Game Day: Framed 2

In 2014, Melbourne-based Loveshack released Framed, a comic book-style puzzle game that requires manipulation of panels to guide the main character through a noir spy story. The game struck a chord for its novel combination of puzzles, narrative, and hip, silhouetted spy style. This week, Loveshack released Framed 2, an excellent prequel to Framed that delivers more of what made the original version a hit, but as part of a deeper and more refined experience.

Framed 2 jumps into hard puzzles quickly, seemingly assuming familiarity with the first game. Therefore, if you haven’t tried Framed or don’t play a lot of puzzle games, you may want to start with the original game first. I enjoyed getting into more challenging puzzles early, but it’s an approach that could be frustrating to beginners.

The mechanics are still simple, though. The narrative plays out across comic book-style panels with the black silhouetted characters animating from panel to panel as they move through the story. Your job is to reorder, rotate, and reuse panels so the characters can make it through the scene to the next set of panels. The obstacles you face along the way vary from holes in a boardwalk to police officers on the beat.

One way Framed 2 adds complexity to its puzzles this time around is by occasionally requiring you to get multiple characters through the scene. The game also has more puzzles that require the reuse of panels, which is something that wasn’t used as often in the original game. Combined with rotating panels, Framed 2 makes you consider the timeline of the story as it plays out as well as the spatial relationships among the characters, which adds to the challenge. This version also adds collectible Polaroid-style photos, which provides an incentive to go back and play levels again.

The action pauses as you move panels. After you're finished dragging panels around, sit back and watch the story unfold to see if your setup works. There is no penalty for failing a puzzle other than having to start the scene over, which is not a big deal because the scenes are short. It’s a trial and error process that’s focused on the narrative and puzzles, not a scoring system.

The game’s visuals have been kicked up a notch from the original game too. The settings are more varied, and the art is more refined overall. As with Framed, the prequel includes a great 60s-style jazz soundtrack that complements the artwork perfectly and adds atmosphere.

Framed 2 won’t be the same delightful experience that the first game was for anyone who played it simply because the prequel won’t feel as surprising and new. However, Loveshack has taken what worked in that original game and extended it by adding more of what worked the first time, along with new layers of complexity. The result works to make Framed 2 feel simultaneously familiar and fresh in a way that should appeal equally to existing fans and newcomers.

Framed 2 is available on the App Store.

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