[Review] Factotum 90 – Nintendo Switch

Written by Richard Strachan
  • Developer: TACS Games
  • Publisher: Rainy Frog
  • Release date: 19/3/2020
  • Price: £6.99/$7.99
  • Review code provided by Rainy Frog

Introducing: Factotum 90 Nintendo Switch Review

The long shadow of Aperture Science can still be felt on the 3D puzzler genre. At first glance, Factotum 90 seems to have taken a particular influence from Valve’s classic – Portal. From the spidery robots resembling the turrets that guarded the labs, to the clinical aesthetic seemingly mirroring the graphical style of Portal. Once you dig a bit deeper, however, you see the two are actually very different.

Back to the 90s

Factotum 90 is a 3D puzzler, where you control two spider-like robots on board a stricken spaceship. The ship has suffered a collision and the life support systems are failing. Your role is to control the two robots to repair the damage caused and figure out what caused the problem in the first place. 

Your screen is split vertically, like a split screen multiplayer game, allowing you to see both robots at the same time in third person. You switch between the two and you cooperate to complete puzzles and work your way through the ship. The game looks quite unique, as it uses an overlay as if you are sitting at a control desk with two monitors showing each of your robots, complete with big red buttons and lights which control some of the functions of your machines. The look reminded me of some of the CGI in the old Command and Conquer games and other FMV heavy 90s games. The effect is topped off with a VHS style filter.

Fuzzy Logic

The puzzles themselves are fairly simple, but can be pretty satisfying to work through. Your robots have very basic functionality and can walk or run around as well as pick up small blocks. They also have the ability to reflect laser beams, which can be used to power up moving platforms or destroy certain obstacles. The game adds layers of mechanics gradually, but is a bit slow on doing so at first. The first few missions feel more like a basic walk through a simple environment with some moving platforms, with very little thought required. As the game progresses, you find yourself juggling explosives and rapidly switching between robots to make your way through the more tricky scenarios.

The puzzles do gradually become somewhat more fiendish, but never quite hit the level of dizzying invention as seen in games like Portal or Braid. Factotum 90 builds to the point where completing a puzzle gives a nice sense of satisfaction, but never quite has that magical eureka moment so prevalent in other similar games.

Some of the more complex puzzles can take some time to figure out, but once you know the solution each level can be completed in a few minutes at most. It can be quite satisfying to suddenly breeze through a level that has had you stumped. I banged my head against a wall on more than one occasion and considered whether a puzzle was even possible, before finally figuring out the solution. The simplicity of the mechanics are what keeps the experience from being elevated to the level of some of the genre greats. The game lacks the breathless momentum of Portal or the mind-bending invention of Braid. As I played through it, I found myself longing for something with the same level of invention, but it never transpired.

Poor-tal?

Am I being unfair in comparing Factotum 90 to some all-time classics? Perhaps, but these games will always be the main point of comparison. When taken in isolation, Factotum 90 provides some simple and satisfying spacial puzzles. It’s unique selling point, in the ability to control two robots, doesn’t add a lot. The overlay on the visuals gives the effect of observing terminals and controlling the robots remotely, but I rarely found there was any benefit in being able to see what my dormant robot was up to whilst controlling the other.

There is no co-op play available, but the puzzles in the game are specifically designed to account for the fact you can only move one robot at a time. A real time coop mode would break many of the game’s puzzles, or would require a whole separately designed suite of levels.

The overall graphics are somewhat simple, but give off a nice retro feeling. They reminded me in some ways of the N64 era, but not in a bad way. That combined with the VHS style filter manages to invoke a sense of nostalgia.

The game is fairly brief, with 30 levels. Each one includes a hidden collectible which is usually placed off the beaten track. I can often be a bit of a completionist when it comes to these kinds of things, but I didn’t feel especially compelled to collect them as there didn’t seem to be any clear reward for doing so.

How does it run?

The game plays smoothly in both docked and handheld. The fuzzy VHS style filter does seem somewhat exaggerated in handheld, meaning the visual fidelity does take a bit of a hit, but this isn’t a huge issue with a slow paced puzzle game. The devs were definitely aiming for a lo-fi effect with the visuals, so this is actually in keeping with the overall theme.

Final thoughts

Factotum 90 is a fairly simple 3D puzzler with an interesting visual presentation. The simple mechanics hold the game back from true greatness, but it can be an enjoyable and brief head-scratcher if you let it get its hooks into you. It comes along at a pretty low price-point, so you certainly do get a decent bang for your buck.

Pros

  • Some fun ideas in the later puzzles
  • Cool visual effect

Cons

  • Only one music track (but it’s good!)
  • Mechanics a little bare-bones

Verdict
Factotum 90 is a fun but basic puzzler and manages to give off slight vibes of Portal in terms of its visuals, but the complete product doesn’t quite live up to those lofty expectations.

2.5/5

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