Sawbuck Gamer is our daily review of a free or cheap game ($10 or less).
There used to be a routine. Step 1: Take the game out of the package. Step 2: Peruse the first couple pages of the instruction booklet. Step 3: Throw the booklet in the trash and play the game already. Everyone seemed okay with this approach. We were desperadoes on the video game frontier. More to the point, figuring out how a game works can be a perfectly enjoyable part of the game, and tossing the instructions aside was an implicit embrace of that notion.
In Bart Bonte’s Me And The Key 3, figuring out how a game works is the entire game. Bonte specializes in a minimalist design of sorts—the word “minimalist” might conjure up images of austere black-and-white art games, but that’s not what this is. Instead, Bonte gives you a picture of penguins, tells you that you have to get the key, and lets you take it from there. Your clicks and keyboard taps do something different in each level, so you poke and prod the game to get your bearings. None of the puzzles are especially daunting, but because Bonte is confident enough to stand back and let you make your own way, each success feels like a little discovery.