SlabWell is Q*bert. An isometric puzzler where the goal is to step on all of the yellow tiles once, turning them red. Simple, right? I can go home now. It’s Q*bert. Nothing to discuss. Review over. It’s Q*bert.
Except SlabWell is actually rather fascinating – it shows how you can take a simple premise, think it through and add a touch of good level design to make something greater than the sum of its parts.
It has a really nice way of introducing new wrinkles to its puzzle, as every so often a new element comes into play. These could be blocks where you have to step on them multiple times, or blocks which dictate the direction in which you move. Each new element will get a small cutscene introduction and then be integrated in isolation with a simple puzzle.
Subsequent levels will then make the puzzles harder, introducing new tiles in combination with one or more tile types introduced earlier. It sounds really basic, but in a world where indie games often fail to explain themselves well, it’s really nice to see a game that nails its level design and communication with players.
There are a few other nice features. There’s a rewind mechanic which makes the process of experimenting and trialling differing routes painless. The music is also nice, gentle and playful, evoking the feeling of a David Wise soundtrack.
While there is a cooperative mode, it should really be called ‘Do you want to end your marriage mode?‘, requiring a level of communication that makes it difficult. It’s appropriately tough but it often ended up with one player basically telling the other player what do do. It reminded us of some shouty games of Pandemic we’ve played.
The presentation can be a bit rough, too. Moreover, some levels see you chased by the ghost of Kaktun, adding the element of working against the clock. These levels often felt unbalanced, leading to mild frustration.
But if you’re into your puzzle games, we recommend SlabWell. It doesn’t quite break out of its shackles to be something new like Baba Is You, but if you’re looking for a challenge with a bit of crunch, get yourself down to Kaktun’s tomb.