Review: 'Device 6' Game Alternately Delights and Frustrates Mobile Users

Device 6 Review

There is really nothing else like Device 6, "a surreal thriller in which the written word is your map". Calling it a text-based puzzle game sells it short; it isn't a classic text adventure like Zork, nor is it like a Twine game, where clicking progresses the story. Winner of the "Apple Design Award 2014," Device 6 fuses adventure, mystery, puzzles, charming graphics, and interactive text into a stunningly complex iOS game that's ideal for the non-casual mobile user.

Device 6 Gameplay

In Device 6, the player takes on the role of Anna, a woman who wakes up in a mysterious castle with no memory of how she arrived there. But "takes on" is oversimplifying—you read about Anna as you decide her actions and navigate her through a labyrinth of text, solving puzzles and punching codes into locked doors to progress. It flows like you're reading a book, until the text path splits and you must choose your story direction with a swipe or poke of the touch screen.

But progressing is not as simple as finding the right numbers or symbols hidden throughout the game and plugging them in where appropriate. Players must use critical thinking and deductive reasoning to solve Device 6's riddles, interpret clues, and filter out misleading or irrelevant information.

Device 6 Puzzle

As the plot progresses, you'll realize the story relies on the interactive nature of video games to pull off its twist. While ports to mobile devices are great for exposing more people to good games, creating a game that relies on the platform—in this case an iOS device (sorry, Android users)—to tell its story is a bold and interesting move.

Visually, Device 6 is quirky and delightful, using typography and pleasing graphic design to tell a visual story beyond straightforward text. There's not a whole lot in the way of animation or sophisticated next-gen graphics, but the strategic, winding use of text adds to the compelling sense of confusion and disorientation Anna feels.

Sound also helps flesh out the story, as footstep sound effects, occasional voice acting, and original music add character and style. Between the inventive story, the cool design, and the intriguing mix of adventure and interactive text features, Device 6 is sure to stick in your memory for some time.

Device 6 Challenges and Drawbacks

While Device 6 feels fresh and fun on the iOS game front, there are some definite drawbacks for the casual mobile player. For example, sound is absolutely essential to appreciating and playing Device 6. Many of the clues are delivered through audio (with no text), so playing without sound means you'll be unable to progress. It's also a good idea to keep a pen and paper on hand, because some of the puzzles involve remembering visual patterns or series of clues.

Device 6 Storytelling Format

The necessity of sound and (perhaps) note-taking means Device 6 isn't a casual mobile game to be played for a few minutes at a time, which might turn off some players. While you can certainly play through one chapter or even the entire game in a single sitting, each chapter can take a significant amount of time to complete. The combination of reading and puzzle-solving means you have to be invested in what you're doing, and on a mobile platform that can be a downside.

The difficulty level can be a little rough to handle too. Several of the clues are obscure to the point of being practically indecipherable, making a walkthrough essential for players who are easily frustrated. While difficult puzzles are part of the appeal of a game like Device 6, some riddles bordered on opaque and misleading, as opposed to clever.

Still, Device 6 has a lot of positives and is arguably a must-play for serious mobile gamers and text-adventure enthusiasts. Device 6 also deserves credit for its innovative melding of different genres in a mobile device. It's a great showcase for what mobile games can be and do beyond the era of Bejeweled and Angry Birds.

Device 6 is available now for $3.99 via Apple's App Store.

Our Rating:

4 star out of 5 (Excellent)
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