I have a very simple motto for life. It’s “don’t mess with things you don’t understand”.
You see, the results are generally bad when you mess with things you don’t understand. Sometimes, they’re even catastrophic. Very rarely does anything good come from it. At least initially, anyway. And so you’ll often find me screaming at the screen when playing games or watching movies, because in those, people always seem to mess with things they don’t understand. Mighty Polygon’s Relicta is one such game, and you can guess what happens.
Throwing you into the shoes of physicist Angelica Patel, Relicta is a physics-based puzzle game wrapped within an intriguing story that centres around a mysterious object with the same name. The crew of the Chandra Base found the Relicta some time ago. They’re keen to learn more about it, but fearing that their employer Aegir Labs would weaponise it, they’ve kept its discovery under wraps. With numerous unfortunate events taking place within a short space of time, however, they’re now stuck between a rock and a hard place. Do they come clean about the discovery and ask for help, or do they try to resolve matters themselves?
“You have a recipe for some truly brain-teasing puzzles once you’ve got past Relicta‘s opening barrage of tutorials”
It would perhaps be a simpler choice to make if Angelica didn’t have a personal stake in the matter; her daughter is just about to dock at the base, and so she isn’t prepared to sit around and wait. Quickly springing into action, then, she does all that she can to keep the Chandra base situation under control and save her daughter. Though because nothing is ever simple, that requires her to make her way through numerous environments full of tests which require the use of special gloves. Turning off the tests would alert the higher-ups, unfortunately.
These special gloves of Angelica’s grant her some very nifty powers indeed. As well as enabling her to pick up giant cubes found within the environment without so much as a struggle, they also allow her to magnetise them, and alter their gravity. Throw in switches galore, teleporters, and obstacles such as force fields, which only allow certain things to pass through them according to their colour, and you have a recipe for some truly brain-teasing puzzles once you’ve got past Relicta‘s opening barrage of tutorials.
To conquer Relicta‘s puzzles, you need to think about the power of magnetism, and how it can be used to both attract and repel. With the pull of either the left or right trigger, you can charge a cube with either a positive or negative force. When two blocks are close together with opposing forces they’ll be attracted to each other and stick like glue. Place two block close together and charge them both with the same energy and they’ll propel each other apart. Add the removal of gravity into the mix, and you can send cubes flying through the air, or along the ground at great speed.
“Relicta pulls no punches, presenting you with scenarios that will have you scratching your head within a couple of hours of play”
Your task, then, is to generally use these laws of magnetism and gravity to manoeuvre blocks from one place to another, allowing you to place them on switches to take down force fields preventing your progress. Along the way, there’s likely to be yet more forcefields, making your task that much harder. Some, for example, allow you to walk them but not when carrying a block. Others will let blocks though but not you. And there are more things to consider as you make your way through the game, too. Relicta pulls no punches, presenting you with scenarios that will have you scratching your head within a couple of hours of play.
The problem is, Relicta often doesn’t feel rewarding enough. You spend time time completing one challenging puzzle to simply be presented with another straight after. It doesn’t give you much time to breathe and gather your thoughts, and eventually it just feels draining and repetitive. The occasional more story-driven moments where you’re in the central areas of the Chandra don’t quite do enough to break up the head-scratching action. It would have helped the game’s pacing if the test environments allowed for a bit of exploration, too.
“If you’ve got the patience for it, Relicta is undoubtedly a neat puzzle game.”
Even more so because the environments look absolutely gorgeous. Textures are crisp and detailed, there’s an abundance of colour, and despite the good looks, performance is pretty much flawless. On top of that, the environments are surprisingly varied too. Add in an intriguing story and good voice acting, and you have a game that’s presented really well. It’s just a shame that there’s good chance you might tire of the game’s puzzles way before the experience is over.
If you’ve got the patience for it, Relicta is undoubtedly a neat puzzle game. It’s quite lengthy for a game of its type, which is perhaps why it eventually begins to feel overly repetitive, but you are spurred on when you encounter an a-ha! moment and go on to solve a puzzle that’s been perplexing you for the last 15 minutes or so. If you’ve made your way through the likes of the The Talos Principle and QUBE 2 and are eager to get stuck into yet another brain-teasing adventure, you’ll get a lot out of Relicta, even if it won’t have quite the same impact on you.