An evil curse has gnashed a great wound into the four sacred elements. You have been set in place by the ancients to tend these elements and restore the worlds equilibrium. Succeed in your task, and peace will fill the Earth. Fail your duty, and all will delve into an endless darkness. Girdle your loins and steady your hand, the game begins here.

In the beginning Didgery created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of Didgery was hovering over the waters. And Didgery said, “Let there be playing cards,” and there were playing cards. Didgery saw that the playing cards were good, and He separated the spades from the hearts and clubs from the diamonds. Didgery called the playing cards “sacred elements,” and the game he called “Didgery.” With a vaguely Biblical theme, Lotus Games’ Didgery begins its alternate tale of the origins of the world, as told via a sequential matching card puzzle game. It makes for a surprisingly effective atmosphere, and helps mold Didgery into a truly remarkable experience going well beyond an already excellent video game.

Didgery’s game board is a four by five grid in which normal playing cards are lain. To the right lay the a gauge monitoring the four “sacred elements” (re: suits) which influence the game’s timer. To the left is a rack with numerous other cards lined up vertically which automatically fills in empty spots on the grid created when cards are removed from it. Cards are removed from the grid when chained in order from high to low along a matching suit with equal value cards capable of chaining across suits. Chains can be of any length two or more, and when the player submits the chain, the cards vanished and their values are used to restore the sacred element gauge as well as act as points. Points in the game are called “harmony,” and harmony doubles as the game’s timer. The game begins with 1,000 harmony, and it is imperative that players continue to perform well to increase harmony by making chains and clearing boards quickly. Should any of the sacred elements be allowed to fully deplete, harmony will drop more rapidly, and the Didgery falls into dissonance when harmony is no more.

When all of the sacred element gauges are full, players are prompted to unleash Didgery unto the board, a tremendous explosion of power which clears all cards from the field. Smaller card clearing explosions also occur when the player forms a chain of six cards or more; the final card in the sequence detonates, destroying all adjacent normal cards. Aiding the player in creating these lengthy chains are special cards, made accessible as the player progresses through the game, which grant the player abilities which generally allow for more movement possibilities on the grid. Bridge cards will allow the chain to cross one over and add to the chain count, jesters form a bookend for an aspiring sequence, and portals can allow movement to switch to another point on the grid without interruption. While most of the half dozen special cards impact gameplay in some manner, the sealed parchments are unique to the game, blocking away a segment of the field until released via a chain explosion, at which point the document may be clicked upon and read. It is via these locked grid intrusions in which Didgery tells its story, ten parchments in all, each of which expands upon the interactions of the player, Axia, and the Lord Didgery. The writing is wonderfully developed, a joy to read, and makes for an interesting and highly anticipated challenge when the sealed parchment “cards” appear on the field as the player seeks to unlock their contents. Sometimes the parchments arrive too late in the round for the player to have any chance of opening them, but thankfully the accessible pages remain saved to the game, and the entirety of the texts can be read with enough playthroughs to collect them all. I’ve not played a puzzle game which gave me such a feeling of wanting to know what happens next in its unfolding tale, but Didgery does so beautifully with grace and style.

Didgery is a gorgeous game. The beckoning disembodied hand on the title screen, the fine mist in the background, and other touches along with the high resolution artwork truly make Didgery a sight to behold. Little touches such as the menu cursor shifting among the card suits go into making Didgery a professional looking product, and the special effects from explosions to the crash and boom which rocks the screen when the sacred element gauge is depleted are awesome and terrifying. Didgery carries with it an atmosphere like no other, feeling mystical and foreboding to downright scary when dissonance creeps onto the board and the player nears the end. Didgery’s soundtrack is suitably fantastic and make the environment tangible whether it’s the peace of starting forth or the horror of a game over. I would never have expected a puzzle game to either delivery such a compelling story or invoke mood as well as Didgery does, and it’s a testament to Lotus Games for imbuing its game with such unexpectedly excellent elements which go a long ways to set it apart from other games of this sort.

For what initially appears as an unassuming card game, Didgery manages to both be an impressive game and an amazing experience. Though part of the initial charm is lost once the player advances the story to its conclusion, Didgery remains an inviting and enjoyable game. I do hope to see a somewhat crippling bug in which triggering Didgery near the end of a round in which unchainable cards are all that is left to place on the field gets corrected soon, because that is the sole albeit rather significant strike on the title, forcing players to quit the game as the round fails to come to a close as it normally would when no possible moves are available. As troublesome as this bug is, Didgery remains a wonderful game, a feather in Lotus Games’ cap and a bright spot among the Xbox Indie library.

September 29, 2010
September 22, 2010 | 240 points
Developer | Video | Download

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