The Entity Code – from solo developer Carlos Arroyo – is another one of those minimalist puzzle games with an added veneer of narrative. You are a crew member on a spaceship attempting to return to Earth after an archaeological excavation on a distant planet, but the ship AI has locked you out of the navigation system. The AI doesn’t trust you based on your past decisions – which may have cost the crew their lives – so the only way to plot a course to Earth is to override this lock by solving a series of complex security codes.
The rest of the unfolding narrative is told through frequent bursts of text on a display next to the code interface with the ship AI frequently hinting at the things you’ve done. However, it clearly possesses a malicious personality so taking its word might be unwise. Now admittedly, the premise will be familiar to fans of any iconic sci-fi movie or literature – Alien and 2001: A Space Odyssey the most obvious – but I always appreciate some narrative context and find it enhances gameplay.
Talking of gameplay, it’s both conceptually simple but deceptively tough, relying on a basic puzzle template that has been a video game staple since early point-and-click adventures and survival-horror games. If you’ve played a game that involves hacking panels by ensuring a grid of switches are all the same colour or match a specific pattern, you’ll know what The Entity Code wants of you.
First impressions, however, are deceptive. With only a 3-by-3 grid and three symbols to work with, the opening few puzzles ease you into the idea of changing the adjacent symbols to the same as the central symbol, and getting your limited number of moves in the right order. It’s just taxing enough to provide a sense of satisfaction.
Naturally, it doesn’t take more than a handful of mini-victories before complications appear. First, you’ll deal with a relatively simple function symbol that swaps the symbols on either side of it. Next comes a lock function that prevents adjacent blocks from changing symbols. After that comes a revert function that turns them back to the symbol they were in the prior move, and then an ability to store a copy of a symbol you’ve just activated and then override any other symbol on the board with it.
I found The Entity Code had a pleasant ebb and flow that sees you introduced to a new function, tackle a basic puzzle or two for practice, and then be faced with puzzles that combine every function you’ve discovered up to that point. If I have any criticism, it’s that The Entity Code has the same problem all games in this genre have – you eventually hit a wall, get stuck on a puzzle, get frustrated, and any narrative flow is wrecked.
The minimalist presentation will not be for everybody but I enjoyed The Entity Code’s simple and clean interface, easily readable symbols, and chilled soundtrack that ramps up in intensity as you progress – but never gets in the way of your thinking. For no obvious reason, there’s also a little animation to order, consume, and clean away a cup of coffee. Something I did, in reality, several times while stuck on a particularly nefarious code that had – as is most often the case in this genre – a surprisingly simple solution I didn’t see.
Talking of coffee, it’s hard to find much wrong with The Entity Code when it costs less than a takeaway coffee and gave me far more satisfaction – for a few hours at least. It feels like the perfect foundation for a few cheap expansions that could introduce a new series of puzzles – with or without narrative elements – that could maybe push the limits of puzzling variations on a 3-by-3 grid. If you’re looking for a simple but smartly designed mini-game you can play in short bursts during a break, The Entity Code is worth a look.
A code for The Entity Code was provided to gameblur by the publisher.