During my first 30 minutes with Stephen "Increpare" Lavelle's latest puzzle game, Stephen's Sausage Roll, I felt like a complete idiot. Ten minutes later I felt like one of the smartest people on the planet. I am neither of those things (I hope), but that's the ride Stephen's Sausage Roll has been taking me on since its release this past Monday. Alternating currents of dumbfoundedness and illumination, despair and hope.
I'd not heard of Stephen's Sausage Roll, the second premium game from the creator of the devilishly difficult English Country Tune, until I heard a couple of my coworkers discussing how difficult it was. Loving a good puzzle game, I downloaded it from Steam to give it a go.
It was just as they said.
The game deposits the player on the blocky Island of Wisdom.
There is no tutorial, no hand-holding. A bit of text on a plaque explains how to undo moves and reset puzzles, and that's it. It's up to the player to figure out that standing in the white translucent spots activates puzzles, and solving puzzles opens up new areas for exploration.
The goal in each puzzle is to cook sausages, which is a goal I can really get behind. Sausages have two sides, each split into a top and bottom. Each segment must only touch the glowing grills once. Double up and the link is burned, and the puzzle resets. Roll or push a sausage into the water and you've wasted a completely good sausage. Also the game ends.
I'd say the puzzles start off simply, but they do not. This is not one of those puzzle games where you go over the basics and then move on to advanced techniques. This is a puzzle game that expects nothing but the best from that big, beautiful brain of yours.
The metal exercise is strenuous and satisfying, at times a little overwhelming. I've yet to encounter a puzzle where I've seen the solution immediately, and even going back to ones I'd already solved to make a video proved difficult, as my mind dropped the old moves to make room for the new ones.
Stephen's Sausage Roll never gets easy. As I type this a portion of my mind is moving sausages about, still trying to work out a solution for the massive tower of meat you see atop this article. Last night I dreamed about rolling and pushing sausage links across grassy islands. Sometimes it feels like Stephen's Sausage Roll is consuming me, which only seems fair, considering how many sausages I've eaten in my life.