Naboki

Naboki is a game about dismantling. It’s also is a delightful minimalist puzzler, as you might expect if you’ve played any other of Maciej Targoni fantastic collection of ambient ditties.

Perhaps his most famous is Hook, and there’s a chance you’ve heard of the lovely Klocki. In fact, Targoni has released one game a year since 2015, each offering a new mechanic to deliver a similar goal: a puzzle game focused on the exploration of its concept, rather than escalating difficulty. The result is a relaxing experience, the gaming equivalent of a living fidget cube, ever-changing which buttons to fiddle with for their hour-ish run-times.

In Naboki you’re first given a single block, swooshed away by clicking on a little arrow. Then come four blocks, individually swooshed, then a more complicated shape in which they can only be clicked away once the direction of their arrow is a clear path. And from that point on its 48 levels are deeper iterations of that theme.

Soon you’ll be able to rotate cubes, then flick switches to move them back and forth. Later there are patterns to align on their faces. Then those ideas combined. Then another new idea, its integration with the previous collection, and repeat.

At the game’s hardest it’s slightly reminiscent of those wooden block puzzles a great aunt might once have got you for Christmas, where the goal was to reassemble the cube from its awkwardly shaped parts. You never reassembled that cube. Those pieces never fit back in the box from which they came. But here you’re always pulling it apart, and that’s the far easier direction. No assembly required.

While there’s always a part of me that wants Targoni’s games to get more complicated, to reach a point where I get stuck on a level, I remind myself that’s not the point here. This is about getting winding down, not up, and that’s enormously helped by the completely wonderful ambient soundtrack by Wojciech Wasiak – I had a proper headache when I started playing this, and the music helped as much as the ibuprofen.

The only really missed opportunity here is the omnipresent pink background colour. Fine for a few levels, but it seems such a shame it doesn’t gradually change as you progress. A complete lack of options is something of a feature of Targoni’s games – no menus, no tutorials, no scores – which all contributes to that minimalist feel (and with scores, removes any notion of pressure about time or clicks or any of the other means of telling you off employed by most puzzle games). But it’d be nice to have had a less eye-pounding colour.

I’d also note that his sometime collaborator Hamster On Coke Games’ 2019 release, OXXO, is the definitive example of the form. And hey, pick up both.

For 79p though, any complaint feels churlish. He’s very silly – he could easily charge three times this and no one would bat an eyelid. In fact it gets sillier as you can pick up five of his games for just £2.40. Which you really ought to do.

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3 Comments

  1. I had never heard of Maciej Targoni collection of puzzle games, but it fits right up my alley. Short, clever and not-too challenging puzzle games I can play with my non-gamey girlfriend in the evening. Thanks for the review !

    I’m glad I found out about your blog in a RPS article, hidden indie gems are definitely the kind of refreshing games I’m looking for. I’ll support you through Patreon as soon as I find more financial stability.

    I wish you good luck for this project of yours. Love from France.

  2. John, I thought you stop writing after RPS, man, we miss Kieron, Alec and you.. RPS is very unenjoyable after you all gone…

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