Let’s face it, co-op gaming can be hard. Different skill levels, different interest levels, communication problems…if something goes wrong it’ll all go pear shaped. That goes double for co-op games for families, where young kids basically have all of the same problems as adults except amplified by ten. So when a game aims at that market, it aims low. Super simple, super hand hold-y. you know. And when I got Quirky Circuits from Plaid Hat Games to check out, I had that thought at first. But then I played it. And what I found is that yes, it is adorable and, yes, it is aimed squarely at families…but it’s an amazing game to boot. Let me explain why
What’s In The Box?
Game: Quirky Circuits
Publisher: Plaid Hat Games
Designer: Nikki Valens (Eldritch Horror)
As always, a stellar production from Plaid Hat. The art is adorable, taking a very anime-inspired throwback approach to the designs of characters. It very much does seem like something from a cute little robot show from the 80’s. The minis for the four playable characters are well made, chunky in the way you kind of need for a kids games. It also features a notebook board instead of a traditional one. This is an innovation that’s really becoming popular lately and I dig it. It’s simple, it’s easy, and it gives designers so much more wiggle room for additional scenarios and challenges.
How’s It Play
Like a lot of scenario-based games, Quirky Circuits gets harder over time. Each playable character stars in a series of challenges that gradually add in new mechanics and challenges as you go. Gizmo, who is essentially a hover-roomba, spends his time cleaning up dust bunnies while preventing the cat who’s along for the ride from causing chaos as he cleans. Twirl is a cute and anxious little bee-bot who has to take care of the plants in the garden and deal with menacing ants, while robo-pup Rover helps to deliver fossils around his museum. Finally, Lefty the Itamae has maybe the hardest job of all as he manages his sushi conveyer belt, matching each order to the right hungry kitty in time. Since each one is a robot, you’ve to to monitor their battery levels and execute the perfect number of moves to win your scenario and get them back to their starting point to charge. Simple, yeah?
The wrinkle here is the fact that the different commands you give each robot are a secret, and you can’t communicate with your fellow players when it comes to strategy either. It’s all done with intuition and deduction. And unlike similar games where this is a mechanic, it actually works well. It’s a programming game and once you get an idea of how the logic works, there’s only so many possible moves to be made. Therefore it’s not hard to read each other’s choices and make the right calls. Now that doesn’t make the game easy by any means, and the later stuff is challenging no matter how in-sync you are, but it means that it’s fun and it’s fair.
Quirky Circuits surprised me quite a bit. Thought it had gotten good word of mouth since it released, I couldn’t see why. Now I do. Thanks to the simple to learn but challenging to beat gameplay, Quirky Circuits is a cut above other family friendly board games. It’s co-op in a way that many games try but few are really able to pull off, and the lack of communication makes things more fun instead of frustrating. There’s lots of replay value included, which I always love, and art that’s just plumb adorable. I also appreciate the educational uses for the game as a teaching tool for basic programming and program solving. It isn’t “trying too hard” to be educational, and seems like a great way to trick kids into learning something while they play. Not even the damned trench could ruin things, though I’d really like it you could find a way to change that up Plaid Hat. It’s a cute, fun puzzle game that you’ll find eating up your entire night if you’re not careful.
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Review Copy and Images provided by Plaid Hat Games
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