Arranger: A Role-Puzzling Adventure 1
Image: Furniture & Mattress

Arranger: A Role-Puzzling Adventure really sets itself apart from other puzzle games. We’ve seen plenty of sliding-tile puzzlers over the years, but Furniture & Mattress’ adventure is defined by its framing. It’s not an RPG, but it absolutely feels like one in many different ways. You have to use weapons to defeat certain monsters blocking your path. There’s a whole coming-of-age story about leaving home and growing up. There are even boss battles.

It’s as if puzzle designer Nico Recabarren (developer on Ethereal) built a completely new Rubix Cube, artist David Hellman (Braid) painted that Rubix Cube, and writer Nick Suttner (Carto) sketched out a world of fun and adventure around it, with everything taking place on a bunch of interconnected square grids. We’ve been enamoured since its reveal during the February 2024 Nintendo Direct Partner Showcase, and going hands-on with the game at Summer Game Fest Play Days, we can’t wait to cause chaos by moving tiles around.

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Jemma, the hero of Arranger, is a mess. She even calls herself a walking disaster. Truly the most relatable protagonist for this writer right here. But mess also follows her around everywhere she goes. When she moves, everything in a row or a column moves with her. That’s the whole conceit of this "role-puzzling adventure" - a world that takes place on a grid with walls that wrap around, so if Jemma steps off the path to the right, she’ll appear on the left.

It’s clear from Jemma’s character design alone, that Arranger isn’t just inspired by RPGs, but also The Legend of Zelda. Jemma’s green cardigan made us think of the pointy-eared hero, and the layout of Jemma’s hometown, and all of the early dungeon-esque puzzles evoke some of Link’s early adventures. Suttner told us that one of the game’s later areas is essentially a Zelda dungeon, and that has us very excited.

Jemma’s penchant for mischief cropped up multiple times during our 45-minute demo. Not long after leaving her bedroom to talk to her parental guardian, Susie, a bunch of junk appears from nowhere. You have to find someone to take all of this stuff while ‘Miss Susie’ packs it away. Leaving the house, you can see how Jemma’s world moves with her. That includes almost everything in her path – including people.

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Image: Furniture & Mattress

This involves plenty of hilarious moments, such as knocking the caretaker off a ladder and breaking it into three pieces, or knocking over the painter’s pot. Essentially, you’re causing chaos wherever you go, and it’s delightful to see how the world reacts to Jemma’s movements.

It’s surprisingly challenging to wrap your head around how to move around, but it’s also really satisfying when you solve one of the world's many puzzles. If you just want to experience the story, though, there are options to either let you skip the puzzles or a little guide to show you which direction to go in. There’s no hint system, but these two options should be enough to allay worries about getting stuck.

Certain objects are surrounded by a sparkly aura called ‘Static’, a component that will become much more important as the story progresses. If an object is static, it won't be affected by Jemma’s movement, so you have to navigate your way around it. This is where the ‘wrapping’ comes into play. Our brains often struggled to remember that we could get to the other side of a path simply by going through a wall to appear on the opposite side – absolutely no fault of the game's logic, but because the idea is so simple and genius. It’s extremely satisfying to just pop out the other side beyond an immovable object, and zip along the grid like it was never an issue. (If you're struggling to visualise how the gameplay works, check out the trailer at the bottom of this page.)

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Image: Furniture & Mattress

Suttner and Recabarren told us there were “at least a couple of hundred” puzzle rooms to shuffle our way through, and the variety ranged from putting foot statues on switches to open up new paths to rescuing a cat from a ‘static’ monster. The complexity gradually increases, too, with new items introduced at a steady rate. The game does a fantastic job of teaching you how the world works, but it never holds your hand, so you still have to wrap your brain around its logic. By the end, you’ll be seeing the entire real world like a moving grid.

Some later puzzles in the demo involved moving a sword around the grid to take out enemies. This is Arranger’s take on RPG combat, just without an inventory, items, or experience. Moving Jemma around a grid is one thing, but moving her to move a sword around it is another – specifically to take out monsters. It’s a fun little wrinkle that adds an extra level of personality to the puzzler.

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Image: Furniture & Mattress

This 'combat' also carries through to the boss battle we fought during the demo – a big snake-like creature with a single eye and a sharp tail. If you move on a tile in a row or column that lines up with the snake’s eye, it grows a bit longer, eventually revealing its pointed tail. Then you have to lead the tail into the creature’s eye. Blending puzzle-solving with combat, it’s a really clever reinvention of a standard RPG or Zelda mechanics, as are some of the hidden puzzles or 'side quests' that you’ll find along the way.

Around the midpoint of the demo, we came across a duck who seemed to have absolutely zero purpose. He honked, which made us laugh, but then Suttner encouraged us to go grab a loaf of bread from our house. Opening up a shortcut (by uncurling some rolled-up path), we returned home, pushed the bread around the grid, and down one screen to the duck, who ate it, got chubby, and then went ‘HAWNK’. It brought us to tears but also delivered some Hot Duck Lore from the devs – the duck used to be a very important character who was even the game’s icon until a few months ago. Now, he just lives for bread. Good for the little guy.

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Image: Furniture & Mattress

It doesn’t sound like the novelty of Arranger’s puzzle-solving will wear thin, either. The game is expected to be 5-10 hours long, depending on player skill and how many optional puzzles you complete. There’s also a cute little co-op mode a la Super Mario Galaxy, where player two can act as a little floating ‘sprite’ (actually a former character design for Jemma) to help guide Player One.

Essentially, this is a puzzle game that keeps brains ticking over or it can be approached as a cute, charming adventure game that's set on a grid. We'll see if there are many new mechanics beyond the first 45 minutes, but Jemma’s journey looks to be a heartwarming one, with a strong message about a character who is trying to find her place in the world.

Arranger: A Role-Puzzling Adventure is already bursting with charm, and it'll be ready to wrap around us when it launches on 25th July. Are you ready to disrupt the static order? Let us know in the comments below.