The Quern Review
After reading it I have no clue what to think about the game. The review correctly points out that these games stand or fall based on their puzzles, but gives no indication as to how challenging the puzzles are. The only indication is that the author found them to be the right level of difficulty, but since I’m not the author I have no clue how my experience will compare to his.
Some more objective criteria would have been welcome: are clues obscure or is it a case of the combination to the lock written in the margin of some page? Are puzzles layered or is it one step and done? How much feedback do you get from the environment as you mess with a puzzle? Can you observe the effects of your actions directly? Do all puzzles come with a title “look, a puzzle” or do some look like random bits of the environment? Is there a hint system?
It’s not impossible to write about something subjective, like difficulty, in a way that is useful to others. At the very least, if you’re going to use yourself as the yardstick, give the readers some idea of what else you’ve found enjoyable, rather than making me go through your past reviews to try and distill a profile of what you liked in 2013 and hope it applies to your experience today.
The review clearly states that there are all manner of puzzle types in the game. It would be a practical impossibility to detail why and how they all successfully managed to find the right difficulty balance.
It also states that screenshots are needed (in lieu of note taking) to help with puzzle-solving. If you can’t infer a degree of challenge from that, you’re not trying hard enough.
Attempting to quantify puzzle difficulty is a fool’s errand at the best of times. We will certainly try to explain why a game is too easy or too hard. But “just right” is a whole different beast. And contrary to your claim, the review has lots to support that notion: that the clueing is sufficient but not hand-holding; that the solutions aren’t obvious, but are logical when you step back to really think on them, etc.
And of course, if there’s a hint system a review will mention it.
The level of detail you seem to be asking for here would make the review an onerous bore, both to write and to read. And in the end, you might still not agree with the reviewer’s assessment of difficulty.
Editor-in-Chief, some obscure little site called Adventure Gamers