Retro Review: “Daedalian Opus” (Nintendo Game Boy, Monochrome May Special)

Welcome back to Monochrome May, The Splintering’s month-long celebration of black and white entertainment! Today we’re going to pick apart a lesser-known puzzle game for the Nintendo Game Boy, Daedalian Opus.

Published by Vic Tokai in 1990, Daedalian Opus is a Tetris-inspired twist on tangram puzzles. What’s a tangram puzzle? Tangrams are designed around rearranging various two dimensional shapes called “tans” to fit into a larger shape. Got it? Our readers are smart; of course you got it…

There’s not really much to say for the controls. The D-pad moves your selecting hand across the board, while the buttons pick up, drop, and rotate the pieces. You also have to use the select button from time to time to “flip” or mirror the pieces.

Aww, yeeeeah! Interlocking pieces!

Kid Icarus? No Relation

The premise may be simple, but Daedalian Opus is harder than it may seem. While there are multiple ways to solve each puzzle, the solutions become less clear very quickly. There are 36 stages in total, and you will eventually reach stages that don’t require every piece. This actually makes things tougher, in my opinion, because it adds an extra layer to the puzzle in determining which piece is the odd man out.

Fortunately, all of the passwords are easy to remember 4 letter words such as “KING”, “MEGA”, “LOVE”, etc. So simple, in fact, that you may even be able to guess one or two of them. It’s also worth mentioning that while there is a clock tracking your time, there is no actual time limit. How long it takes to solve a puzzle, and by extension, complete the game, will depend on how good you are.

The password for this stage is “PEEN” – okay, that’s not true, but it woule be funny if it was

Vic Tokai deserves a lot of credit for the effort they put into the game’s presentation. The game is introduced by a wise old man named “Dr. P” who gives you a quick rundown of how Daedalian Opus is played. There is a short interlude between stages, where your character crosses over a newly formed bridge to the next puzzle island. A UFO will fly by and give you a password, and oftentimes a fairy will give you a new puzzle piece, too. It’s – I have no other word for it – cute.

The actual puzzle screens in Daedalian Opus are a little bit bland, but they aren’t ugly, and it’s easy to keep track of the all the pieces on the board. The music is catchy enough for a while, but it can grate on you after lengthy sessions. At least the tune changes after 11 stages.

Nothing says “Greek” like fairies and spacemen

My Big Fat Greek Game Boy

As I’ve mentioned previously, my older brother had the Game Boy in our house, and Daedalian Opus was one of his go-to puzzle games. I remember giving him a hard time because of how frustrated he got when trying to solve the final puzzle. One time I pushed him hard enough and he said, “Fine! You try it!” To his frustration, I managed to solve it in about 10 minutes or so. Beginner’s luck? Maybe. When I tried playing through Daedalian Opus for the purpose of this review, the final puzzle took me more than half an hour to complete. Maybe I’ve become dumber in the past couple of decades. Maybe it was beginner’s luck. I’m willing to accept that it is probably a combination of both.

That said, I eventually picked up my own copy of Daedalian Opus, thanks in part to my own nostalgic ties to the game. Is it worth playing today? I think it is. While there is nothing ground-breaking, the puzzles are perfectly designed for pick-up-and-play situations, and the easy to use password system provides players with a way to cement even the smallest of steps forward. Plus, the presentation adds a lot of unique charm not always present in retro puzzle games. If you are puzzle fan looking for something a little bit less hectic than Tetris for Nintendo’s black and white handheld, Vic Tokai’s Daedalian Opus is a solid way to go.

Hey Daedalus? How’s the kid? (Too soon?)

Thanks for reading!

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