Any regular readers of Geeky Hobbies should already know that I am a big fan of the puzzle platformer genre. It is arguably my favorite video game genre after all. Because I like the genre so much, I am always looking for interesting new games that do something unique. This brings me to the game It’s A Wrap! that I am taking a look at today. As soon as I saw the game, I knew I had to check it out. After completing It’s A Wrap!, I have to say that it is one of the most original puzzle platformers that I have played in a long time.
What is so unique about It’s A Wrap! is that it utilizes a mechanic that I can’t recall ever seeing in a puzzle platformer before. You are basically working on a 1980s low budget studio movie set. Throughout the game you will be working on three different films. One is inspired by adventure movies such as Indiana Jones, one is a sci-fi space movie, and the final is a typical 1980s action movie.
The theme of It’s A Wrap! is obviously built around the premise of making movies. The gameplay is as well. There are two main gameplay phases for each level.
You will spend a majority of each level in the director’s phase. In this phase you are tasked with taking control of all of the different elements in the scene. This includes the scenery, special effects, props, and extras. You control all of these elements with a system reminiscent of video editing software. You will move the elements around the timeline. This impacts their position in the scene and when certain actions are triggered. You will change these elements of the scene in order to create a path for the action star to complete the objective.
After you have set up the scene, you will move onto actually creating the shot. Once you start the scene you will take control of Johnny Rush the star of all three movies. At this point the game turns into your typical 2D platformer. You will move around the scene freely. You also have a jump and wall jump to avoid/get over obstacles. In the last movie you also control a gun with limited ammo to deal with enemies and obstacles.
If you complete the entire scene and reach the exit before time runs out, you can move onto the next scene. The odds of you completing a scene on your first attempt is unlikely. You likely haven’t set the entire scene up properly. You then have to go back to the director’s phase to tweak things. For each level you will go back and forth between these two phases as you work towards the solution.
Of the two phases you are going to spend significantly more time in the director’s phase. The game definitely relies on platforming mechanics once you start the scene. A large majority of the game though will be spent setting up and tweaking the scenes.
This is where It’s A Wrap! really distinguishes itself. I have played a lot of different puzzle platformers, and I can’t recall one that played quite like It’s A Wrap!. You might be skeptical about how a video editing system could possibly make an enjoyable puzzle mechanic. In action it works much better than you would expect.
Much of the game is built around using the various set pieces in order to create a path forward for the hero. This could include moving platforms in place to give the hero something to jump on. Otherwise you could use a piece of scenery to give cover to the hero. In most levels you will slowly move through the scene in a preview to see if you created a safe path forward for the hero. You likely will make some mistake which forces you to go back to the drawing board to tweak some of the elements.
I can’t quite explain why, but this works really well for the game. The controls are really simple as you just drag elements to different parts of the timeline. You can easily see how each element impacts the scene since you can easily move the timeline back and forth to see how the scene will play out. Tweak something earlier in the scene and then fast forward and see what impact it has. This allows you to plot how you will move the hero during the action phase to reach the final destination. A mechanic based around video editing might seem odd at first, but it works really well for the game.
In addition to the mechanic working really well, the game’s puzzle design is a perfect compliment. The puzzles were designed in a way to take full advantage of the fact that you have quite a bit of control over the environment itself. For the most part the puzzles find clever ways of utilizing the game mechanics. You really need to take advantage of every element in each scene to reach your objective. Some puzzles are pretty straightforward, but others do require out of the box thinking. The puzzle design really gives you a sense of accomplishment when you solve a particularly challenging puzzle.
As for the difficulty of the puzzles I would classify most of them as moderately to highly difficult. I play a lot of puzzle games and I was genuinely challenged by quite a few of the puzzles. Some I figured out fairly quickly, but some required quite a bit of thought as well. While you have to logically figure out how to approach each scene, you will also have to rely on some trial and error. Rarely will you be able to perfectly align everything where you can complete the scene on your first attempt.
For the most part I think the game balances the difficulty pretty well. Most of the puzzles are challenging enough where it will take you some time to figure them out. There will be some times that the puzzles are really challenging though. The good news is that It’s A Wrap! actually has a pretty robust hint system. While you might be hesitant to use the hint system, I would recommend checking it out if you are having trouble with a puzzle. For some of the hardest puzzles I had to use it as it would have taken me forever to solve the puzzle without it.
Each level has a number of different hints you can access. Using a hint has no negative effect on your score. So outside of wanting to solve the puzzle without hints, there is nothing holding you back from using them when you need them. There are two different types of hints for each level. The smaller hints add additional information to the script for the scene. These basically give you a nudge in the right direction for what to do in a particular section. The other hints allow you to lock one of the elements of the scene into its correct position. You then can work on figuring out what to do with the rest of the elements for the scene.
I am so glad that It’s A Wrap! included the hint system or there would have been parts where I became quite frustrated. I tried avoiding the hints whenever possible. There were some levels where it would have taken way too long to solve without the hints though. While I appreciate the hints, this is probably the biggest issue I had with It’s A Wrap!. I would say that most of the levels find the right difficulty balance. There are a couple levels though that can become somewhat frustrating.
Maybe I was just thinking about the puzzles wrong, or maybe it was that there were too many things to consider at one time. While a lot of the puzzle design is really clever, some of the scenes have a weird order that you need to follow in order to complete them. There were a couple of times that I thought I was just one frame away from a solution, where I just had to slightly tweak something and it would then work correctly. Most of these times it turned out that there was a completely different way that the puzzle had to be solved. This can lead to some frustration. When you get to this point I would highly recommend using the hints as they can really help point you in the right direction, while still forcing you to ultimately figure out the puzzle.
It’s been quite a while since I have played a puzzle platformer that was as unique as It’s A Wrap!. The puzzle aspects are the clear standout of the game. I would also say that they are the main element of the game. While the game has platforming elements, you need to enjoy the puzzle elements of the game or it isn’t going to be for you.
Speaking about the platforming elements, It’s A Wrap! is pretty much a very basic 2D platformer. This isn’t meant to be an insult as it does a fine job as a platformer. The controls are quite precise. The platforming element doesn’t really bring anything new to the table though. If you have ever played a 2D platformer before, you already know what to expect. The platforming has a role to play in the game. Even if you have the scene perfect, you need to execute it in order to pass the level. I wouldn’t call the platforming easy, but it also doesn’t require precise timing or difficult jumps to complete a level. If you are mostly in time with the rest of the scene and you can make simple to moderately difficult jumps, you shouldn’t have too much issue with the platforming in It’s A Wrap!.
Lets move onto the atmosphere of It’s A Wrap!. I think the game does a really good job in this area. It actually feels like you are making a movie. The overall story is kind of basic, but it has a lot of charm. It is charming how low budget your studio is and the ways they use to save money. Between each level there are cutscenes that tell the main story of the movie you are making along with some of the behind the scenes stories. On top of all of this you can see the designers love for 1980s movie and low budget movies in general. The game has a lot of references to movies and the industry in general. If you are a fan of Hollywood/movie making, there is a lot to really enjoy about It’s A Wrap!.
Before wrapping up lets quickly discuss the game’s length. I really can’t give a definitive length as it all depends on how fast you can solve the puzzles. Most scenes are only around 30 seconds long. How long it takes to figure out how to set up the scene properly is going to drive the length of the game. It also is going to depend on how stubborn you are with hints. If you refuse to use hints, some of the levels are going to take considerably longer. It’s A Wrap! has a total of 28 levels. Most take around 15-30 minutes to complete. There are a couple that could take 45-60 minutes if you avoid hints. I think most players should get at least 7-15 hours out of the game.
Heading into It’s A Wrap! I was really intrigued based on the premise. The idea of creating a puzzle platformer using a video editing setup was such a unique idea. It actually works really well for the game. The mechanic isn’t a gimmick either. It truly feels like you are setting up a scene and figuring out how everything needs to work together in order to get the desired results. The controls work great, and the puzzle design is generally really good. You usually feel a sense of accomplishment when you finish a scene. The game’s atmosphere is great as well.
While I would say most of the puzzles are really good, there were a couple that became a little frustrating at times. You could feel you are one frame away from completing a puzzle and then it turns out that you are completely doing the puzzle wrong. There is a lot of trial and error for some puzzles. Once you get stuck you are usually better off using one of the hints as there is no negative to using them. They help reduce the frustration quite a bit. Otherwise the platforming is completely solid and fun. There is nothing about the platforming that is any different than any other 2D platformer though.
My recommendation for It’s A Wrap! is quite simple. If you don’t care for the game’s movie making premise or generally care more about the platforming than puzzle solving, it may not be for you. If It’s A Wrap!’s premise intrigues you though and you like a good innovative puzzle game, you should really enjoy the game and should consider picking it up.
It’s A Wrap!
Release Date: August 23rd, 2023 | Systems: Nintendo Switch, PC
Developer: Chanko Studios | Publisher: AMC Games | ESRB Rating: E10+ for Mild Language, Mild Violence
Genres: Indie, Puzzle, Platformer
Official Website: https://itsawrap-thegame.com/
- A truly unique mechanic to build a puzzle platformer around.
- Great puzzle design that really makes you feel like you are making a movie.
- Some of the puzzles require a lot of trial and error which can become frustrating.
- The platforming elements of the game are quite generic.
Recommendation: For fans of puzzle platformers that are intrigued by the movie making premise.
We at Geeky Hobbies would like to thank Chanko Studios, and AMC Games for the review copy of It’s A Wrap! used for this review. Other than receiving a free copy of the game to review, we at Geeky Hobbies received no other compensation for this review. Receiving the review copy for free had no impact on the content of this review or the final score.