It’s not uncommon for a developer who has worked at larger companies and on larger projects during their career to have side projects as a solo developer. Finnish indie developer Antti Tiihonen, who has worked on larger-scale AAA games like Control and Alan Wake, is also the co-founder of Almost Human who are most well-known for their Legend of Grimrock series of old-school style first-person dungeon crawlers. He also has a company called Hapatus for releasing solo projects and other works, and it’s this avenue that he has introduced Stuffo the Puzzle Bot to the world.
Stuffo the Puzzle Bot is a puzzler about utilizing blocks in various ways in order to reach an exit door. It sounds simple on paper, but let me assure you that it is not. Though you don’t see it, each level is essentially a big grid, and your character can only climb one square high, the same height as a block. You can pick up and carry blocks, but the kicker is that you can only place them in designated zones. Order of operation is pretty important, as is utilizing these designated spaces in strategic ways. Special blocks with portals, geysers of water, or other unique features keep things interesting and challenging.
What really made Stuffo stick for me though is its ability to be played in portrait orientation. It feels like landscape is probably the way it was originally designed, and it’s this orientation that gives you the fullest view of each level. But portrait allows you to play with just one thumb, and the nature of these block puzzles is that they’re something you’ll oftentimes need to chew on for a bit, trying various configurations of blocks until finally figuring out the right way forward. In this sense I almost find myself playing levels in Stuffo the same way I’d play a crossword or a sudoku puzzle. Perfect to bust out while drinking my morning coffee or when there’s a few minutes to kill during the day.
I also would be remiss to not mention how absolutely stunning Stuffo the Puzzle Bot is visually. It has that vague but somehow still detailed style of pixel art reminiscent of Sword & Sworcery, and each level begins by the environment itself aggressively surfacing from a body of water, which uses this gorgeous reflection trickery that feels like it was inspired by Castlevania: Bloodlines. The music also sets a very interesting atmosphere that matches with the visuals well, and I find myself wanting to learn more about this strange little world the game takes place in. Really, Stuffo the Puzzle Bot fires on pretty much every cylinder, so if you’re a fan of logic-style puzzles that will really test your grey matter it’s an effortless recommendation.