I would imagine that naming a video game is harder than one would think. I actually liken it to writing introductory paragraphs honestly. For me, writing these openings require me to avoiding giving away my entire opinion while teasing it slightly. For video game publishers and developers, they’re trying to catch your attention by standing out. So I ask you this reader; does She Remembered Caterpillars stand out to you at all?
A puzzle game brought to us by Ysbryd Games, She Remembered Caterpillars is like no puzzle game that comes to memory. Part of that might be my normal aversion to puzzle games due to a combination of ADHD fueled impatience, and poor challenge curving in the few I’ve tried. The genre has given me enjoyment before, as I reviewed an indie game titled Swim Out at my first (and now defunct and offline) site with a positive 7.5/10 score.
What stood out to me first about She Remembered Caterpillars in terms of gameplay is that it lacks a fail state. This differs from the other games in the genre that I’ve experienced. I felt this was a brilliant decision that keeps the focus on finding success rather than avoiding failure. Not only that, but it helped keep my mind clear and calm. My frustrations never boiled over, causing a rage quit or angry gesture.
The challenges provided were quite numerous despite the simple goal. Your task is to move all the Gammies onto a pad. Having to navigate the colorful bridges and gates that fill the stage present turn a singular goal into a complex puzzle. The rules are presented without words and does a fantastic job of showing you what you need to know.
The feedback the game provides is strong despite the simplicity in the methods. A red Gammy can cross a red bridge with no problem, but if a blue Gammy tries to, the bridge will raise up to stop it in its tracks. However, if the red Gammy tries to walk between a red gate, they’ll be stopped as the posts writhe and wiggle. Later mechanics add a bit more complexity, but the visual feedback explains in a way that words can’t as easily.
Speaking of visuals, I once again feel compelled to go into detail about them. While with Gelly Break I wanted to call them out, here I need to sing high praise. Every visual choice was perfectly made. The backgrounds are calming, bleak, and unique, setting a distinct and macabre tone. They hide beautifully and allow the bright colors of interactive pieces to shine through and steal your focus. However, what makes the visuals top notch are the inclusions of shapes.
Where Gelly Break featured no color distinction, She Remembered Caterpillars makes every character and obstacle clear as day by tying the colors to a different shape. For example, red Gammies all feature square heads, with both the red gates and bridges built out of squares. Later in the game you can merge colors, and again the game mixes the shapes as well, turning the red squares and blue circles into a purple half circle. This accessibility for color blind players is an absolute highlight that allows others to enjoy the game, which is always a win.
Going back and reading my Swim Out review, one thing that stood out as a negative to me was the lack of a narrative. While I understand that not everything needs a story, having a framing device can help provide motivation and craft a ‘just one more level’ mindset. She Remembered Caterpillars once again makes a smart selection by featuring a light story element between puzzles.
At the start of each map there’s a sentence or two that tells a tale of loss and love, of regret and dedication. Speaking about their father, the narrator hooked right into my fatherly heartstrings, compelling me to push myself to swiftly complete the game to unlock all the lines. The result provided what is my biggest negative to the game being that I felt it doesn’t properly resolve. I eagerly fought to solve challenge after challenge, got invested into the fable provided, only to never get a satisfying conclusion.
What I did get going through the entire game was a master class on how to naturally scale difficulty. The first few levels serve as a solid introduction to the rules, and then they take off in terms of adversity. Yet I believe that the complications arise not out of unfairness, but rather unfamiliarity. You’re pushed to think steps ahead, working backwards using the information provided in order to successfully complete the level. By the time you reach the last of a set of levels, the struggles have you thinking multiple moves in advance rather than hiding a simple solution. Then once you’ve gotten used to the design it shifts on you, introducing a new wrinkle that alters the flow of movement and resets your line of thinking.
Almost every move the game makes is perfect, yet a slight nit-pick I had was the diagonal movement design. On one hand I see the benefit as it allows the obstacles to stand out and show up easier placement wise. Yet I also found the Gammies to control slightly erratically, undercutting the game ever-so-slightly. By no means was this a deal breaker, but it did stick out to me in the long run.
Against all odds though, She Remembered Caterpillars is a game that blew me away. I had a great time solving each puzzle, and in later stages the completion of them resulted in me physically celebrating with a fist pump. The story, while lacking a strong resolution, is still touching, and does a good job of keeping you invested in the game. While I don’t feel it deserves a perfect score, She Remembered Caterpillars is still an exceptional game that you should absolutely pick up. It’s definitely a title that I’ll remember for quite awhile.