Finding Teddy is the kind of game that could entice me away from console gaming. I know, I know, the new visuals just revealed at E3 are mind-blowing, but I've long passed the point where graphics were the reason I turned to consoles when it came time to whip out a game. What draws me towards consoles is the level of immersion that can be found in titles with bigger budgets and more talented teams. Finding Teddy, despite being short and pixelated, still manages to draw me into its world. Even though I find every third room infuriating, this is one environment I'm delighted to explore.
Finding Teddy is a point-and-click adventure game that puts players into the shoes (actually, I think she may be barefoot) of a girl who simply wants her teddy back. She doesn't know who has taken her stuffed pal or where, but that doesn't stop her from jumping out of bed and risking life and limb to get it back. She doesn't need any details to get started, and, apparently, neither do players. Finding Teddy offers up no tutorials or instructions and provides only the most subtle of on-screen hints. It's a testament to the simplicity and design of the game that this lack of direction is pulled off so well. It takes me back to a time when games didn't tell us how to play them, yet we managed to beat them anyway.
Finding Teddy is played largely by tapping at various corners of the screen to navigate between rooms. Some rooms contain items that players will intuitively try to pick up, while others will contain characters that will less-intuitively try to kill you. Not everything our protagonist encounters will want her dead, but most things do, and watching how they choose to off her is half the charm. Thankfully, that charm is there, because it helps mask what could sometimes become absolutely infuriating roadblocks. None of this game's puzzles feel complex or illogical after I've solved them, but that doesn't take the sting off of how much time I spent going back and forth investigating the same set of rooms. Finding Teddy is bound to take several hours to complete, but if you already know where everything is, chop most of those hours off.
There is a heavy musical component to this game, as our protagonist and many of the things she encounters have a knack for singing. Musical notes each have a distinctive sound and appearance, and players will need to use the look and feel of these notes to progress through many of the challenges. It's handled nicely, though it adds to the number of things you will have to try doing before giving up and walking away from an NPC in frustration. If any of the six items you're holding doesn't get a response from them, there's always any combination of 26 notes that might get the reaction you're hoping for. Oh, that doesn't take into account the allies that our protagonist picks up along the way, each able to solve certain puzzles that the others cannot. If it sounds like a headache, don't worry, it is. But it's a headache you'll willingly endure, because this game is that alluring.
The Other Stuff
I know in video games it's supposed to be the gameplay that matters, but in Finding Teddy, it's the other stuff that makes this title a success. The graphics are pixelated imitations of a bygone era, yet beautifully modern all at the same time. The protagonist oozes more personality than most 3D models, and the creatures she encounters are both simply and superbly animated. Death scenes are surprisingly able to draw a fair degree of emotion with just a few frames - I feel sad every time this girl dies.
The background music is soft and fits the mood, though it can sometimes be annoying when an NPC is singing a song that needs to be remembered. But even then, the music still manages to complement sound effects nicely. These sounds, mind you, are few and far between. There's nothing superfluous here. This game is an exercise in minimalism, for it contains no more or less than it needs to provide for an engaging experience. In any argument over whether video games qualify as art, this is one piece of evidence I am eager to deploy.
Should You Play It?
At the end of the day, Finding Teddy is a point-and-click adventure game. There's death, but there's no action. Only occasionally will your adrenaline start pumping. If you can't handle a game where your thumbs and pointer fingers aren't constantly twitching, this isn't the game for you. That said, there's no reading involved, making this faster and more accessible than most entries in the genre. Aside from the occasional pool of blood, this experience is good for gamers of all ages.
Not only that, it's one of the most memorable titles to enter the Play Store. The controls are simple, the visuals are distinctive, the world is rich with character, and don't be surprised if the jingles follow you throughout the day. It's not perfect, but no piece of art ever is. And at just over $2, it's cheaper than most comparable experiences out there.