One genre that doesn’t get enough love in the modern day is the puzzle game. Sure, they’re not as exciting as a first-person shooter or as engaging as a platforming game, but they can be if you give them a chance.
Puzzle games suffer from steep learning curves and these can often throw new players for a loop. After all, why spend all of your time in utter frustration when you could just pick up something more casual (and less cognitive) Whether is it the Adventures of Lolo on the NES or the more modern puzzle/platformers like Fez, puzzle games either hook you instantly or are too much to keep moving forward.
Originally debuting at PAX Australia in 2017, Marker Limited’s Samsara is more of the former than the latter and this probably explains why the title has done so well among indie audiences across multiple platforms.
A single-player, puzzle platforming experience, Samsara stars the protagonist Zee and a “shadowed echo” who have to simultaneously make their way through the world using objects the player drops into the playing field. The gameplay is mirrored between Zee and the shadow reflection below with both interacting with objects in different ways. The upper world is the “actual” world Zee lives in while the mirror below is a kind of science fiction upside-down world. Incorporating physics into the game mechanics, Samsara forces the player to manage action on each half of the screen as well as memorize how the different objects interact with the environment differently in each space.
Progressing in Samsara is dictated not so much by mastery of physics or controls but through intuiting what to do next. There is a steady uptick in difficulty from the beginning to the end and this is evidenced in the puzzles increasing complexity. The premise is that the mechanics of the game are kept amazingly simple while the puzzles become more complicated but not more frustrating. Using what you know in novel ways becomes a lot of the fun of Samsara and will have players coming back time and again to replay challenging but engaging levels.
And there are a ton of them: At 77 levels across 6 worlds, Samsara is one gigantic game. The graphical presentation is whimsical and immediately identifiable as an indie title while the music and sound are much in the same club. This isn’t a knock on the game per se but it is something that you notice right off of the bat. It all works together seamlessly and is reminiscent of the aforementioned Fez - albeit with more muted and darker tones.
The perfect game for someone who is a fan of puzzle titles, Samsara is perfect for people who enjoy games like the NES’ Lolo or even the DS title Drawn to Life. The game is also vaguely reminiscent of Sony’s Little Big Planet in how it makes users modify the environment so that the player character can move forward. Excellent controls, intuitive mechanics, graphics and sound that help bolster the central concept, and a ton of replay value make Samsara a bargain in the puzzler category.
Learn more about this game on the Nintendo Switch website.