'Bob Came In Pieces' is certainly one of the most abstract game titles of the year so far. With a name like that, it could have been everything from a kiddie's jigsaw game to an uber-violent sex and death sim. Thankfully (for me, at least), Bob turned out to be a cartoony puzzler.
While there is a plot behind Bob Came In Pieces, it's almost certainly the result of a five-minute brainstorming session over tea and cake. You play as Bob, a funny-looking alien critter who crashes his ship on a foreign planet (which looks suspiciously like Earth). Pieces of his vessel are scattered around the world - pretty much to every corner, in fact, which is unfortunate for Bob but fortunate for the purposes of the various brainteasers that make up the game - and it's your job to retrieve as many of them as possible.
Bob Came To Pieces is split into 14 levels, and the goal of each is to reach a portal. To do this, you'll need to solve various puzzles, most of which involve redesigning your ship to manipulate the environment. For example, early on you pick up a tractor beam which allows you to pull objects. This comes in handy for pulling rocks or boxes out of your path, or opening gates. Each level requires a number of ship rebuilds, but luckily there's plenty of scattered checkpoints which allow you to tinker with your vessel as much as you want.
Since most of Bob Came To Pieces' puzzles are physics-based, a game such as this can live or die by the engine that powers it. Fortunately developers Ludosity Interactive have done a decent job, although the result is not quite perfect. Items in the world do tend to react as you'd imagine - rocks bounce and roll down slopes, wood burns on contact with flame (although ice tends not to, unusually) and wind turbines blast you around more ferociously if your ship is small and light.
However, the way your ship handles can be a little mystifying at times, especially when carrying items with the tractor beams. Tiny changes can have a huge impact on the way your vessel handles, and a huge amount of the building process is simply trial and error, which unfortunately seems to defeat the whole point of the game. Another missed opportunity is the sadly limited number of parts with which to create your ship. Aside from the rocket boosters and push and pull beams, the majority are simple connector pipes that are almost never needed. Even Spore had a much better creation tool.
I could complain about how your ship often gets stuck on scenery or refuses to right itself, but the checkpoints which allow you to rebuild your ship also act as respawn points. Simply hit 'enter' at any point and you're taken back to the nearest one. I could also moan about the time the game crashed, losing me considerable progress in one stage, but this only happened once so I'll discount it as a fluke.
However, I really can't forgive the stingy shortness of Bob Came To Pieces. Fourteen levels is all you get, one of which is a very basic tutorial, and the majority of which are over in just a few minutes. This may be a budget game, but less than four hours of gameplay is rather poor, especially considering the lack of replayability. Most puzzles have just a single solution, so the only reason to return to completed levels is to pick up any pieces you missed or play for a better time. Not a great incentive.
Despite these gripes, Bob Came To Pieces is still enjoyable for its short lifespan, even if the trial-and-error aspects do grate towards the end. The cartoon graphics are pleasant enough and the music appropriately weird. The system requirements are unsurprisingly light, with anything but the most basic laptop able to run the game with detail levels maximised. Worth a look if you're gagging for a puzzler.