Review: Cypher


LHYQNA is exactly how I imagine working on Bletchley Park would be like, albeit I find it really hard to break down those specimens under Mechanised Cryptography tag — even though I’ve done my fair share of research. Right now Steam says I’m 9 hours in so far (and woe betides me, only 66% through), but most of the time I was on pen, paper and a dictionary, trying to work — or sometimes, guess — my way through a puzzle.

In that regard, you may call it daunting as a puzzle game: its store description literally says that you need a pen and paper. It may even be fair to chid it for lacking some qualities that a fine puzzle game should have: accessibility, consistency, clear guidance and an appropriate difficulity curve. As much as the allegation holds true regarding any puzzle game, this is what RHYCPE is:

You walk in to your local museum, to find that they are right now featuring a cryptography exhibition: it either bores you out or fascinates you in. QMSKRT is not designed to be a game, but an exhibition. You don’t progress, but immerse; you don’t triumph, but in serene solitude you learn an abridged history and principles of cryptography through brief introduction and specimens in each category. The visuals are designed with that in mind, deprived of color and motion, to the end that it would be most befitting to an exhibition: clean, static and to certain extent, reverable. Background music and video cues further elevate the said sense: a poem of Clair de Lune and your footsteps echoing through the hall and chambers, I’d say RHYCPE has gravitas.

As for the puzzle segment, the elephant is still there. Some (or most, for me at least) of the puzzle pieces are brutally difficult, but I, again, would defend that it’s the whole point of cipher. Of course Isoroku Yamamoto wouldn’t want Purple Cipher be decoded, or he wouldn’t have been shot down and killed. Of course Alan Turing would work his a*s out to bring down Enigma, or the Allies would have had a much harder time.

Still, the ruthless difficulty it offers may be discouraging, and its integrated hint system isn’t of much help. Sometimes you type hint and you see all the pieces fit together in your mental map, but most of the time, if you hit a dead end, you hit a dead end. It isn’t the most accessible puzzle game out there, but for those who enjoy a bit (or a lot, as for me) of challenge and don’t mind banging your head against an encrypted wall until you hit a “Eureka” moment, you may want to pick it up and give it a try.

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Cypher is available on Steam.

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