06th Jul2018

‘Figment’ Review (Nintendo Switch)

by Rupert Harvey

figment-screen

From Danish developer Bedtime Digital Games, previously known for Back to Bed, comes Figment – another isometric puzzler set in the surreal world of the unconscious mind.

Figment starts with an unseen car crash. A child pleads for his parents to wake up. Then we meet Dusty, who lives in the weird world of Mind. Dusty just wants to chill (literally, with a cold drink). But then he’s approached by Piper, a small friendly bird sent by the mayor to push Dusty toward his destiny: rescuing Mind from the threat of the Nightmares. When a Nightmare steals Dusty’s precious scrapbook of memories, off he goes. Figment wears its metaphors proudly. The characters are quite happy to explain how each zone represents a different part of the brain. For example, Clockwork Town is the centre of logical thinking, and throughout the game you are working your way out of the unconscious toward the conscious mind – and toward the trauma that disturbs Dusty.

Everything is tightly designed around this conceit. Pickup bonuses are endorphins; hidden collectibles come in the form of memories; and endurance neurons boost your health. Throughout Cerebrum City are doors, each representing an emotion: Nervousness, Nostalgic, Fear etc. Knock on a door and you are met with an appropriate response – Anger might tell you to shove off, for example. It’s a simple touch which gives the world some life.

With the city as your hub, you move around the isometric world, solving basic puzzles and defeating enemies with your sword. The puzzles are usually about finding the right item to open the pathway to allow progress. These items – which may be a bulb to power an elevator or a vital gear to open a gate – are highlighted clearly throughout the environment. Similarly simple is the combat, which is limited to a single weapon and a couple of moves. Meanwhile, you’re free to explore this gorgeous, hand-painted world. The art style is wonderfully bizarre, with almost Terry Gilliam-esque surreal designs. However, the isometric viewpoint sometimes makes it difficult to make out where paths interconnect. And toward the end, where the game requires some pixel-perfect dodging, it’s hard to know where you are in relation to enemies. A nightmare, indeed.

It’s also in the late game where the drops in framerate begin in earnest on Switch – handily, just as the precision dodging becomes necessary. Hopefully, the FPS will be boosted in a future patch, along with some minor bugs. For example, text prompts remaining on screen even after objects are removed, and the touchscreen cursor being constantly visible, even in docked mode. There are bigger problems also. The lack of waypoints, or at least a pop-up map, seems like a needless exclusion. And while certain puzzles are brilliantly designed, others fall into repetition. There are far too many memory test puzzles in the final sections (although the snappiness of the Switch’s screenshot function offsets some of the frustration.)

While the musical score is fine, and not too twee, it doesn’t match the quality of the visuals. Worse, the voice acting is universally poor. In the case of the main Nightmare, the actor simply sounds drunk. And the use of an adult to mimic a child’s voice in a key scene crucially undermines its impact.

Figment has its charms, and most of them are aesthetic. There are worse puzzle adventure games out there, and few that dive so fearlessly into such dark subject matter. But in terms of gameplay, it is quite basic and repetitive. If you find it in a sale then it is worth four hours of your time, but it’s far from essential.

Figment is out now on Nintendo Switch.

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