. This is more apparent in puzzles where you have to drag things around or rotate them as you’ll regularly be holding the button to drag yet your cursor will be all over the place. Again, it doesn’t make the game unplayable, it’s just not been fully optimised for a controller in certain aspects.
Other than the odd fight with the controller, the rest of the game was a lot of fun to play through. As I said previously, every puzzle is different, which in itself is quite an accomplishment as a lot of puzzle games repeat the same idea numerous times. In one puzzle you may have to just flick on the switches, in another you may have to count the number of cloured units and flick the same amount of switches, or you may have to just touch a part of the unit which looks different to the rest of the device. It’s all about taking your time and thinking about things logically, but don’t think about it too hard. There’s no timer either, so you don’t have to rush.
Visually, Access Denied looks nice, but I do have one major issue. There are a few levels where you must match two symbols as you press yellow buttons. These symbols are a bright white on the bright yellow button – they are almost impossible to see because of how bright both aspects are. I had to zoom right in and look at the button from an angle in order to make out what I was looking at. For a while, I was pressing the buttons and didn’t even realise there was a symbol on them! Other than that, everything looks very sci-fi-like and clinical as you solve the cube and Nintendo 2DS-shaped puzzles.
Sound-wise, Access Denied is a bit strange. There’s no music, only the clicking of the buttons as you press them – which is fine, as the sound is also a key to solving some of the puzzles. However, there is a torrential rainstorm going on within the game. Your character is sat near a window as they solve these puzzles, yet if you look up, the rain is literally pouring down outside and you can hear it very loudly (although you can turn it down). I imagine it’s there so the game isn’t just silent – acting as a ‘white noise’ to keep you calm and relaxed whilst you play. I didn’t mind it as I thought it was better than playing in silence (I tried playing with it muted), but others didn’t like it.
Also, I found that some of the later puzzles actually uses the sound of the rain to help you within the puzzles. I can’t remember which one it was, but the sound of the rain got louder as I interacted with certain parts of the device.
As a side note – This is yet another Cross-buy title from Ratalaika Games and Stately Snail, so a single purchase gets you the PS4 and PS Vita versions, both with their own platinum trophy. You can also stack the EU and NA trophies for three digital platinums and possibly another few if Play-Asia releases a physical edition of the game.
If you’re looking for a logic-based puzzle game to eat up a few hours of your time, Access Denied is perfect for you. Although it lacks instructions or exposition on what you’re doing and how to do it, as long as you’re good at problem-solving, you’ll have no issues working out the solution to each of the puzzles presented before you. Don’t let the low number of puzzles put you off either, some of them will take 30-60 seconds and some may take upwards of ten minutes due to their complexity and crypticness. I do believe the game would most likely control better on a device with mouse or touch though, such as the PC and/or the Switch/Vita.
If you’re a trophy hunter then you probably already own Access Denied (due to its 94% completion rate), but if you’re not, and you want a casual, non-time restricted puzzle game, then you should grab it today and work your way through it at your own pace.
- - Creative puzzles which you need to decypher yourself
- - Relaxing raindrops and thunder in the background
- - The puzzles become harder and more obscure the further you get
- - Cross-buy, get both PS4 and PS Vita versions for one small price
- - The game feels like it would be best controlled with a mouse or touchscreen (the PS4 touchpad works but you can't 'push to click')
- - No replayability once you've done all the puzzles
- - Some of the puzzles are a little 'too' cryptic in my opinion. They are all solvable, but some are a bit hard unless you're given a push in the right direction