TURN: The Lost Artifact is a puzzle game in which you lead your characters through mazes by rotating the room 90 degrees. The heroes of the story are Kurt and Camilla, a treasure hunting duo whose latest mission is to find an ancient artifact of unspecified origin and powers. The setting is based on the legendary adventurers of late 19th and early 20th Century literature, with a focus on the work of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Other adventurers based on this time period such as Indiana Jones and Lara Croft can leap platforms and defend themselves with weapons, but Kurt and Camilla are at the complete mercy of the rotating rooms and can only run left or right.
The game can be played using the D-Pad and shoulder buttons or the touchscreen. Pushing left or right on the D-Pad moves your character, and the shoulder buttons rotate the room in their respective directions. This is generally the preferred control scheme because it’s much more precise, as one slip off a ledge can mean certain doom. The touchscreen uses swiping motions to control the characters and rotate the room, with swiping left/right to move your character and swiping up/down to rotate the room. This method also works just fine, but moving and stopping your character feels mushy. The option between control schemes is a nice touch, especially because the DSi has rather delicate shoulder buttons. Rest assured – if yours are broken, at least you can still play TURN.
The goal of each level is to rotate a maze in such a way that you can obtain a key and unlock a door to the next stage. You must avoid or eliminate enemies at all cost, as landing next to them causes immediate death. A few types stand in your way of finding the artifact, but they all behave in similar ways. Moveable crates are also strewn about each room, which you can use to crush enemies. You must also stack them to reach different areas, but you are much more likely to crush yourself with a crate than be defeated by an enemy.
TURN offers the option of playing as either Kurt or Camilla, but your choice doesn’t affect the experience in any way. Still, it’s another nice touch that gives the game a bit more flavour. There is only one difficulty level that can be safely described as “hard”. After the first few tutorial stages, the difficulty spikes in an alarming way and only continues to climb. Squishing yourself is common, because it’s possible (and pretty easy) to move the various blocks into a position where you cannot complete the room. This doesn’t completely break the game, but it is frustrating and leaves it feeling cracked. The in-game FAQ says, “Though this might be of little comfort to you, the game has been intensively tested and all levels can be completed... we can fearlessly assert that you can reach the end of the game. But we couldn’t guarantee that the end is at everyone’s reach”. This is more a statement of necessary reassurance than a playful challenge.
The fun factor of this game depends on how well you cope with the difficulty. After repeated deaths by falling crates and/or being forced to squish yourself because you’re trapped with no other option, a bit of the fun is sucked away. Each room has only one solution, which is why getting stuck and forced self-deaths are an all-too common occurrence. The game counts how many times you die, too, a nice little jab at your self-esteem. A hardcore puzzle lover that relishes a challenge will likely find TURN quite fun but may still consider it frustrating. There is some replay value, as each level sets a goal of how many rotations are necessary to complete it, allowing you to go back and try to complete the rooms in fewer rotations. Each level is also timed, adding another challenge for which to go back. A room appears in the same order each time you play a level, so the time challenge is essentially a memory challenge, but another goal to shoot for is always nice. The unlockable content is usually character and concept art which can be obtained by completely finishing a world or achieving time or rotation records.
The graphics are primitive but not ugly and serve their purpose just fine. Improved graphics wouldn’t do this game any big favours anyway and would have cut down on the level of content. The music for TURN is disappointing: the title theme is rather sweeping and grand, but music within the levels is repetitive and boring. The sound effects are only a couple different versions of a generic beeping noise.
TURN: The Lost Artifact sets a difficult pace and has slightly awkward game play, but it isn’t a terrible game. The sarcastic jokes that serve as level titles give the game a good tone, and the difficulty makes it satisfying to complete a stage. As the first self-production of French game development studio Creative Patterns, it isn’t a bad outing. Casual gamers should certainly stay away, but it might be a fun challenge for puzzle fans that are capable of working out a few kinks.