The puzzle game is one of the most longstanding staples of the video game industry. From classics like Tetris and Myst through to modern successes like the Portal series, it's a genre that has been well-trodden over the years, and as such there's plenty of scope for games to mess with the standard formula. This is exactly what Dude, Stop is trying to do.
The premise of Dude, Stop is simple but effective. The player is tasked with something very straightforward: to fail each and every puzzle that gets thrown their way. It goes completely against what every game, from major releases through to free mobile games, has taught over the years, but it's quick to pick up.
In part this is down to how basic the puzzles of Dude, Stop are. Although things get a little more complex as the user gets through each of the twelve batches of puzzles, none are exactly taxing. It may go against the grain to cut a pizza in an symmetrical manner or deliberately fail to complete a tower of hanoi, there's nothing that's going to stop the player from moving onto the next stage.
That may sound a little too simple for some, but thankfully there are plenty of elements that stop Dude, Stop from outstaying its welcome. First and foremost is the way in which the story of sorts is told, with a Stanley Parable-esque narrator that talks directly to the player and grows more and more exasperated with each and every puzzle. It gives it a decent feel from a metanarrative perspective, adding a big dose of personality to help Dude, Stop stand out from the crowd.
The overall plot puts the player in the shoes of a game tester, who is then (at face value) meant to accurately complete each puzzle. With each and every failed puzzle, the game's creator then gets more irate, turning to the game's console to try and stop the player's rampant failing in a way that's reminiscent of Doki Doki Literature Club, albeit in not quite as effective a manner. It's a neat conceit, and one that doesn't grow too tiresome given Dude, Stop's extremely short runtime.
Within that, there's also a decent variety within the puzzles themselves. Although each individual puzzle still comes down to something very basic, the framework around them shifts from batch to batch. Highlights include a hilarious round of animal-themed puzzles with a larger voiceover from a child's educational tape, and a clever section that, as a one-off, makes the player collect different items to solve the puzzles nonsequentially.
Unfortunately, it's not all roses for Dude, Stop. Sometimes the game's humor doesn't quite hit the mark, particularly when making the player wait through long, non-interactive sections to reach the next set of puzzles or receive a new trophy for their successes. As well as this, an over-reliance on external references could get a little tiresome.
Although it may seem minor, replayability is another problem here. There are effectively only two or three routes through each puzzle: completing them conventionally, deliberately failing, or for certain puzzles choosing one of several fail routes. As such, those looking for Scribblenauts levels of options will be disappointed. Meanwhile, the developers at Team HalfBeard have done a tremendous job with multiple dialogue lines, but players will hear a fair few repeats if they try for 100% completion.
All in all, though, Dude, Stop is a fun little distraction. It's not going to have the same long-lasting impact as some of its peers that go for a game-within-a-game setup, but it's still an entertaining jolt of humor, and given how rare it is to find a game that handles comedy well that's certainly a selling point. Dude, Stop could be a great palate cleanser for those looking for something between larger titles, and still manages to tell a solid story with it.
Dude, Stop is available now for PC. Screen Rant was provided with a PC code for the purposes of this review.