Have you ever been stressed? Have you ever closed your eyes to go to your happy place, wherever that may be? For the narrator of Quantum Astrophysicist Guild’s Freshly Frosted, that place is a donut factory, and you’re welcome to join in to sort out both the factory and some thoughts here and there.
Freshly Frosted drops the player into a pastel wonderland of whipped cream and cherries and whimsy that lasts for 12 “boxes” with 12 puzzles each – fitting for the theme, of course. The gameplay revolves around taking a setup of ovens, delivery racks, and topping stations and figuring out what paths will allow you to make use of every oven and also get every donut type in that puzzle’s list of orders. Unsurprisingly, they become more complex as you move your way through, allowing you to mix and match pathways and toppings as necessary.
I always feel a little stiff talking about controls, but it’s worth mentioning that Freshly Frosted’s gameplay is surprisingly smooth and easy. You have buttons in the top right that will let you turn or erase blocks, but it’s also very easy to change directions, draw a pathway, or erase parts of the pathway with just the mouse. This makes it not just fun to play, but comfortable to play too – an important detail for a game that’s meant to be relaxing and calm. Being able to place pieces anywhere, change directions, and work in bits and pieces helps players puzzle out the paths in whatever way makes the most sense to them.
As you proceed through each dreamy puzzle, the narrator chats with you about the seasons, about life, and, of course, about donuts (including some wildly interesting facts – apparently automated donut making is older than sliced bread?) The ruminations are just enough to feel like you’re meandering through with a new friend, without feeling overbearing or intrusive – I was surprised by how much I came to enjoy the little bits of chatter as we kept moving, or being cheered on and getting hints.
One feature I really love is that you can skip particularly difficult puzzles – and it’s easy to return to them later by just going to the menu and choosing “select puzzle.” When I commented on this to Michelle at QAG, she said that it was important to them to make sure players weren’t stuck from progressing in the game due to a puzzle. It’s a seemingly small detail, but ensures that Freshly Frosted’s puzzles are welcoming challenges, instead of frustrating dead ends.
The end result of this combination of calm stress-free gameplay, meditative conversation, and beautiful, soft aesthetics is a lovely, charming dreamscape that makes a wonderful mental health game. I’ve really enjoyed my time sorting out this whimsical, colourful confection factory, and I will undoubtedly be playing more of it soon. If you enjoy puzzles and want something you can just vibe to, this is a fantastic choice.
Order Up! is a weekly feature focusing on indie games new and old. Have something you’re working on? Played something that you loved and want to share? You can reach me at @ArcanaChance on Twitter or [email protected]!