Updated: Sep 25, 2021
Game Title: Glyphs: Apprentice
Developed By: inSPIRE Games
Published By: inSPIRE Games
Released: March 16, 2017
Available On: Windows
ESRB Rating: None
Number of Players: Single player
Price: $9.99 on Steam
Strong Points: Beautiful Design Work
Weak Points: Taxing Puzzles, Convoluted Gameplay, No Music
Moral Warnings: Sorcery, Transgender Symbol Present
Glyphs: Apprentice is a puzzle game produced by inSPIRE Games, and if their advertising is anything to go by, they're determined to set your critical thinking skills ablaze. They warned all puzzle aficionados to bring their whiteboards and patience. At least, that's what they claimed you'd need should you enter their latest domain. So what kind of role are you playing in this supposed mental gauntlet? You're an aspiring mystic, studying sorcery in order to create the most potent spells ever known. . . . Oh, boy.
So how do you conduct these spellbinding tasks? Well first, you need to pick a spell pattern. There are three difficulty levels with three Glyphs each. Each ‘glyph’ is made up of anywhere between seven to thirteen pieces, and each piece equals one puzzle. Do the math, and you'll realize there are about sixty-three of these things. Thankfully, the menu is a breeze to navigate. Just choose a difficulty, pick a glyph, then peruse the list of pieces. This format is very serviceable. It's in no way groundbreaking, but easy to navigate. Count your blessings, because you're going to be very thankful for that.
Your goal in every puzzle is the same. On a graph, you must build an assembly line from a magic generator to an accumulator in order to transform energy balls into the specified shape. To fix up these light balls you are provided an endless supply of tools. Some change its inner shape. Some change its outer shape. Others can bind energies together in various thicknesses, but the tools you'll use the most are the arms. They alone can move energy spheres around and activate other tools. So far this all sounds fine and dandy. It certainly is nothing catastrophic. You know your goal and how to do it. However, you'll find the 'how' is going to wreck your resolve. All that ethereal machinery ain't gonna do squat by itself.
When inSPIRE said you'd need a whiteboard to solve their puzzles, they weren't kidding. Do you like programming? If not, sorry. If so, good for you. You've entered the kiddie pre-lesson experience. Each arm is equipped with its own little grid where you need to insert a cornucopia of inputs into the empty slots. The colored squares you place will tell the arm how to move, when to move, and even when to pause. This bit right here is where the difficulty gets real. If energies clash, you fail. If two arms grab the same energy, you fail. On top of that, your mini manufacturing plant has to produce eight finished shapes in nonstop cycles. That last stipulation alone can ruin everything. If one, and I mean one little thing is off, it might work on the first revolution, but come the second lap, it all falls apart and takes a chain reaction of adjustments to fix . . . right up until a new problem crops up. It's daunting. I'd suggest heeding inSPIRE Games' advice and have paper and pencil on hand. 'Cause unless your memory is exceptional, you'll likely need your notes to keep your head on straight. I hadn't had to do that for a game since the Myst series. Whether or not that's a good thing depends on the person. I myself enjoy a good challenge, and the creators definitely didn't skimp on their promise. They get points for honesty.
However, Glyphs gets unnecessarily nasty thanks to its convoluted layout. The learning curve is steep, like cliffside steep, and it can take hours just to solve the easy puzzles. The more I played, the more I bemoaned its lacking ease of access. You can't readily double check your work on other arms, so it forces you to jump hoops just to program a single arm. Thus, you'll mess up because you miscounted moves, forgot which arm activated what, or which way you had them twist/turn. You'll also wish there was a replay loop button able to isolate specific points in your plan, but no. Glyphs doesn't have that. It says, 'You want to figure that pesky middle part out? Nope. Start at the beginning. If you can't get past that? Too bad so sad. Fix me.' Not only does this sometimes bar you from making that one teeny adjustment that can fix everything, it also renders experimentation impossible. That really bites. Solving those algorithms is mind splitting enough. I shouldn't have fight the game just to test my ideas. Even the tutorial is exhaustive. It taught each tool's function but failed to explain a few input commands that could have saved me a few headaches. Now, I for one love puzzles. I love hard earned accomplishment. It's so satisfying to see my clockwork masterpieces clicking along, but when it's this twisted a labyrinth to actually play, it's a dreaded chore.
Okay, as for Glyphs' presentation: there is very little to talk about. It seemed nearly all of the creator's efforts were spent on the puzzles. Premise aside, there is no story. The game has one measly sound effect, and that's that. There's no music either. I really disliked that exclusion. Thus what's left is an environment with little to draw from or be drawn into. You'll be staring at those lists, manuals, and graphs the entire time, and it can come across as a bare minimum effort. However, this game's presentation has one saving grace: those spell patterns. They are gorgeous. I've never witnessed such an angelic display of glowing lines weaved with such artistic intent quite like this. The way that sky blue tinge adds a soft texture to those pure white wisps is an especially nice touch. Same goes for the tools and light energy you'll be using. The tiny tangled curves in their designs are all very pleasing to the eye. Unfortunately, (aside from a couple game crashes) that's pretty much it. Sounds a bit hollow, doesn't it?
Okay, so there's not a lot to see, nothing to hear, and the challenges are one step short of calculus. How are its ethics? Putting it bluntly, Glyphs won't be winning prizes in the morals olympics. First of all, there is a transgender symbol in the final spell pattern. That mars that part. Unfortunately, the second problem pollutes everything else. Magic is a tricky topic for Christians. Clearly, I'm not alluding to the likes of Houdini or rabbits in top hats. I'm talking about the bippidi-boppidi-boo, this glass will be a shoe, wand waving. Where does the line from fictitious fun to immoral spellcasting start and stop? Opinions vary wildly, but I find Glyphs cozies way too close to Wiccan philosophy for comfort. Its premise alone disturbed me. Throughout Scripture, God taught we were to seek and rely on Him in all things, but Occult and Wiccan practice is all about empowering self. It's in direct conflict. Sadly, Glyphs not only adopted this worldview but also used it to give players their main incentive. To flavor an adventure with fictitious pixie dust is one thing, but to glorify a sinful practice and its core teaching is another.
It's about as hard to fully explain Glyphs as it is to play Glyphs. I truly admire the great lengths inSPIRE Games took to conjure up such a challenge (pun intended). How on earth they put it all together without melting their own brains I'll never know. Plus, the art it did have was truly lovely. Kudos to them, but I think they took their goals a bit too far. Puzzle diehards and aspiring programmers are bound to get their fix from Glyphs, but its extreme complexity can potentially turn off everyone else. If they just added or streamlined a few features, it certainly would have smoothed the ride. I'm sure with more time and practice I could get really into it. That is, of course, if I could ignore all that witchcraft its been smothered in. I won't say I was completely repulsed by Glyphs: Apprentice - just disenchanted.
Game Score - 54%
Gameplay - 14/20
Graphics - 6/10
Sound - 1/10
Stability - 3/5
Controls - 3/5
Morality Score - 82%
Violence - 10/10
Language - 10/10
Sexual Content - 10/10
Occult/Supernatural - 2.5/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 8.5/10