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When I reviewed Cotton Game’s One Way: The Elevator in August last year, I frantically searched around for my previous coverage of the developer’s games, that of Isoland and Little Triangle. It turned out there wasn’t any, and I’d imagined doing it. I still haven’t. I really ought. But in the meantime, here’s their latest, Dad’s Monster House.
It’s a tale as old as time itself. Your dad and mum broke up after your dad turned into a mad scientist, and now you’re returning to his creepy old house to find out what he got up to in the years after. Clue: it involved giving inanimate objects life.
This all plays out as a traditional Flash-like (though not Flash, RIP) puzzle adventure, in which you walk through the rooms of the house, finding objects, solving puzzles, and gradually opening up access to new parts of the house. It’s just that those puzzles involve things like helping an animated dough-man have a nice, warm bath.
As you explore, you gradually gain access to more pages of your dad’s diary. Not by finding scattered pages, though! That nonsense is for once replaced by something far more sensible: a mutant spider refuses to let you turn further pages until you find a new DNA pill to feed him. These pages add to the story, as well as dropping hints about what you should be aiming to do next.
That’s most likely to be matching a strange code you found in one room with a peculiar device you find in another, and working out how one may apply to the other. Some of the puzzles are very impressive, while others are perhaps a little over-familiar. None, however, is a dud, which is a pretty decent achievement in such a game. Although it’s worth noting that a couple are pretty subtle, and you’re going to want to pay attention to things on the walls.
Oh, and it has a feature I adored! You can click the inkpot and then scribble notes all over the screen. This was so useful as I played, meaning I didn’t need to fill a notebook or work with screenshots on the other monitor. Instead, I could note and delete as needed. Every puzzle game should do this!
There’s a fair amount to this. It took me a solid three hours to get through, which makes the £2 asking price extraordinarily decent. I also really enjoyed the black-and-white aesthetic, with only occasional other colours for emphasis. It works well, and doesn’t feel overbearing.
There are two possible endings, one you’ll want to achieve, the other you’ll want to watch on YouTube after, and then a bunch of extra stuff to find once the game’s completed – including any of the secrets or achievements you might have missed.
Chinese indie team Cotton Game know what they’re doing, and their back-catalogue is well worth plundering. But rather excellently, Dad’s Monster House breaks free from their tiresome habit of requiring their games be played twice to be possible to finish. This is a one-and-done, no annoying incompletable puzzles on the first run through.
It’s sweet, deeply peculiar, and offers some decent puzzles, all while weaving a story that although daft, has some emotional heft behind it.