Sometimes it's good to be able to virtually shoot someone in the face. Sometimes it's nice to be able to lose oneself in a deep, rich story, or delight in the perfection of beautifully honed controls and gameplay action. And sometimes what you really want is for a game to make you think, to challenge you, to dare you to do better. There've been plenty of cracking puzzle games this year, and here are just a few of the best.
What we said: Halfway between Fez and the best Screwball Scramble set ever created, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker is a quietly brilliant puzzler. It could stand to be longer and slightly more challenging, but Nintendo have turned a simple premise into something truly lovely. In an age when so many games are releasing incomplete or unacceptably compromised, it's a delight to play something perfectly formed and designed to be enjoyed, not consumed. we'd just like more of it.
What we said: Turning Hitman into a turn-based mobile game might seem like some sort of weird bastardisation of all that is holy in Codename 47's world, but Hitman Go is fantastic, a brilliant slice of stealthy puzzle action, beautifully crafted and presented, and perfectly suited to quick bursts of play. It's the complete package -- challenging, stylish, easy to pick up and play, but with plenty of depth. You'll spend hours on later levels working out the perfect run, and you'll come back time and time again.
What we said: A true work of art, Monument Valley is the puzzle game equivalent of a beautifully decorated cupcake. It's gorgeous to behold, even better to consume, and we can't help but wish there was more. A pastel Echochrome in many ways, but with sumptuous aesthetics and a fantastical narrative to lose yourself in, Monument Valley is over too quickly, but it's a glorious journey while it lasts.
What we said: Never Alone manages to overcome its technical hiccups with an enchanting setting supported with a pair of adorable characters and some interesting cultural insights into the Iñupiat community. The basic puzzle/platforming gameplay is family-friendly and works even better when played in co-op.
What we said: Stealth Inc 2 is another magnificently frustrating bastard of pure stealth, brutal platforming and satisfying puzzles with a sadistic sense of humour. Though the new features and gadgets come with a few drawbacks, they ultimately expand on the gameplay experience in imaginative new ways, while exploration and content creation bulk out the challenge rooms into a cohesive package.
The Talos Principle
What we said: Croteam knocked it out of the park with The Talos Principle. Written by Tom Jubert (FTL, The Swapper) and Jonas Kyratzes (Infinite Ocean), not only did The Talos Principle wow us this year with its intricate puzzle design, but the setting and story combined to tell a metaphysical parable that proved incredibly thought-provoking. An outstanding puzzle title in its own right, filled with inventive mechanisms that never outstay their welcome, The Talos Principle also offered some surprisingly deep subject matter for philosophical musing.
What we said: A victim of its own elegance and simplicity thanks to some ruthless cloning, Threes is nonetheless one of the best puzzle games of the year, and one of the finest mobile games to date. Simple to pick up, yet difficult to master and reach truly top tier scores, Threes was charming, addictive, and perfectly balanced.
Winner: Hitman Go
Again, there was so much quality to be had this year if you fancied something to get your brain going, in the end it came down to a toss up between Hitman Go and The Talos Principle, but we're giving a slight nudge to Square Enix's stylish puzzler. It's just one of the coolest games out there. Its clean, immaculate looks, the repackaging of Hitman as a chess-like, boxed puzzler is a stroke of genius (we'd be all over this if a tabletop version ever surfaced), the simple mechanics belying the intricate setups to solve later on. Optional objectives keep you coming back again and again, always looking for the perfect run, the cleanest, most complete kill.
It's also a victory for paid, premium titles that deserve a price point because of their quality. Hitman Go is a game stuffed with quality -- a perfect mobile game whether you need a quick fix while waiting for a bus, or are settling in for a bit of portable gaming on the couch. It's one of the best games of 2014, regardless of platform.