Factotum 90’s premise shines but it lacks the finishing polish and some bravery to really push the boundaries. The FingerGuns Review;
Over the festive break, I attempted to tackle some of my dreaded and frighteningly large “pile of shame”. I failed, obviously, and I now have more games I’ve bought and not played than when I started. One game I did get around too though, after picking it up all the way back in September 2017 and leaving it unplayed until now, is Factotum 90. This puzzler has been around for a few years on PC, Xbox One and even the Wii U but earlier this year it reached the PlayStation 4 and Vita (on which I have reviewed the game).
The premise then: You’re deep in space. Your spaceship has crashed into an unknown object while traversing a meteor belt. The power is out and all the doors are locked. Life support is failing. Your only hope is to pilot 2 crab-like robots through the ship to discover the problem and hopefully save you.
The 2 crab-like robots, codenamed Barbara and Noel, are the centerpiece of Factotum 90. There are 30 levels in the game and in each one, you must get both bots from one side of a room to the other, overcoming the puzzles and obstacles in the way. For the most part, this game is about trial and error – send Noel into the level and find a switch, stand on the switch and it lowers a platform, move Barbara onto the platform, find another switch with Babs which allows Noel to progress. You can control one of your robot pals at any one time but you can see from the viewpoint of both bots as the screen is split. This takes a lot of the onerousness out of the trial and error because you get quite a rounded view of what each trial has accomplished.
Factotum 90 ticks off everything on the puzzle game checklist; a steady rise in difficulty and complexity, a loose story to tie it all together and a gradual introduction of new puzzle elements. Among those new game mechanics are explosive blocks which can destroy certain obstacles, lasers which can be redirected by the robots and wormholes that teleport you from one part of the room to another.
None of the puzzles in Factotum 90 are too taxing on the ol’ grey matter – there are only 3 levels from the total 30 that could be considered as complex or confusing – and this is because the game rarely makes the most of the excellent mechanics it has. Puzzle elements are introduced and disappear as soon as they appeared. One particular mechanic, a system which creates a light duplicate of your robot that replicates your every move, feels drastically underutilised. The combination of puzzle elements is relatively shallow in Factotum 90 compared to many of its peers. This doesn’t make them any less enjoyable. In fact, this game has a way of making the player feel smart without them having to put in too much effort. The individual puzzle length – short and concise – also lends themselves very well to portable gaming on the PSVita.
Visually, Factotum 90 is awash with grey-brown, looks a little rough around the edges and constantly washed out or bland. The game often shows glimpses of swish style with pink neon and yellow in the menus but that doesn’t translate to any meaningful colour in-game. This isn’t something special to the PSVita version either. Having played some of the game on PS4 too, it’s a game that inhabits a sci-fi world devoid of personality on all platforms. The only difference between the PS4 and PSVita versions being some textures look less detailed and the explosion effects are less impressive on the handheld.
Factotum 90 is a solid, if simple puzzle game that doesn’t require too much from the player. If you want a test, you won’t find one here because it fails to capitalise on the mechanics it has. It lacks polish but that premise and split-screen controls are interesting enough to get you through the games 30 missions before they overstay their welcome. Factotum 90 occupied me for a solid 6 hours and this feels like a solid return on investment for a budget handheld game.
Developer: TACS Games
Publisher: Poppy Works
Factotum 90 is available now on PS4, PSVita (review version), Xbox One, PC and Wii U.
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we purchased a copy of the game. For more information, please see our review policy here.