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Resynth turns making music into a puzzle game

Resynth turns making music into a puzzle game


Pushing blocks and making beats

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At first blush, Resynth doesn’t make a lot of sense. Looking at screenshots or GIFs reveals a strange array of squares, some seemingly marked by Xs, arrows, or different colors. But once you see — and hear — the game in motion, it starts to make sense. Resynth is designed to look like a music sequencer, and solving the game’s puzzles is akin to making music.

At its core, Resynth is a push block-style game, a type of logic puzzle that appears frequently in the Professor Layton series and other adventure games. In them, you need to put certain blocks in a certain area of specific locations. In the original push block puzzler, a game called Sokoban, players moved around blocks in a warehouse. The blocks could only move up, down, left, or right, and only if your avatar was able to push them in that direction. You beat the level by getting all of the blocks in their designated spaces.

This seems simple enough, but it becomes a complicated logic problem that requires the player to plan out their moves carefully. For example, if you need to push a block to the right but its left side is against a wall, then you can’t get your avatar to that side to push it. So to solve that, you either need to figure out how to move it away from that wall or make sure it doesn’t end up against that wall. Or perhaps there is a different block that can more easily go to that spot.

Resynth is more than just pushing blocks, though. It also adds some additional elements to the gameplay to complicate the puzzles — in a good way. There are linked blocks, which are far apart but move together when one is pushed. There are also turnstile-like features that need to be in a correct orientation to complete the level. You’re forced to think about creating a path through the level that not only gets them rotated correctly, but also moves your blocks through them without keeping them from rotating.

The thing that really makes Resynth great is its theme. It informs the look and design of the game. Even if you aren’t a musician, you’ve likely seen or played around with a music sequencer before. (Google even released a simple browser-based one earlier this year.) They are a grid of squares; each horizontal square represents a different beat in time, while each vertical one is a different note. So by picking different squares in the grid, you can quickly make a simple music loop.

Resynth takes this grid of squares and turns the blocks you need to move into the notes. But the game doesn’t play those notes until they are in one of the places the blocks need to go or until the turnstile is rotated into the correct position. As you solve each puzzle, you are also constructing a song. It’s a surprisingly great form of feedback because as you begin to put things in their places, you hear the music come together more and more.

It provides you with a sense of progress in an abstract style of puzzle game where it can be hard to tell if you’re actually doing well. However, when you get stuck or realize that you put a block on the wrong place, the song will become unraveled. As you undo moves or push blocks out of spaces, the music loses those notes. But this isn’t frustrating in the same way it might be in other puzzle games: once you get those pieces back where they belong, the song starts right back up again.

Resynth was created by Polyphonic LP. You can get it on Steam (Windows and macOS) for $5.99 and on iOS for $1.99. It takes around five hours to finish.