June 11, 2022
Please Fix The Road is a puzzle game that needs little explanation. The name sells itself. You are subjected to a series of puzzles made up of dioramas. It features roads and paths that are in disarray. The players’ task is simple. They must bend, shape, reverse, flip, and rotate a series of tiles so that the world bends to their will, finally completing a path from point A to B. It is simple and concise in design and concept. When it comes to the actual resolutions? It’s far from it. Strap in for a mental gymnastic ride.
If you’re after something aesthetically pleasing and easy on the eyes (with some exceptions), you really don’t need to look much further. Please Fix The Road features a colourful and vibrant art style while still remaining simple and minimalistic. Shadow detailing is deeper than you’d expect, and clever use of colouring aids in distinguishing one level from another. Some levels will take place early in a sunset, with grass textures coated in soft yellows. Others are less grounded in reality but manage to be just as striking, if not more. Basking in the view of forests and lakes painted in pastel pink, or a swamp with heavy purples, you’ll feel zen, picking apart and moving tiles about.
With just how well the levels are designed, it also pays to study some of these smaller oddities. They could very well clue you into how to resolve the disarrayed streets ahead of you. The only time this design lets up is in the more complex levels that have you snaking past forestry, shrubbery, or other buildings. With no ability to rotate your view around the whole diorama, you will struggle to locate and monitor that one key piece as your vision is obscured by the environment.
Similar props have to be given to the animation and sound design. Rotating, flipping, or slotting a tile into place feels smooth and satisfying, accompanied by a popping noise as it all comes together. Varied calming soundtracks play that are often new age piano jazz in nature. Complete a level and you get to see the cars (or animals, depending on the level) zip through the path you’ve made before being ejected from the vignette, exploding or ragdolling out in cute, charming joy. Transitioning between each level, you’re treated to unique animations. Maybe the tiles will form into waves, crashing into and becoming the new scene. Perhaps the set will erupt into a tornado before the tiles fall, piecing together the next level. Whatever it may be, I was delighted each time the game found a new way to transition between setpieces.
Please Fix The Road is stacked with 150 levels for you to spend time feeling your brain slowly wrinkle in on itself. That’s no number to sneeze at. You’ll learn many skillsets throughout to help you solve a given level, except the rules in each are strict. For example, not every level will you be able to add a piece of road. Sometimes you’ll only be able to use the tiles already provided, bending and shaping them to your will. Levels also have to be completed whilst following a strict sequence of rules. You won’t get to choose when you can rotate that block, you’ll do so when the game tells you.
I’m on the fence about this design choice. A significant amount of the puzzle in Please Fix The Road is all about trial and error. Spend long enough on a level and eventually, it’ll click. But with strict rules, you’ll have a harder time visualising how to solve a level. There’s something to be said about the challenge that can be had when strict boundaries are applied. It can be rewarding when you overcome this. For my taste in puzzles though, I find ones that let you mess around and experiment more appaling. I like lining up all my pieces that I know will work, rather than trialling out things to see how it unfolds. Short of being able to preview the next available tiles to use in a timeline at the bottom of your screen, you won’t be able to visualise too much in Please Fix The Road.
With that being said, the game provides plenty of engaging ways to reinvent itself. Just when you think its out of ideas, it finds new ways to solve puzzles. At first, you’re able to resolve in a more general fashion. Explode a piece there, slide another over one tile to the right… that sort of thing. Before long, you’ll get to terraform, raising or lowering the height of tiles to create slopes. Players can clone pieces and then move them into a fashion that works for them. Rotating a series of pieces can work holistically, instead of becoming a means to bring a path closer, you’re now using it to remove obstacles from the equation entirely.
It’s when these new mechanics are introduced that the rush of empowerment comes about. Periodically, you get these new techniques through a simpler level purposed to tutorialise it. You complete that level and it clicks how that works. A number of puzzles later and you’ll be aware of telling signs to look out for. You’ll become conscious of the cul-de-sac pieces meant to stop you cold in your track. Now you know how to deal with it, whether that’s blowing the piece up entirely or shifting it into something new like a right-angled corner.
These moments are so strong. You’ll feel like you’re moving mountains to get the result you want, in some cases quite literally. However, where it otherwise stands, these moments and small aids were a little fewer and far between. As of writing, my current build of the game only contains hints to the first fifty levels. It’s been confirmed that as of release there will be a hint system for every given level. I hope so. The hint system works well in that it doesn’t give you the whole solution but a prod. Opt into a hint once and you’ll see the first move, then have to wait out a timer before utilising the next. This is a good way to encourage the player to then go investigating a little more, knowing this one crucial key.
In my opinion, this hint system will only aid the success of Please Fix The Road. I was hit with many a roadblock. While being stuck, I was able to admire the design and meticulous planning that went into each level, though I was also more tested and exposed to frustrations. With so much good on offer, I’d hate for other players to share that same experience.
Please Fix The Road is only on PC for the time being and more or less can be played with just a mouse. An earlier flash version of the game also exists for anyone interested in checking out the game’s history. With how well it presents and handles, you could see how the game could be favourably received on mobile. With similar titles making the jump to portable devices, it’s a future venture I can only see helping Please Fix The Road thrive even further.
- 150 levels means plenty of fixin' time
- Presentation is really impressive
- Builds upon itself time and time again
- Strict ruleset of levels will test some
- Ability to rotate perspective of a level would help to make some levels clearer
Please Fix The Road is a game that delivers exactly what it promises with an approachable, minimalistic appearance with puzzles that’ll wrinkle your brain. The strict puzzle design may not appeal to all and the rare instances of imperfect level clarity may be less than ideal. However, the bright, colourful, and delightfully animated world is just so charming, creating a wonderful presentation. Please Fix The Road re-invents itself time and time again, with every block you explode, bend, and shape proving to be so satisfying.