On this edition of Play It, we look at a creepy and cute online puzzle game about making friends. Happy Dead Friends is a cool little linking puzzle game from rhinogames on Newgrounds. The goal is simple. You have a series of hexagon maps filled with sad zombies. The only way to make them happy is to make them all hold hands. Each zombie must be connected to another zombie with all of their open hands.
It seems simple until you realize that these zombies have more than two arms and choose the darnedest places to hang out. Why would a zombie chain himself against a rock so he can't make friends behind him?
Instead of just making increasingly strange maps, Happy Dead Friends starts introducing other undead creatures. Zombies will move their arms automatically to complete links. Skeletons, however, must be manipulated to make friends. They're a little stiff. This keeps the gameplay fresh and challenging without overwhelming the screen with too many monsters to link too soon.
The goal of the game is to complete the chains in as few moves as possible. You can earn up to three gold skulls for each completed stage. The game is more forgiving as the levels advance, but that doesn't make it any easier to navigate a stage with 10+ creatures that just don't seem to add up. The challenge is fun, not frustrating, and that's what makes this game work.
The sound design is quite unobtrusive for a modern puzzle game. Too often, sound design in a puzzle game is an endlessly looping synth track to set the mood. Those games normally leave me searching for the mute button in a minute. Happy Dead Friends only uses select moans, groans, and a synth ta-da effect at the end of a stage to set the mood. It works. You are messing around with monsters. Why would there be pretty music or lots of bells and whistles? I don't recall zombies being the best conversationalists.
For providing a solid puzzle with lots of challenges and a creepy/cute aesthetic, Happy Dead Friends is a game you should check out. There's something to be said for pick up and play games that are easy to understand. Games are meant to be fun. If you can't play them without wanting to throw your computer out the window, what's the point?. This is one of the fun for anyone games.
Thoughts? Love to hear them.