Thank you, Frozenbyte, for sending us this game for review!
Delivering packages can be a deceptively simple job. Pick up the package, transport it to its destination, drop off the package. There are several companies that use this simple method to make a lot of money, and that isn't even counting pizza delivery or Chinese takeout.
However, those delivery companies probably didn't have to deal with the hazards that Block has to deal with – namely robotic spiders, killing laser beams, devious traps, and a motley assortment of oddball characters that work with him at Postpeople.
This is the world of Parcel, a puzzle game that consists simply of transporting a box from point A to point B in a not-so-simple fashion. While transporting the box from puzzle to puzzle, the player will explore the world within the ruined company building of Postpeople, as well as entering virtual environments where multiple instances of the characters can be found in order to solve puzzles. The player also can learn about the worlds by collecting shimmering white “dataspheres,” which contain logs of people trapped within the virtual environments, or company executives and researchers who are wrestling with the ethical results of their inventions – more people prefer to be plugged into the digital worlds than living in “meatspace,” which has led to severe degradation in the real world.
The player can control Block or one of his companions in order to try and solve the various puzzles in the game. Each of the companions has different powers – for example, Magna can use her magnets to attract the box and also is the only one who can destroy the spiderlike robots, and Porter can swap places with herself, the box, or one other character, three times per level. A big part of the strategic element is determining what powers to use, and when and where, in order to solve the puzzle. Some puzzles will need to be solved multiple times in order to obtain each objective.
The controls for the game are a bit problematic. The game offers controller support; although it recognizes my Logitech Precision controller, it doesn't respond the way it should when I press the buttons. More troubling is that there doesn't seem to be a way to remap the controller – or, for that matter, the keyboard. You are restricted to the controls as they're programmed into the game, and if they don't work for your playstyle, too bad. The game also doesn't recognize the existence of mice, even in the menu options. This could be an issue for multiplayer games, especially if no one has a controller that works with the game. Players can take turns on the keyboard, since swapping characters is done simply by pressing 1 through 4 on the keyboard – but having a “hotseat” format for a real-time strategy game is awkward, at best.
The pacing of the game is very slow – so much that it almost feels like a turn-based game. Some timing does need to be taken in order to position the characters or the box precisely, but errors in this often are merciful, and it is easy to restart the levels in case a particularly egregious mistake is made. The game also is incredibly long – as I write this, I've put 16 hours into the game, yet it indicates that I am still less than halfway through the game! If the in-game puzzles aren't enough, there also is the option to create your own levels, and to upload them to the Steam Workshop. You also can download other peoples' levels and try to play through those as well. There actually are two Steam achievements for doing both these activities. Uploading and downloading levels works smoothly, and adds a lot more variety to the game.
The graphics are quite colorful, almost friendly despite the bleak nature of the world. It's easy to see what is happening on the screen. On occasion, I found a bit of slowdown when too much activity is happening on my monitor, but this is fairly seldom. The music has a haunting, techno feel to it, but it gets repetitious before too long. The sound effects are minimal, but contribute nicely to the game. There is no voice acting in the game – but from what I've seen, none of the characters have anything to say, anyway.
There are very few moral worries in the game. Robots explode in a bright flash when crushed with the box (and, in the rare instances when a character is pushed into a laser beam, they also explode in a similar fashion – this typically indicates a “game over” and the level must be reset). Some of the dataspheres use the word “butt,” but there isn't anything stronger than that in the game.
To wrap it up, Parcel is a game that really delivers. It provides a challenging array of puzzles that can really take some time and thought to complete. At $9.99, the game provides a lot of entertainment for a respectable price. For puzzle fans, it's a nice package to add to any game library.