At this year's Penny Arcade Expo there was one game that stood above the rest of the crowd. No, it wasn't Neverwinter Nights 2, Castle Crashers or Guitar Hero II. Instead it was an adorable little puzzler for the PC called Eets. With its simple game play, cute cast of characters and tricky puzzles, Eets proved to be the stand out of the show. Now that the show's lights have dimmed and all of the booths have been packed away, Eets still stands tall as one of the freshest puzzle games I've played in years.
Eets plays like a strange cross between Lemmings and The Incredible Machine. Eets stars a little alien-like character with large eyes that is looking to collect as many puzzle pieces as he possibly can. Much like Lemmings, players do not directly connect this character; instead you put items in his path that he will eat for varied results. If you put the items in the right spot the little Eets character will be able to collect his puzzle piece and move on to the next level. If you don't get it right, then expect to try the whole level all over again.
The items you have control over are a variety of different marshmallows, animals, light bulbs, clouds and whatnot. In each level you are given a few different items that you are to place on the board, these items appear on a conveyer belt and can only be placed before Eets begins his journey. Once you have placed the items where you want them you push the "play" button and watch to see if you put everything where it belongs. While there are a lot of different items, most of the time you will be laying down emotional marshmallows that change Eets demeanor when eaten. For example, you can give Eets a scared marshmallow that will make Eets tiptoe around the stage; there are also angry marshmallows that make Eets a little more aggressive and one that is happy, which leads to Eets jumping short distances. Learning the effects of these edible items is the key to beating each of the puzzles.
The game is about more than just eating marshmallows, though. You will also run across items like the floating whale that will suck your little character up and shoot him high into the air, an angry sow that shoots out powerful exploding super pigs from his rear and a gravity flipping alien bud. There are also marshmallows that will explode if they come into contact with anything. In all there are more than 25 different items you have to place in order to help your little Eets character find his way to the puzzle piece. Once you've managed this feat you are whisked away to the next level.
The game is broken up into seven different sections, each with their own set of crazy levels. You won't need to beat all of the levels in order to move on to the next batch of puzzles, but you may want to if you're going to get good enough to actually tackle some of the higher levels. With each new world (denoted in this game by a large puzzle piece) you will be introduced to new items and unique challenges. This manages to keep the game fresh and makes you feel like you are constantly doing new things. The first few levels are extremely easy, only making you deal with the emotional marshmallows, but as you progress through the game you will be introduced to dark levels, the power of clouds with guns and even exploding mine carts. By the time you've gone through the one hundred plus puzzles you will feel like you've really experienced something, even though you have the same goal in every level, you never feel like you're doing the same thing over and over.
Of all the thing Eets has going for it, the art direction is at the top of my list of things to love. Eets isn't a multi million dollar production developed by some major company, it's has been created by a group of programmers who have taken the risk and self funded the project. Their love for this game is apparent in nearly every facet of Eets, from the way it looks, the way it sounds and all of the humorous details added to each level. The game is overflowing with character; it's the type of game you wish the major companies would develop. The people at Klei Entertainment love this character, and it's hard not to feel the same way when you're spending the time trying to solve the numerous puzzles.
The game doesn't use fancy 3D effects and it's not about knocking your socks off with next generation graphics, instead it offers simple sprites that feature expressive animation. Make no mistake about it, the graphics in Eets are fantastic, it's the type of game that will turn heads even if it's not pushing three million polygons and open-ended worlds full of explosions. Instead the game features clean visuals and a whole bunch of different environments. The game's concept would still be good even if the game didn't look as good as it does, but the art department at Klei deserves a standing ovation for what they have been able to accomplish with a shoestring budget.
One of the smartest moves Klei Entertainment has made is create an entire community out of Eets. Not only can you log onto their website and talk with other Eets fans, but you are also able to create your own puzzles and share them with all of the other players. This alone adds another hundred plus levels to the game which keeps the game from getting old. Even if you leave the game for a month or two, chances are you will be eager to log online and try out the newest creations. It's almost mind boggling the levels people come up with for this game, there are some truly challenging puzzles that will have you scratching your head for hours before you finally figure out how to solve it.
If creating your own levels and downloading new puzzles isn't enough for you, then you can also attempt to earn all of the achievements in the trophy room. The trophy room gives you ten different tasks to accomplish in the time you spend with Eets. These achievements are diverse and include things like solving a puzzle without using a single item, light up a certain number of Ginseng Lights, eat 300 marshmallows and collect every puzzle piece the game offers. While it's fun to attempt to earn all of these trophies, some of them are destined to take months of solid playing to accomplish. Between the main levels, the downloadable levels and the trophy room, Eets offers enough replay to satisfy just about every fan of challenging puzzle games.
It would be easy to label Eets a throwback to a much simpler time, the type of game that appeals to the type of gamer not looking for fast action and online multiplayer. But Eets is more than some "casual game" stereotype, it's a solid puzzle game that offers hours of good clean fun. While the major companies are busy rehashing versions of Lemmings and Tetris, Kleihas developed a fully little puzzle game that just about everybody can enjoy. With its lengthy single player mode and the online community, Eets is one game you won't be deleting off your computer any time soon.
Eets is currently being self published by Klei Entertainment on their website
. The game retails for $19.95 and can be purchased in a number of different ways. Take the game for a test drive and see for yourself how much fun this little puzzle game actually is.)