Piano creeps in and trumpets rumble as the sun rises over another puzzle in Please Fix The Road. Sunlight pours over this miniature diorama, which I destroy, twist and rebuild until, once the road is repaired, its figurines burst into fireworks and the whole thing splits and transforms into the next.
The presentation adds an almost cinematic touch to this delicious puzzle game. Yet, while it may sound wholesome, Please Fix The Road is actually a diabolical little thing.
On the surface, it sounds simple enough: as the title suggests, you’re just fixing the road, right? Insert some curves, join the dots and voila! Cars, boats, cows and more pass each other and then reach their intended flag destination.
Bad! It’s not just about laying the right tiles in place. The solution may seem obvious, but the game dictates which tiles you can use and in what order, increasing the challenge considerably.
And while some puzzles give you sections of roads – curves, straights, slopes and more – to put together like a kid’s train, others give you more manipulative tiles. There are bombs to destroy before rebuilding; rotating tiles; move and copy tiles; tiles that move a row in a certain direction; and all of these come in set sizes or Tetris-like shapes. It’s the use of these tiles that really adds creativity to each puzzle solution.
For example, a puzzle had an obvious tile to set up, but before that I first had to wisely waste a whole bunch of bomb tiles to destroy half of the environment. In other puzzles I needed to use multiple shift tiles to move pieces around like these sliding picture puzzles. In later puzzles, I needed to move tiles outside of the playing area, or even intelligently copy empty spaces. Anything from connecting mini highways for multiple cars, untangling dirt roads for a cow to get home, or allowing rivers and roads to intersect properly.
So yes, a devilish little thing. All the while, its soundtrack shuffles through multiple tunes—jazz melodies, orchestral strings, plucked guitars—as my brain roars. Is he gently accompanying me or taunting me? It’s hard to say.
But when the last piece falls into place, those cars and cows are launched into the air and the whole puzzle flips on itself to form the next one. Or maybe it splits into lines that swim like dolphins. Or it turns and reveals something new. It’s like Dorfromantik through Inception.
It’s the delicate attention to detail that elevates a simple idea into something irresistible and immensely satisfying. And each colorful cityscape or tranquil idyll is attractive and tactile, despite the minimalist approach.
There are (after an update patch) 160 levels to go through, which is hours of thinking – depending on your skill level of course. Fortunately, there’s a hint button that will line up the first two moves for you, so if you’re completely stuck on where to start, the game will offer you a hint of its (sometimes quite unexpected) solution. And for a game that often requires as much trial and error as it does brain power, all it takes is a button to undo and redo.
A minor frustration is the inability to change perspective. Each diorama is fixed in place isometrically. You can pan from side to side or zoom slightly above and above. But some puzzles would really benefit from being able to rotate the environment, browse from multiple angles, and zoom in to get a closer look. Many puzzles have tiles at multiple heights, but sometimes it’s hard to judge exactly how they will fit together.
That’s a minor gripe, though. Please Fix The Road isn’t really trying to taunt you, it’s trying to teach you its ways. It is arguably a meditation on humans and nature, destroying environments only to reconstruct them organically and inorganically. But above all, it’s just a wholesome and rewarding puzzle game that‘s impossible to get frustrated with. Even the title is polished.