ReviewsReview: Idea

Review: Idea


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On an elemental level, many games revolve around movement. From the iconic jumping prowess of Mario, to the thrill of web-swinging through New York in Marvel’s Spider-Man, game developers are continually challenged to provide players with innovative and intuitive ways to traverse digital worlds. Get it wrong, and you risk an integral part of your gameplay feeling like a clunky chore; get it right, however, and players will lose hours finding new ways to get around. Thankfully, Idea nails it. It feels propulsive and satisfying and right. Unfortunately, a muddled vision and social mechanic that doesn’t quite work leaves it feeling less than the sum of its parts. 

Developed by TLR Games as an adaptation of a Finnish short film, Idea revolves around a singular lightbulb, set in an orb representing creativity and imagination, as it journeys through stunning Northern European vistas. The environments, created from drone footage shot by filmmaker Olli Huttunen, are a marvel; even scaled down from the original 4K footage, they look striking on the Switch. Instead of feeling inert and static, these are tactile backdrops, with our titular idea bumping into cars and bouncing against trees.  

Players have the ability to ‘nudge’ the lightbulb in different directions, as opposed to direct control. These pushes are limited to two per screen at first, but more pushes can be unlocked as the player progresses, creating some sense of progress through new attempts. With such pared-back gameplay, Idea lives and dies by its traversal mechanics. Thankfully, once it all comes together, it feels satisfying. The lightbulb has a pleasing sense of gravity, and working out how to draw upon limited moves and bounces against environmental objects in order to navigate to the next screen feels simple yet fairly compelling for a time. For players frustrated by the game’s lack of clarity as to controls and overall goals, there is a helpful tutorial located within the menu. While perhaps this tutorial could have been integrated into the gameplay, its absence does encourage you to experiment and play around. 

There are two in-game timers: one linked to the pleasant musical soundtrack, and one that resets after entering a new screen. If either runs out without discovering one of the seven potential endings scattered throughout the game, the journey ends, and you are prompted to leave a message for other players to encounter. This social mechanic attempts to connect with the game’s larger themes of creativity, imagination and play. Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite come together.  

There is little motivation to create new messages, besides unlocking icons. The twin gameplay systems of bouncing around an orb and then writing a message feel like separate strands, as opposed to a cohesive and rewarding experience. Instead of encouraging the player to harness their own innate creativity, it feels a little tacked on. Throughout my time with Idea on the Switch, I didn’t encounter a single message from another player. Whether this speaks to the perils of small indie titles with gameplay mechanics relying on community engagement, or some mistake on my part, it’s hard to say. Regardless, the lack of presence significantly hobbles the intended effect. 

Idea is not a bad game – far from it. The physics-based gameplay feels solid, and any time spent with Huttunen’s gorgeous landscapes and relaxing score is not time wasted. However, it never truly feels engaging in the way you want it to. The social mechanic is a nice idea in theory but falls short in execution. While movement feels propulsive and intuitive, the game is somewhat lacking in a sense of fun. There’s nothing wrong with simple, movement-based gameplay; some of the greatest games ever made are similarly pared-back. What’s needed is a compelling gameplay loop, a hook that draws you in for just ‘one more run’, again and again. Sadly, it’s here where Idea falls short. For a meditation on creativity, you can’t help but wish it had a couple more ideas of its own. 


+ Gorgeous and dynamic visuals
+ Pleasantly relaxing soundtrack
+ Simple yet satisfying movement
- Social mechanic feels tacked on and incomplete
- Lacking any real gameplay hook
- Fun for a while, but quickly loses interest

(Reviewed on Switch, also available on PC and smartphone)
Jack Richardson
Jack Richardson
RPG obsessive, sentimental farm sim enthusiast, and lover of eclectic indie curios!

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+ Gorgeous and dynamic visuals <br /> + Pleasantly relaxing soundtrack <br /> + Simple yet satisfying movement <br /> - Social mechanic feels tacked on and incomplete <br /> - Lacking any real gameplay hook <br /> - Fun for a while, but quickly loses interest <br /> <br /> (Reviewed on Switch, also available on PC and smartphone)Review: Idea