Will this parallel puzzle title have you flipping out or diving further into it's dimensional doorways?
With it’s beautiful gothic inspired, hand drawn artwork, and it’s physics based puzzling game play, Samsara feels like if Tim Burton made Lemmings, but with enough of it’s own twists to separate it from the puzzle pack.
The word Samsara in Buddhism refers to “the cycle of death and rebirth to which life in the material world is bound.” Throughout it’s campaign and implicitly with it’s game design, the game toys with themes around death, dimensions and darkness in interesting and fun ways. As a young boy named Zee thrown through a portal into another world, a dark mirror image of his own world, you have to connect him to the portals which allow him to travel further to his eventual escape. To achieve this you’ll be choosing from a select few given pieces of wood, and rotating and placing them to ensure you’re character can reach the portal once you tell them to move. But while early levels pass you by quickly, elements are soon added on that complicate things.
Before long your path to the end of the level is wrought with obstacles, pits and disappearing platforms, not to mention that you will soon be solving two puzzles at once, as you not only need to place the blocks to help your character on the top of the screen, but also in such a way as to allow his mirror image underneath to also reach a different portal. This balancing of the two characters including doubling up some blocks my placing them in certain ways, before long twisted my brain out of shape and allowed for some really ingenious puzzles with satisfying solutions.
With no timers, infinite lives and a general sense of tranquillity over proceedings, Samsara wants you to stop and think, not rush to jam pieces in place and succeed out of luck. Eventually each level demands a deep deliberation of each pieces mirror image as well as how your characters movement will be effected by the obstacles in place, I had so much fun watching my character reach the portal on top to see that below with his mirror image I had got something wrong, only to go back and tinker with my creation until finally cracking it.
The subtle sound design helps add to the mood, with creepy effects and sombre music working with the morbidly illustrated art style to elevate the simple puzzle mechanics into an intriguing experience that drives your need to explore further down the rabbit hole. Each completed level makes you want to find out what mechanic or obstacle is next or just what this twisted world is about to throw at you. With about 12 worlds and several levels in each to explore, you won’t tire of puzzles to solve anyway, though replayability isn’t high here as once you’ve solved a puzzle there’s very little joy in going back. Almost all puzzles have one definite way of being solved so there’s little room to explore your working in repeat tries.
With the Nintendo Switch version of this game it benefits greatly from touchscreen controls, while the controller support works absolutely fine, selecting and moving blocks is easy and makes sense and helps to speed up selecting and moving blocks as well.
Feeling part Mario Maker & part Limbo, the simple control you have over your pieces betrays the complexity at play here. When you consider the mirror image of either block, as well as the different paths the two characters have, let alone the many different things you interact with as Zee further delves into this enchanting title. The soothing music and light piano cues of spinning or placing blocks were really pleasing, and the controls are so much more intuitive in handheld it made the game very relaxing to play. I had a lot of fun playing this game in bed at the end of the day to unwind. Puzzles are interesting and satisfying, with the multiple mechanics at play meaning that the solution feels so good to find and watch every element finally click into place. A compelling cognitive test that twists your brain into knots, but soothes your soul with every solution. Samsara is a truly wonderful way to relax and a stellar addition to the Nintendo Switch library.