First-person puzzle games – aren’t they crackin’? There’s something so appealing about being dumped into a small, confined area with a few switches, cubes and other gadgets required to remove a barricade in order to progress. Maybe it’s just that ‘eureka’ moment that comes once you finally crack that all-too important puzzle. Relicta struck a chord with me within the first hour with its all-too familiar (but in a good way) tasks and challenges. Physics-based puzzles with a Sci-Fi backdrop? Sign me up, Mighty Polygon!
The events that take place in Relicta aren’t all that important. In all honesty, the dialogue is a bit pretentious to listen to, and the cutscenes don’t contribute to anything of importance. It’s not that the writing is poor, or the voice acting is bad, since both of these are serviceable. It’s just that you won’t be missing out on much if you skip over them. All you need to know is that you and a bunch of other boffins are trapped on a moon base, all the while studying a mysterious meteorite known as the ‘Relicta’, and need to get out of there after things start hitting south pretty damn fast. There’s some stuff about internal politics, and saving your daughter or making a really impactful event occur, though these too are just filler.
I was surprised how good-looking Relicta looked. It’s a really beautiful-looking game, from the grassy and frosty locales of the training simulation to the glossy, shiny interior of Chandra Base. It runs particularly well on the PC, with no major performance issues and some reasonable loading times, though it does point out that framerate drops may muck up the physics engine.Luckily, I suffered from neither issue during my time with it.
The core gameplay is thus: once you take a ride to a test zone, you’ll have to complete a linear series of physics puzzles with your funky gloves that can positively or negatively charge cubes in the environment. Not only can they charge plates that can hold said blocks, but the mouse wheel can alter their gravity. It’s a pretty simple and well-implemented feature to come to grips with – positive and negative attracts, while two of the same will repel. A repelled cube with low gravity can fly much further without stopping, and can even be hopped on for a ride.
There are obstacles to make things trickier. Purple force fields won’t allow objects to pass through, only the player. Green force fields wield the opposite effect, however. Yellow force fields will stop anything and everything. You may need to find ways to get around or deactivate them, which may require either putting weight on pressure plates to deactivate them. Impeccable timing may be required if you’re trying to send a few of these boxes flying through the gates before you reactivate them again.
All of the puzzles on offer are cleverly crafted, and while there are no hints or the like to help you along – which, to be honest, is a bit of a hindrance – they still pose a fair challenge. They start off easy, and very gradually increase the difficulty once you progress further and further. Plus, wracking your brain over these is pretty fun. You won’t get a glass of milk and a pat on the bum for beating them, but you will be appropriately rewarded with achievements as you progress further, not to mention a bit more insight into whatever the heck is going on, if you’re that interested to know.
Relicta is a solid puzzle title. Sure, it doesn’t exactly diversity its puzzles all that much, and the plot isn’t exactly that interesting. However, it still delivers a thought-provoking, exigent experience that feels polished and enjoyable. Plus, it looks stunning. Nothing much to praise regarding its soundtrack or voice acting, though. In any case, if you love titles like Portal and The Talos Principle, then this might just get you interested in tossing boxes around with complex gadgetry again.