In Brushwood Buddies, you’re almost always either crafting or destroying, in order to create something else. Craft a tree and you’ll get either an apple or a stick, while doing the same to a rock yields either flint or grindstone. So far so simple, right? Yeah, but… you ain’t seen nothing yet. Soon you’ll be crafting and destroying stuff back and forth, again and again, to make fishing rods, campfires and even different animals!
Fortunately, the game does contain an easily accessible recipe book to keep track of all these ‘transformations’, because without it, the difficulty would be even higher than it already is. Early on, everything’s just right in that you likely won’t feel too overwhelmed by the task at hand. But then, little by little, it ramps up to the point where the game – unless I missed something – forces you to do a fair amount of guesswork.
That last bit wouldn’t be an issue if not for the fact that health is also a thing, limiting the amount of destruction possible at any given time. Not to the point where you’ll fail a level for depleting it, so much as, well, simply not allowing you to break more stuff until until it’s been replenished. Accomplishing this is by no means tricky, but the object transformations required to get the required item often involves tearing down a current ‘project’, essentially wasting time / turns.
Honestly, I wish that energy / health meter wasn’t a thing in the game, as figuring out what to do can be troublesome enough at times, no less due to the inclusion of randomness in what you get. It’s not so bad when a tree becomes an apple, as that can be quite beneficial – but when that’s not the desired outcome? Troublesome, and even more so when dealing with things that aren’t helpful in any way, when you get the wrong one.
That said, annoyances aside, there is a lot to do – and like – within Brushwood Buddies, including the undeniable satisfaction when something just clicks into a chain reaction of sorts. Something and something becomes something else, which then combines into a piece you need for the item required to beat the current level. It’s just a shame that the road itself is so bumpy, because the destination is, for the most part, quite lovely.
The amount of recipes, for starters, is absolutely staggering, featuring the likes of bows, brushwood, saws, treants and many other strange things. Some everyday items too, of course, but mostly strange things. Oh and you can cook insects, because why not? Yak too! Game even provides a pot big enough, somehow (best not to ask).
Once you’ve either finished the campaign, or feel like taking a break from it, a handful of challenges await. Wouldn’t try any of these until you’ve played a good chunk of the campaign however, as the “for experienced players!” note is there for a reason. Some run on a timer, while other feature different rules, regulations and restrictions. Good stuff. Way too much for me, as I got completely stuck rather early on, but even so… good stuff.
All in all, the only thing really holding this one back, in my opinion, is the health / energy system, as it clashes big time with the inclusion of random elements. Ignoring that though, Brushwood Buddies is a very easy recommendation with plenty of puzzles that are all unlike anything I’ve ever encountered. A fresh breath of air, and one that the genre is badly in need of. Also, game’s dirt cheap.