If you have read any of my other reviews, you’ll be aware that I’m a great lover of most genre’s of games. Like all gamers the world over, I have my favourites, but I’m happy to chance my hand at anything that comes my way. With limited gaming time available to me, I’m always keen on anything with the tag “Casual”, so when my latest review title dropped in my in tray, it instantly piqued my interest.
The Pillar: Puzzle escape by developers, Paper Bunker and Eastasiasoft, and published by the latter is a casual exploration adventure puzzle game that takes place in a magical and colourful land. You must control an individual who is lost within this maze of ever growing intricate problems, where your only escape is found by solving every puzzle linked to the mysterious pillars that appear during each stage.
The gameplay takes place over 7 levels and opens with an intro quest that acts as a tutorial. Here you will learn the fundamentals of the 4 different colour-based puzzles that you will face. As you venture onwards, you will encounter more elaborate problems, and though the solutions will stare you in the face, the intricate design will test the logical part of your brain.
I’ve played a lot of this genre over my long gaming “career”, from; Riven and Myst to Call of the Sea, and many Artifex Mundi games. Though I’m not an expert, I’m comfortable enough to say that though you will be tested throughout your time with this title, the puzzles aren’t particularly hard to solve. You must connect a set number of coloured squares together in one continuous path. Whilst doing this you must also fill all the empty blocks. If you cannot connect the right colours, or leave a space empty, then the problem remains unsolved, and you must try again. There are 4 varieties to enjoy and solve, each getting progressively more difficult as you progress.
Is there more to this than just puzzles?
It wouldn’t be part of the puzzle genre, if this wasn’t the main concept, however, there is more to this than just the colour trials. Exploration and observing the finer details of the world you currently call home is a must. Clues are etched into the walls, and float above you in the surrounding air. Each level contains jigsaw pieces that make up a picture when completed. They are hidden around each stage, and must be found hidden between rocks and within the vegetation. Failure to collect all the parts won’t prevent you from progressing, you’ll simply miss out on a high score, and most of the achievements.
This genre is renowned for its beauty, and the other games that I have already mentioned look fantastic, with a great atmosphere that is created from a combination of; beautiful music, deep lore, stunning scenery and excellent audio. Does The Pillar: Puzzle escape match up to its peers? In places, yes, though some elements let it down. Graphically, it is reminiscent of the vivid world of Sea of Thieves, combined with the mysterious approach taken in Myst and Riven. That is a big compliment, and a massive thumbs up for this developer, but when you closely inspect the environment, it doesn’t look great, and shows signs of being dated. Now, it would be fair to argue that this genre doesn’t need AAA level design, but when the developers want you to immerse yourself in the world they have created, I expect the imagery to be better polished than the final product produced here. It isn’t terrible, and the bright and vivid tones match the mystical theme, I just wanted more!
The audio is very good. The sound of echoed footsteps can be heard throughout, which only serves to emphasise the sense of isolation. The piano music adds a sombre and calming atmosphere that then changes dynamic and pace as you edge close to the final obstacle of each stage. If Paper Bunker had captured the brilliance of the audio within their graphics, they would have been onto something special.
Is this best suited to PC?
There are certain games that consoles do better, and ones that the PC excels in, so would this be better played on a PC? No! The control system is smooth, accurate and works well with a controller. I had no issues with solving the problems and selecting objects was a simple task to achieve. The developers have done well to create a straightforward title to master, which helps to create a relaxing and laid back gaming environment.
When a game has a small variety of puzzles to crack, and 7 levels to explore, it impacts the replay value. An easy achievement list can be unlocked in approximately 6 hours, and a full completion is achieved in around 8 to 10 hours. So, you get a fair bit of game time for your money. At $14.99 it is good value, but its lack of new puzzles once it’s finished, and no NG+ mode reduces the desire to return and play.
The Pillars: Puzzle escape is attempting to stand out in a crowded and niche market, where the leaders of the pack are extremely strong titles. A much simpler approach makes this an accessible game compare to the others, but I can’t ignore its graphical short comings. Had this element been spot on, it would have scored 7.5 out of 10, but it has to be marked down slightly for these issues. With this being said, do I recommend you try it? Yes. A great entry level title that can be played casually, with an excellent audio and nice graphics (if you don’t look closely at the details.) Can you unlock the mysteries of the pillars and escape this magical world?