Opposites Attract In Relicta's Various Puzzles
Part of what I love about writing these first impressions is the sheer volume of games available across all platforms. The indie game market is vast and as expansive as the open sea. There's no way that one person can chart an entire course and discover all that everyone has to offer. At best, games will get enough of a following to have a new lease on life thanks to word of mouth. Otherwise, it takes players to pull out games like records from a record shop in hopes you have a hidden gem on your hands. Relicta, a first-person puzzle platformer, is an example of "finding treasure within an open sea."
Developed by MIghty Polygon, Relicta is the Spanish studio's first and so far only project to be released in 2020. Whenever a newly founded studio releases its first-ever title, it's always similar to sending a ship on its maiden voyage. Most of the time it's not as polished as other established titles, but it's easy to see the commitment and passion of a smaller studio at work. Relicta is not a perfect title, but its ambitions are clear as things start to make sense the more the player engages.
There's Always A Scientific Disaster
The story involves Patel, a woman who is intrigued with scientific advancements largely focused around a pair of gloves. These gloves can manipulate physics and bend gravity. They are also the key to her survival as a freak accident forces her to save her daughter and her crewmates. The opening cutscene shows the accident transpiring, with the first level taking place sometime before the events transpired. Before discussing gameplay, the first thing I noticed is how, flavorful, the dialogue is. It would seem everyone in this game has a chip on their shoulder which leaves a copious amount of snark.
I mentioned that the snark levels in Stranger of Paradise were high, but this somehow trumps even that game. To put things in perspective, this game is granted the Mature rating by the ESRB, not because of violence, blood, or gore. It's literally for "Strong Language." Honestly, as this is the only thing to warrant an "M" rating, I would say this game is good for most audiences. Just be mindful of the number of f-bombs dropped at any given second.
Now We're Thinking With (A Lack Of) Portals
The meat of Relicta's gameplay involves Patel's cool magnetic gloves and manipulating physics to get from Point A to B. The game teaches the player early on that lifting cubes and placing them on switches will clear a path. There are teleporters that, when activated by placing a corresponding cube, can transport cubes across sections. Since the player cannot carry a cube through gates, this is one method of moving objects beyond barriers.
Players will also learn they can use cubes as stepping stones to access hard-to-reach areas. This all comes together when the glove's magnetic power-up is set in play. Throughout later sections are blue and red lights, representing negative and positive charges respectively. Giving a cube a property of the opposite charge will repel while the same charge will attract. An early puzzle that involves propelling a cube across a gap involves attracting the cube to a depot, then giving it an opposite charge, repelling across the gap to solve the puzzle.
It's Basic Physics, But Sometimes Everything Isn't In Plain Sight
The final ability allows players to manipulate gravity on objects, which combined with the positive and negative charges, can allow the player to travel greater distances. Each mechanic that is added to the game is used to build upon the next, slowly unraveling the capabilities of the players themselves. Depending on certain players, this can be an issue as the solutions may not be as obvious as they appear to be.
There are some "anti-frustration" mechanics, specifically locking the player in a section so as not to wander from the goal. Relicta gives the player enough tools to solve each puzzle. While they were satisfying to solve in my time playing the game, I can imagine these puzzles are cranked to eleven in later stages.
Relicta Is A Solid Experience Should Players Embrace It In Sections
With a base campaign and two free bonus DLC mission packs included, Relicta offers hours of gameplay for fans of the puzzle genre. One thing I've noticed while playing and viewing the controls is the game's simplicity. This isn't a bad thing but it's best to be mindful that what you see is what you get. By the end of the first level, the player is armed with everything they need to know. Later levels will place the player in peculiar situations to apply what they learned to the test.
Doing the same thing for hours upon hours may be draining and it seems to be a common complaint. As with most games, especially lengthier ones, the pacing is everything. This doesn't just go for Relicta, but playing in steady intervals will stop any game from growing stale. Plus, the story which is told through cutscenes and hidden collectibles is fairly interesting, colorful dialogue aside. I'll have to give this game a full review in the future to see if I, too, find myself fatigued by the end of it. Overall, aside from it being a Portal clone, Relicta is a fun ambitious puzzler.
Relicta is available on the PS4, PC, Xbox One, and Switch.