In today’s world of 200-hour games with eighteen kinds of side-missions and collectibles to keep you busy, sometimes you just want a quick, simple game that just does one thing well. Point-and-click puzzler Spellbind certainly fits the first two criteria, being only a few hours long with a bare-bones interface. Unfortunately, the one thing it does could be quite a bit better.
The puzzles have good variety, but can be hit and miss. A puzzle solution should be like a plot twist, hard to see coming but obvious after the fact. Unfortunately in Spellbind, the right answer isn’t always clear why it’s correct. One of the first puzzles involves arranging bottles of wine in order of age, which you determine by deciphering the symbols on the labels. Having put them into what I believed to be the correct order and not getting a result, I had to resort to random shuffling until the game told me I was right.
The mechanics can get in the way sometimes as well. The word search puzzle confounded me for a few minutes because it seemed like diagonal words weren’t allowed. Whenever I tried to draw a line between the diagonal letters, adjacent ones would keep getting in the way and messing it up, until finally I got the game to accept my input. In a game where trial and error is your primary deductive tool, false negatives like this are beyond frustrating.
Spellbind’s story is fairly basic. As a young thief, you have been tasked with robbing and old wizard, but soon get caught up in reliving key memories from his life via magical portals. It all comes across as a bit thin, really, with little to no explanation of why you don’t just leave with the loot as soon as things got weird. The final confrontation is little more than a questionnaire, and none of your actions up until the very last section have any effect on the ending you get. It’s not bad, by any stretch, but it also doesn’t do much to bring the game world to life.
The graphics and art style aren’t particularly beautiful, but you can see everything you need to and areas are distinct enough to keep you from getting lost. The music, however, grates fairly quickly – especially when you’re trying to focus on a puzzle – making this one of the only games I’ve ever played with the audio off.
Despite all of these gripes, Spellbind achieves what it set out to do. Though it can frustrate at times, for the most part patience and careful investigation (and failing that, a guide), will carry you through to the end. You probably won’t play through it more than once, but if you’re looking for a quick, straightforward way to scratch that puzzle itch, Spellbind might just suit you.
Basic and semi-satisfying
Best used as a brain-teasing palette cleanser when you need a break from larger games.