Most book clubs reading Gulliver’s Travels will probably meet at someone’s house to discuss the book and enjoy a coffee and scone. Sedona and the members of her book club on the other hand board a luxury yacht and travel the globe tracing Gulliver’s footsteps while discussing the book (perhaps also enjoying a scone) in the match-3 puzzle game Travels with Gulliver.
At its core, Travels with Gulliver is a “match 3” puzzle game where you need to create continuous groupings of three or more like symbols to clear them from the board. Other pieces fall down to fill in the gaps creating (hopefully) new groupings to clear. Rinse and repeat.
Travels with Gulliver actually tells two stories. One story is that of Gulliver’s Travels itself. In between some of the puzzles we are given snippets from Johnathan Swift’s famous story, following his travels. However the main story is about Sedona and her globe-trotting book club. The story of Sedona and her companions is original and follows the group as they explore their various ports of call, learn about each other and even solve a mystery.
Now, all that being said, neither story has any connection to the game itself whatsoever, save for the symbols you’re trying to line up having a slight nautical theme with anchors, fish, compasses and the like. Similar to other games like this you need to connect 3 or more like symbols to clear them from the board, gaining you points.
The game has two main ways to clear the tiles, announced at the start of each puzzle. Most are “chain select” where you need to draw a line from one tile to other matching and touching tiles. The other mode, called “token pop” has you clicking connected groups to clear them. What makes the game different is how and where you clear the pieces is more important than actually clearing them. There are hex shaped spaces that are blue and some that are beige, you need to clear alike symbols on top of those blue spaces turning them beige. Only when all the blue spaces are cleared do you actually complete the level.
While every puzzle has that same basic structure of needing to clear the blue tiles, they do vary the game up a bit by throwing some curve balls your way. Some symbols are tied down and need to be matched up multiple times in order to break free, other times there are gates in the way that need matches made next to them in order to unlock them.
Luckily you do have some tricks up your sleeve in the form of power ups. A meter slowly fills as you progress which unlocks items to help you clear out tiles. The game allows you to play with or without a time limit and neither has an effect on the story if you don’t want the time pressure. To mix things up whenever the story moves to a new country you are given a little jigsaw puzzle to solve of a postcard from that country.
I thoroughly enjoyed the puzzles and the interstitial story bits. Having played more than my fair share of these types of puzzles games it was also nice to have to think about how to clear the tiles differently, focusing on where it was happening as opposed to how big a chain was. The game offer some unlockable desktop wallpaper and a neat passport stamping when you enter and leave the different countries. Give you a feeling of progression. Letting me turn on and off the timer was also a nice touch.
This is the first game from developer Blue Footed Games, and while it’s certainly not a bad first showing the game has more problems than I’d like to see. First and foremost is the repetitive nature of the puzzles. There are over 80 all together, but with the exception of their shape there’s not enough variety here to keep me coming back in the long haul.
Also, I was sad to see the story had very little to do with the puzzles I was playing, save for the background being Gulliver inspired. Over the course of the story the book club members have items stolen from them, why not make those items part of the puzzles, giving the player some connection to what’s going on? Seems like a missed opportunity.
Finally, there’s an option to turn off “hints” but what that shuts off is the tutorial. If you don’t clear anything in a few seconds it highlights a group for you to clear, even if you have the hints turned off. This was annoying since I like to solve my puzzle games without the computer’s help.
I can’t outright recommend or dismiss Travels with Gulliver. It’s a fun puzzle game that sadly gets repetitive too quickly. Some variety in the puzzles would’ve gone a long way in keeping me interested longer. I would definitely recommend playing the trial first before deciding on whether or not you should buy the full length version.