Why was six scared of seven? Because seven eight nine. A classic, and further insight into the psyche of a generation X gamer who is easily entertained by dad jokes and cheap puns. Here are my thoughts on SEN Seven Eight Nine, published by Indie Champions, for the Nintendo Switch.
Not too long ago, I was introduced to this upcoming puzzle title and it captured my attention due to the claims of being a zen-like minimalistic thinking title. I can confirm that SEN Seven Eight Nine has both of these qualities and doesn’t apply the cheap shot of playing some cliche mokugyo (that’s a Japanese gong, and yes, I’m showing off), equally, there are no splash animations saying that I did a good job and continue to be mindful and some BS proverb. That’s where the minimalism design side comes into play as it’s simple as can be, both in structure and presentation, and doesn’t feature any irritating quotes.
Now would be a good opportunity to talk about how as, an indie title, it gets the right level of being addictive, while on a budget. But it has no meaning if you say it for every indie review and especially if it isn’t true. The concept of not having an ongoing tutorial is welcomed with open arms, and using the touchscreen to slide up and down the colours, numbers and symbols feels very natural and effortless, but SEN Seven Eight Nine isn’t a game I’m addicted to or would binge on for hours on end.
Much like how things are in real life, we sometimes spend a bit too much time on the things that aren’t so good for us, and less on what we need more of. I’m not a stress head (my family would disagree), but I’d say there should always be time to set aside to chill. My biggest passion is music, but when gaming, I can switch off and in some respects, reach a knock-off transcendence to just mellow out to. This isn’t specific to any particular genre, but sometimes rehearsing a combo or building structures to keep out an invasion are more relaxing for me than reading a book or sitting in silence.
With SEN Seven Eight Nine, it’s incredibly relaxing without any feeling of urgency. While it doesn’t put me to sleep, it doesn’t have me actively thinking about playing at any given moment. Granted, I review so many titles that it’s hard for a game to stand out, but I always allocate a sufficient time to appraise them. Getting ahead of myself, while it isn’t my go-to title, I will be periodically coming back to the game, unlike a lot of the titles I review.
Overall, it’s a bit of a paradox for me. On one side I complete a puzzle in SEN Seven Eight Nine almost as quickly as it has begun, but then for a moment or so after, I question how I got to the solution so quickly and if I were to reverse engineer my actions, would I be able to replicate them? Most of the time, I could, but it’s like explaining grammar in your native language for the everyman; you can do it, but you don’t necessarily know why.
In the time I’ve had the game, I have managed to get over halfway through, but the reason that I haven’t gone ahead and blitzed it is mostly down to the calm it brings. It sounds a bit corny and I’m not necessarily playing up the tag that this is zen-like, but it really is a distraction-free experience.
The choice of sound effects really burrows into my head. Not in the negative sense in that it grates, but a somewhat rewarding tone as you steadily get each puzzle right. I sometimes felt like an ape being tested and tapping my chest each time I got it right. The only thing missing other than the audible rewards was a biscuit, or would it be a banana? Who knows. It’s not a test to get into Mensa as there’s no pressure from SEN Seven Eight Nine in any way whatsoever, but there’s an element that does make you feel pretty smart, whilst feeling at ease.
On that basis, I would say that it is one of the least frustrating logic games I’ve ever experienced. More so that when you do get it wrong, you don’t feel stupid. There aren’t any title sequences that give you an S rank for being smart or a timer to say you’re slower than the average gamer. The lack of these apparent incentives is a good decision and makes me want to dive deeper, but playing one puzzle in quick succession of another gets a little repetitive, even though the puzzles are unique each time. In that respect, I prefer to play SEN Seven Eight Nine in small doses. Not due to any sort of frustration, but more to do with the lack of variety.
While SEN Seven Eight Nine is a therapeutic experience, because of the lack of explanation or any variety of gameplay modes, it isn’t something I’ll be playing intensely for hours at a time, but I would happily dip into it in times of chilling out. Unlike games like Dr Kawashima’s Brain Training for Nintendo Switch, there isn’t the motivation of improving your intellect or cognitive functions, nor are there the same level of games – SEN Seven Eight Nine is the same throughout, albeit with increasing levels of difficulties.
It’s not that I dislike the game, not in the slightest, it’s a great title and a unique concept worthy of your time if you enjoy puzzles, but because there are no variations or additional features like a two-player mode or leaderboards, it may put off the majority of puzzle seekers. But to be honest, I wouldn’t want any of those features as it would spoil the simplicity and dare I say, the elegance of the game. Though, I wouldn’t make a fuss if there were a two-player mode. That said, the other player is most likely to ‘get it’ more than I do.
SEN Seven Eight Nine is available for pre-order and will be available on mobile, Steam and the Nintendo Switch from the 6th February. For this review, the publisher kindly supplied a review code.