Sawbuck Gamer is our daily review of a free or cheap ($10 or less) game.
Did your schoolteachers teach critical thinking skills in adorable ways? It might have been the test that requested you to read everything before starting, with the last instruction being “Don’t make a mark on this test, just turn it over and sit there smugly.” It might have been when your teacher asked the class to help him make a sandwich by calling out directions, which is when you learn that you have to take the lid off of the peanut butter before you can get any peanut butter out of it. Learning to think about familiar things from a new perspective is a delight, one that becomes rare the older you get.
This land of rare delight is where Humbug 2 resides. The game is about a thief named Ziggy who just wants to steal the royal crown, and to do so, he has to get through a well-guarded castle. The graphics look like they might have come from a somewhat talented 10-year-old, and the jaunty tuba score might drive you insane, but the focus here is the puzzles. And these aren’t your typical “wait until the guard isn’t looking” puzzles. To complete a level, you may be expected to get a guard to speak so that you can steal his word balloon, or die and come back to life, or freeze a chicken in midair.
It’s hard to know what’s expected of you, because Humbug 2 likes to take aspects of video games that would normally be background details and make you think about them in the foreground. The challenge can be demanding, but it’s balanced enough that trial and error, combined with staring at the screen, usually yields the kind of “Aha!” that feels like magic. Suddenly, the world seems like a new place, and it’s delightful.