I Enjoyed Every Minute of Framed 2 (But I Would Have Liked a Few More Minutes)

The original Framed was a smart, stylish, innovative title that was fun to play but a little too brief to recommend.  I recounted playing the game in my review; I had been saving the game for an upcoming flight and was disappointed to beat the entire game before the plane left the ground.  Playing through this time I was once again surprised by how clever these puzzles were but – once again – I completed the entire game in about two hours (midway through the flight this time).  In short, Framed 2 is…well, smart, stylish, innovative and – once again – a little too brief to whole-heartedly recommend.  I have to admit, though, that while the game was short, I enjoyed every minute of it.

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Some spies use guns and knives. You are gonna use this cat and some sneaky tiptoeing.

The original title had pretty nifty gameplay.  You played a spy running through various comic book panels as you eluded the authorities (and other agents).  As the player, you could rearrange the panels to ensure the spy’s safety as he moved from screen to screen.  Placing a panel with a door or a ladder leads your spy to dash in a different direction to avoid a guard or angry dog.  The new game expands on this concept with rotating panels, weapons to grab, objects to pick up, and panels you’ll need to use repeatedly on the fly.  Sometimes your character will interact with an element in a panel which you’ll need to reuse subsequently (and juggling panels is fun).  At various points you may be tracking multiple characters or tracking an object from panel to panel as well as your spy.  It gets complicated but the quick resets and narrow scope of the puzzles keep things from getting too frustrating.

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The stylish Shanghai depicted here is surprising memorable given the minimalist presentation.

What I liked most about Framed 2 was its ability to vary the difficulty enough to keep me engaged.  I would play a hard puzzle that took me an aggravating long time and then face a clever but brief level that would make me smile.  There is one puzzle involving a cardboard box that just about broke my brain before I found the solution (and the satisfying Metal Gear reference made the whole experience worth it).  Solving the most complex levels is enormously satisfying.  The game even has a surprisingly enjoyable final boss fight that made use of the game mechanics in innovative ways.  The game designers here have a strong idea and they take that premise in some great directions.

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Hey this is like the end of Cliff Hanger!

Framed 2 will probably take you about two or three hours to play through and – aside from some small collectibles – there’s not much reason to play through a second time.  It’s considerably better than the innovative original, but it’s still hard for me to justify the $5 price tag for such a concise experience (particularly when the replayability is limited).  I still don’t understand why the designers don’t include multiple pathways or branching solutions.  Some puzzles even provide multiple viable solutions but all roads lead to the same path.  Framed 2 is a solid game, but once the designers crack the replayability issue, they’ll have solid gold.

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This guy apparently went to the same spy school as Solid Snake.

THE BEST PART

The puzzles are smart, the presentation is stylish, and the game innovates in some surprising directions.

THE WORST PART

You’ll be done in about two hours and won’t have much of a reason to replay the game.

OVERALL PLAY IT

It’s a good game worth playing, but the brevity and lack of replayability make it hard to justify at full price.