Sawbuck Gamer is our daily review of a free or cheap ($10 or less) game.
“Charming” is a tough target for games to hit, occupying that tiny sweet spot between twee cutesiness and arbitrary quirkiness. But it’s the word I keep coming back to when describing Arranger. Created by musician-turned-coder Arman Bohn, Arranger is something of a gaming rhapsody: a jumble of styles, influences, and ideas that hangs together as a coherent piece.
You are a classically trained yellow cube, commissioned to create beautiful music for your countrymen. You do this by selecting instruments from your arsenal and blasting their dulcet tones directly into your patrons’ temporal lobes. Instrumentation is the key to success. For instance, a tinkly piano line will sooner soothe a feisty infant than the wail of an electric guitar. In between compositions, your hero wanders the world in search of quests, which include forging peace in the war between numbers and letters, and solving an alien colony’s gardening problems.
Yes, the controls are occasionally frustrating. And yes, a couple of the mini-games are more irritating than fun. But the pros outweigh the cons, especially considering that this is the work of a first-time developer. Part Guitar Hero, part Zelda, part Psychonauts, part WarioWare, with a terrific chiptune score to boot, Arranger is something out of the ordinary. Charming, even.