Möbius is a game from the 2006 comp. It seems to have made a very good impresison on pretty much anyone who’s played it and written about it. It’s not, however, one of those games that you immediately think about when you want to suggest a game to someone, or when you think about the games you really liked.
There’s good reason for it. The game is nothing more than a single puzzle in a single room, and we have more memorable titles in our minds. However, it’s a pretty good puzzle and a pretty interesting room. And the mechanics behind Möbius are still originating games - Fifteen Minutes in this year’s comp, Hadean Lands (Zarf’s magnum opus to date) a few months ago. The whole idea of resetting the gamespace as part of the puzzle (often as time travel) has given us many games. All Things Devours; Rematch and Aisle, arguably; Fingertips: Fingertips; Delusions. You could make a case for Varicella, even, being a relative of this genre, or Insight. What they all have in common is the concept of replaying a scene until you get it right, and where that’s actually a part of the gameplay and, you could say, the gimmick.
Here’s the thing, though - these games are somewhat scary (well, not Aisle or Aisle-style games specifically). They are big, or daunting, or complex, or all of these things. The puzzlers (All Things Devours) can be tricky. The non-puzzlers (Insight) haven’t got quite the same appeal. There’s a difficult balance to maintain between challenge and frustration - well, ok, this balance exists in every game, but when you want to make the player re-visit the same scene over and over and over, Groundhog Day-style, you’ve got a bigger challenge than usual.
Möbius achieves this remarkable balance, without the various complex rituals and trappings of Hadean Lands. It’s a bite-sized adventure, a good and solid puzzle that isn’t insultingly easy nor immensely difficult. Most of all, it really plays fair.
In this game, you will be revisiting the same room over and over again, trying to prevent a reactor from exploding and keeping you trapped in time (well, come on, it’s hardly a spoiler - it’s the whole point of the game). There are rules in place that the game strictly adheres to and that are vital to finishing the game. Experimentation is heavily encouraged - and solidly implemented. You’ll often be presented with your previous self doing the actions that you’ve just done, but quite unlike Faithful Companion, Sorcerer or Art of Fugue, the gimmick is not in timing your actions with this ghostly figure - but in figuring out how your actions in the previous time loop affect your present time loop.
I would recommend this to everyone who really wanted to enjoy All Things Devours but found it too complex; Fingertips: Fingertips, but found it too criptyc; Delusions, but found it too difficult. It’s a single puzzle done exactly right. Every review I’ve read says the same thing I’m saying right now - the player feels rewarded by solving the puzzle. It’s a very satisfying puzzle to solve.