Fossil Corner? More like Fossil Addiction
Everybody love/hates a game that’s hard to put down — we love them because… well, duh? A game that’s hard to put down is (hopefully) a good one, right? Right. But we still hate them because we’ll sit there playing them until 6 AM during the workweek fully intending to get to bed at a decent hour (Civilization, I’m looking at you). I’m warning you now, this is exactly what will happen to you if you play Fossil Corner, a game all about collecting fossils and completing prehistoric family trees.
You can be forgiven if Fossil Corner doesn’t immediately sound exciting or addicting — after all, you’re dealing with shells and trilobites, not your standard heavy hitters like dinosaurs or ancient mammals. But using these simple fossils helps to underscore the basic principle of maximum parsimony, which asserts that the shortest possible family tree that explains data is best. In plainer terms, this means that you’re looking for only one change from grandparent to parent, then from parent to child, and so on and so forth, that shows evolution from generation to generation.
In-game, this is exemplified by ordering a procedurally generated box of fossils (shells at first) and sifting through them to figure out their little family tree. You’ll start by sorting them all by color, as each generation is represented by a different color. After that, you’ll take a closer look at their various traits. A shell in the first generation might be short and have a stripe, while the next generation might have a similar-looking shell with two stripes. By linking the entire line together, the puzzle is completed, and you get to choose one fossil to keep for your collection.
After ordering (and putting in order) multiple boxes of shells, you’ll move up to trilobite fossils. The mechanics don’t change — you’re still sorting each generation by color and lining them up by slight trait changes — but the little details do. Instead of looking for ribbed or spiky shells, you’re now noting nuances like horn direction and eyestalks. Do this enough times and both types of boxes will become more difficult, like giving colorless or shapeless fossils (or both), presenting quite the challenge for those who have already solved dozens of puzzles.
In addition to solving puzzles, Fossil Corner offers a little bit of a storyline to prise apart by way of emails. You see, you’re not just any fossil collector — you’re a retired fossil scientist… of sorts. And you literally just retired. But there’s some drama around your retirement, and you feel strongly about certain things. Listen, like, there’s a storyline there, but you have to read between the lines on what happens, because you never read what *you’ve* typed — only the person you’re typing to. So there are a few holes in my understanding of what went down, but the backstory was over before I knew it anyway.
While on the computer answering emails, you can check out other important stuff like the store, a fossil finder feature, and even a copier. The store will allow you to buy furniture to feature your fossils, and unlocking the copier will allow you to make copies of fossils, so long as you have the proper fossil ID. Of course, you’ll need money to buy furniture, but you can earn that easily with the fossil finder feature, where you’ll get cold hard cash in exchange for taking photos of requested fossils. Sometimes you’ll also earn fossils, furniture, cans of paint, or other cool stuff, so be sure to check out those requests regularly.
After completing 50+ puzzles and using up every last inch of space in my itty bitty room to feature my fantastic fossil finds, I couldn’t help but yearn for a little bit more… something. The emails that had poured in by the minute ceased, the requests were getting a bit stale, and the fossils themselves weren’t entirely exciting as the hours flew by. The music, while interesting, seemed to either fade out OR some songs were just so quiet or uninteresting that they didn’t register? It’s hard to say.
What I can say is that I fully intended to just “grab a few photos” earlier this evening and then accidentally played Fossil Corner again for six more hours. Any perceived flaws that the game may have on an aesthetic or secondary mechanic aspect feels pretty arbitrary when the main mechanic is so utterly and simply addicting. I had to force myself to stop playing just to write this article, and then I’m going to have to force myself to not start the game up again after finishing it.
Fossil Corner takes an extremely simple scientific concept and turns it into an utterly addictive puzzle mechanic. Sure, it gets repetitive and maybe doesn’t offer much in terms of fossil diversity, but I dare you to tell me that you can just play one round (newsflash, you can’t). If you’re looking for a puzzle game that you can zone out to after a stressful day, Fossil Corner is your game. Just… keep an eye on the clock if you intend to go to bed at a decent hour.
Final Verdict: 3.5/5
Available on: PC (reviewed); Publisher: Overfull Games; Developer: Brady Soglin; Players: 1; Released: June 12, 2021; MSRP: $9.99
Editor’s note: This review is based on a copy of Fossil Corner given to HeyPoorPlayer by the developer.