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Review: Framed struggles to add a graphic dimension to Interactive Fiction

Framed_Screen_02x1024-940x705Framed got a lot of buzz for its novel game mechanics when it was first shown off in May 2013, but now that the game is finally available it simply doesn’t live up to its potential.

Developed by Australia-based Loveshack Entertainment, Framed offered a new take on interactive fiction that made the user the storyteller.

As you can see in the following early concept video, a user rearranges the panels on the screen to change the outcome.  By changing the order of events, the user can have the protagonist find a tool, overcome his adversary, and escape:

When it comes to gameplay mechanics (the motions involved in playing a game), moving panels around like that is a novel concept. I do not know of anything quite like it, which I have been eagerly anticipating Framed ever since I first read about it. So when I learned last night that Framed had been released for the iPad a couple weeks ago, I immediately bought it and played with it.

Frame had the same panel swapping move as in the concept video, and some levels also let the player rotate a panel 90 degrees and change the path the protagonist takes (but that doesn’t happen until much later in the game). There are also a couple levels which involve one protagonist tricking another, but again, that doesn’t happen until much later in the game.


After spending about half an hour with Framed, I’m pretty sure I wasted $5. While Framed is based on a clever dynamic, the actual game is repetitive to the point that I am bored.

Rather than have the user solve puzzles with different goals and different solutions, the vast majority of the levels I played all had the same goal: avoid the cops. Other than setting things up so the protagonist can either bypass cops or sneak up behind cops and hit them over the head, there’s not much to this game.

The official trailer sums up the repetitive nature of Framed nicely:

While there are a few levels here and there that are based around unique puzzles, most involve escaping the cops.

To be fair to the developers, writing a puzzle is very difficult, and that is doubly true when one also has to develop a new platform for the puzzle.  But writing puzzles is also not impossible, and Loveshack has been working on Framed for close to two years now. That is plenty of time to come up with more puzzle ideas than "avoid the cops".

Don’t get me wrong, that is not a bad idea for a level design – so long as it is used as one of many puzzles to solve. But after it’s been used twenty or thirty times in a row (and is backed up by an annoyingly repetitive sound track) the idea gets old.

And that is a shame, because I would really have liked to have seen the puzzle idea explored to a greater degree. A true puzzle game based on Framed’s concept would provide hours of entertainment and offer a great value for the $5 price tag.

But as it is, I would not recommend that you get Framed.

You can find it in iTunes for $5.

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