Access Denied serves itself as a puzzle game, wrapped up in the form of a safe cracking-like experience that, although short, manages to achieve what it set out to accomplish. There’s no plot to be found here, in fact I had to hit the storefronts to find its premise. Now, in a nutshell, the game takes place in a world in which storage of personal data is placed in special protected boxes, and, for whatever reason, you’re cracking them open to test your skill. The game offers a total of thirty-six puzzles, providing roughly two hours of gameplay.
The game does a fair job at keeping things simple to begin with, and to its credit, Access Denied is very accessible as far as its handling goes. The game takes place in first-person perspective, in which you’re staring down at a mechanical desk, with each puzzle presented to you in that same place as progression is made. You’ll control a small cursor and must directly interact with whichever box you’re tasked with cracking. You are indeed able to fully rotate any given box, and examine it with the use of a zoom-in and zoom-out feature.
The game gives you a quick tutorial-like level to begin with, allowing you to get a feel for the controls before you move onto the meat of the matter. Here, you’ll simply be tasked with pressing a few buttons on a four-sided box. Simple stuff. Unfortunately, however, this is where my first gripe with the game comes into view. The game’s handling isn’t very intuitive, especially when it comes to the more complex boxes that need cracking. I should point out that not all of the boxes within are cube shaped, despite the terms that’s used.
You’ll be cracking boxes of all shapes and sizes, including panels, displays, and more. This is where the game tends to handle poorly. Several times I found the cursor not dragging the correct puzzle piece into place, causing me the occasional restart as a result. Normally, I would be a bit more forgiving on this front, but seeing as though cursor interaction is the only vital part of play here, it’s not something I’m willing to overlook. This should have been better refined before release, but instead, we’re expected to endure sloppy feedback.
One other issue I have with the game is that of its length. It’s a very short game, and puzzle fanatics will likely have this done and dusted within the space of an hour. Further to that, the payoff at the end is like a slap in the face. I was expecting some grand puzzle to close things down, but instead, found a puzzle that’s even easier than the very first puzzle you come up against. That’s another issue the game suffers from, that of its fluctuating difficulty. The game rises and drops in complexity quite frequently, which only breaks immersion.
That aside, there’s still a lot to like about Access Denied, and there’s no denying that it has its fun moments. It’s a game in which perseverance and perception prevails over general intelligence. Sure, you need to have the right mind to succeed here, but most of the puzzles can indeed be cracked with some time and patience. The game’s puzzles typically house their own answers, or, rely on mind games that many of us played when growing up; such as matching pairs. Nevertheless, for the most part, it’s all very well executed all the same.
It helps, of course, that the puzzles tend to vary quite nicely. In one moment, you’ll be manipulating numbered sliders to correspond with hidden numbers found elsewhere on the same box, and in the next, you’ll be matching symbols across all sides of another box. Later on you’ll guiding electrical currents to activate a retro-like mini game elsewhere, before being given traditional dial-esque safes to crack open, with the correct sequence cleverly hidden from view. That’s only the tip of the iceberg, but I don’t want to give too much away.
The general rule of thumb here is to be observant. This isn’t a puzzle game, as alluded to above, that relies on intelligence alone. If that much was true, I would have never have made it to the end. Instead, you’re required to pay close attention to the finer details on show. Oftentimes the answer to your problem is hiding in plain sight, but hidden so cleverly that it takes a keen eye to uncover and make sense of. Should you get stuck, you are have ability to skip a level, but if you’re here for the achievements, you’ll need to beat them all.
Now, whilst I’ve highlighted some of the game’s more innovative brain twisters, there’s a few puzzles within that really feel out of place. One example being that you’ll need to move colored blocks into the correct order, or, to the correct side of the box. Though, due to the imprecise handling of the game, this tends to be more frustrating than its worth. Blocks will often slide a lot further than you need them to, due to the sensitivity of the handling. Equally, it can be hard to move your cursor to where you need it to be to grab said block.
Moments like this, and alongside the issues outlined above, really pulls the game down. It’s a shame really, because with some more time in the proverbial oven, and with a bit more length to it, Access Denied could have been something special. In any case, if you’re a puzzle fan, you cant really go wrong. The game’s puzzle variation is respectable, ensuring that, despite its fluctuation in quality, you’ve always got something new and interesting to overcome. Taking its fairly generous price into account, you could certainly do a lot worse.
The game’s visual and audio design does little to excite. There’s a decent amount of detail on show, but the lack of a changing theme makes the whole thing appear as cheap as it costs, which I guess is pretty much to be expected. It would have been nice to see something fresh every now and again, but sadly, that’s not what you get. Your ass is glued to your desk and you’re not going anywhere. The game’s audio is equal to that, putting forward boring, substandard cues at each and every interaction. Make of that what you will.
Access Denied’s varied and intelligently designed puzzles are bound to excite fans of the genre, and although it’s a very short game, it does well with the few tools that it encompasses. It’s a shame then, that its handling can be all over the place, which simply isn’t forgivable for a game that strongly encourages perseverance and precision. That being said, and for its fairly generous price, you could do worse.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.