Help Sci and Néro to get out of a world where logic, mathematics and puzzles will be your allies in a 2D platform game with a unique aesthetic.– Nintendo
I would like to start off by saying that I’m not usually someone that likes to play indie/puzzle games. I have always been someone that likes to chase the thrill of the AAA blockbuster title with non stop action and a well fleshed out multiplayer mode. That’s not to say that indie games aren’t impressive, this has just been a personal preference of mine. As you can imagine, with this is mind, I was a bit comprehensive about diving into A Tale of Synapse.
Let me start off with what impressed me most about the experience that I had, within my time reviewing the game. As soon as I jumped into A Tale of Synapse I was met with a beautiful, unique and vibrant art style, it was almost dreamlike and it immediately draws you in. It’s almost refreshing to see when all you are used to playing is realistic games that all start to blend in and feel bland. It’s been a while since I have picked up a new game and actually taken the time to look deeply into the art style and have a sense of appreciation for the work and imagination that has gone into it. The pastel colours, abstract shapes and cartoon style characters really stand out as the highlight of this game.
Another way that the game makes you feel engrossed is with the soundtrack. Few games these days are capable of making an all original soundtrack that truly matches the environment. A Tale of Synapse manages to capture the moment perfectly with its all original and almost eery/dreamlike soundtrack.
An all original soundtrack
Multiplayer is present and does work extremely well. With one player controlling Sci and the other controlling Nero, it really adds another dimension to the experience. One player is able to move blocks and shapes to help with puzzles and traversing the environment and the players can communicate and use teamwork to use this to their advantage. Having multiple people makes the experience more fun as you work together to solve complex maths problems.
However I must express that my experience was not without its issues. One of the main issues I faced was the camera zoom/positioning. Because of the complex art style, when the camera is fully zoomed out (which is most of the time) the environment can seem very cluttered and it can even be difficult to make out certain details. Some may find it easier to play in docked mode to make use of a bigger display, however in some circumstances the resolution can be lost playing in docked mode so may contribute to this issue. There are certain points in the game when you are exploring tight areas and the camera will zoom much closer and In my opinion it is much more appealing and I wish there was an option for players to adopt this camera position at all times as it does the art style much more justice.
As a main focus of the game, puzzles can be very unusual in the fact that sometimes they can be too easy and other times they can be far too difficult. As a player I enjoy a good head scratcher moment, it enables the player to engage more with the game and encourage problem solving. When a puzzle is too easy this can disengage the player. Equally when a puzzle is too tricky this can also disengage the player. There were several moments in the time that I played that I didn’t feel there was enough explanation and there were times where I even tried to find guides for some of the challenges. Admittedly this probably just highlights my terrible mental maths skills however I do feel that it’s the games duty to make all players welcome and this roadblock cut off my immersion and even became frustrating at times. Ultimately it halted my progression until I was finally able to find the answer to the puzzle.
Combat is present in A Tale of Synapse, however it almost seems without reason and doesn’t seem to offer anything to the experience. There are different enemy types with a unique look to them, blending them extremely well with the beautiful art style. These enemies however, can seem more of a hindrance than a good addition to the experience. The main focus of the game is quite clearly the platforming and the puzzles and the enemies feel like more of an afterthought.
Combat feels out of place
In summary A Tale of Synapse is a beautifully vibrant, platform puzzle game, that really nails the atmosphere with its art direction and soundtrack. Sadly it is let down by its odd camera positioning and combat that feels out of place.