h.a.n.d. Inc. might not be the most recognized developer out there, but they have created quite the portfolio, working on games like The World Ends With You: Final Remix, Snack World: The Dungeon Crawl and the newest Layton Mystery Journal game for Nintendo Switch. Amidst all of those big names, a small puzzle game was quietly released without much fanfare. In fact, I had never heard of Gabbuchi until I received a code for the game as a gift.
What is This?
Looking at Gabbuchi, it’s easy to see the artistic similarities to BoxBoy, but the gameplay is completely different. Instead of making boxes like BoxBoy, Gabbuchi eats them. Gabbuchi must find his way through a series of blocks to eat a heart cookie in each level, but it can only eat those blocks that match its current color, which can be changed with a single button press.
While eating the heart cookie is the primary goal, each level includes an additional challenge: satiating the hunger of Gabbuchi. Unlike most games, Gabbuchi starts a level with no hearts. As it eats blocks, the heart meter fills. To satiate Gabbuchi all three hearts must be filled before it eats the heart cookie for the level. For players looking for an additional challenge, there is an option to satiate Gabbuchi within a specified number of color changes.
Eating a Square Meal
As with most puzzle games, the concept is simple. For Gabbuchi, the ability to eat blocks and create a path to the heart cookie is the primary focus, but I found there to be little challenge in this base puzzle. Just eating the heart cookie was too easy. I quickly found myself striving to complete the additional challenges per level which provided a bit more of a challenge finding ways to satiate Gabbuchi. In many levels, completing this secondary objective also resulted in automatically completing the third objective involving minimal color changes. However, it is possible to fail the third challenge the first time due to lack of information. It isn’t communicated what the minimal number of color changes are until that challenge is failed. This lack of information forced multiple attempts at a level that weren’t necessary. If part of the puzzle is to limit an action, make that information known up front. The number of times I had to replay a level for one less color change was annoying. Having that information from the beginning would have allowed me to plan out my actions better. Thankfully, when I made a mistake, a reset was just a button push away. Even with the replays, it rarely took more than a few minutes to complete all of the challenges of a level. I averaged about 2.5 minutes per level.
It’s a Jump to the Left
The controls for Gabbuchi add a little more challenge of each puzzle. Gabbuchi’s jump is very floaty, like if it lived on the moon. In addition to the floaty jumps, there is no way to minimize the height of the jump which is fairly standard on platformers. Granted, this isn’t a platformer, but it’s hard to dismiss the platformer actions used here. For the unsuspecting, this might be a little offputting, but I think the designers’ decisions here were intentional. When the jump button is pressed, Gabucchi rises up exactly one and a half blocks, but unlike Simon Belmont in Castlevania, the player has full horizontal control of Gabbuchi during the ascent and descent of the jump. The only way to prevent Gabucchi from jumping to the maximum height is to jump up into a different color block. It requires some time to adjust to this mechanic, but it plays an important part in the puzzle solving process. Since there is no way to minimize the jump height, Gabucchi has to be maneuvered so as to avoid/hit certain blocks.
The gameplay in Gabbuchi feels fresh, but it quickly becomes stale because of the level design. Each world is comprised of twelve levels that focus on a specific concept. However, the levels become repetitive because the conceptual changes are subtle. The first three worlds are just variations on eating blocks. These could have been condensed down to one world given the lack of variety in the puzzles. Eventually new concepts are introduced such as enemies and keys, but it happens much too slowly.
To add to the repetitive nature of the game, the background music overstays its welcome very quickly. While the chiptune is catchy and upbeat, it’s the same in every level. That alone wouldn’t be so bad given that it is a cheery arrangement, but the tone is very shrill. After 30 minutes, I had to turn it off. It became as grating to my ears as nails on a chalkboard.
The premise of Gabbuchi is interesting and engaging. The color changing puzzles along with the logic of creating the perfect path make for a good mental exercise, but be aware that the controls will take some time to adapt. The short levels make for excellent pick-up and play opportunities while on the go. However, be prepared to listen to a podcast while you play.
|Pick up and play|