“Poetry can be dangerous, especially beautiful poetry, because it gives the illusion of having had the experience without actually going through it.” – Jalâl ad-Dîn Rûmî
Poems and Codes is a new poetry-themed word-based puzzle game from the developers of the literary-themed Prose and Codes. Both games were created in support of Project Gutenberg, an online library of over 60,000 free ebooks to which 10% of all sales are donated. Players can decode their way through a series of excerpts from a vast selection of poems spanning multiple themes and subjects.
Developer: Hero Games Co LLC
Released: 17th October 2023
This game is being reviewed as part of the Indie Game Collective (IGC) showcase.
Poems and Codes has players decoding over 400 poetic excerpts and features a varied collection of curated poetry all encrypted using a classic code – the substitution cypher. The poems are divided into twelve themes including love, despair, beauty and war. Within each theme, there are a set number of excerpts to decode from a selection of poems. As each poem is completed the player is given the opportunity to read the full verse as well as a short biography of the poet. There is also a link to Project Gutenberg so the player can access the author’s full anthology. The puzzles are very satisfying and of varying difficulty with each one having a rating of one to three stars to indicate their level.
The game begins with a comprehensive, eleven-stage tutorial made up of cyphers of rhyming verse containing tips for playing the game. There are also four different difficulty settings, easy, normal, and hard which have between zero and six letters already solved as well as a progressive setting which gradually increases the difficulty as the game is played. Poems and Codes has simple, accessible controls and can be played on a keyboard or mouse, or a combination of the two.
Narrative and Styling
Whilst the game itself has very little to offer in terms of narrative, the possibilities are endless in terms of the number of poems and authors being introduced. The excerpts that need to be decoded range from charming to poignant and include both familiar and lesser-known writings, all of which have the potential to inspire further reading which is then facilitated by the links to Project Gutenberg poet anthologies that are provided on completion of a cypher.
Poems and Codes has a simple but stylised aesthetic that suits the gameplay perfectly. It consists of clear text over a background containing bits of classic illustrations that fit the theme of the poem. There are also subtle effects such as watercolour and gentle lighting that give an atmospheric feel. The visuals can be heavily customised and it is possible to turn off the different effects, change the size of the font and even switch between dark and light modes for increased accessibility. The game is elevated by relaxing, twinkly, melodic background music that is gentle but also has layers and depth. It adds to the overall atmosphere and feel of the game without being intrusive or distracting.
Poems and Codes is a unique and well-intentioned game that explores the wonders of poetry through fun and satisfying puzzles. It is easy to pick up and put down and is well suited to short play sessions but is also captivating enough that it could be played for longer lengths of time. It also has great potential to lead players down a rabbit hole of poetic delights adding the potential for hundreds of hours of literary entertainment!
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Letters: A Written Adventure – A New Word Puzzle about Friendship! – Anagraphs: Newly Released, Free Word-Game with a Twist – Unwording – An Emotional Look at Overcoming Negative Thoughts