We’re all in need of a little order in our lives right now, and so games about organising are hot stuff.
Following close behind the footsteps of last year’s Unpacking, A Little to the Left from Max Inferno and Secret Mode is taking a slightly different approach to organisation. A mixture of puzzles and sorting, A Little to the Left is a five-or-so hour journey through short mini games, each designed to tax your brain and satiate your desire for order in equal measure.
There are over 75 puzzles in A Little to the Left, and while they all share a similar theme of organising, they vary greatly in design. The variety is excellent, but it does mean that not every puzzle is created equally. Being tasked with sorting out a drawer full of trinkets is incredibly rewarding, for example, but trying to divine how different-coloured flies should stick on a spider’s web isn’t so fun.
Of course, your own mileage will vary: A Little to the Left has such an array of puzzles that the ones you get the most joy out of may very well differ from the next person. For us, though, the disparity between the best and worst puzzles is quite the chasm, and for all the joy that we get from a truly excellent good old sort-out, there’ll be a handful of puzzles that leave a bad taste in your mouth.
Max Inferno must expect this, to some degree, because A Little to the Left‘s menu sports one life-saving option: “Let it Be”. Press it, and the puzzle you’re currently on will be skipped, and you’ll be marched along to the next, no questions asked and no penalties thrown at you. It is a breath of fresh air – but those few puzzles you just can’t get your head around will likely plague you for a little while. But now we think about it, maybe that’s actually the sign of a really good puzzle. Maybe the frustration comes not from bad puzzle design, but our own lack of ability: we’re intelligent people, so why can’t we solve this? Well done, Max Inferno: you’ve outsmarted us.
Related: The Best Puzzle Games on PS4 and PS5
To provide even more help along the way, every puzzle also comes with a hint. Accessing the hint is satisfying in itself: pick up an eraser, and rub along a scribbled piece of paper. Behold: the solution will appear underneath. It gives you some sort of control of just how much of a hint you want. Do you want to reveal just a corner in the hope that it might nudge you in the right direction? Or do you want to just reveal the whole thing? Most of the clues are extremely helpful, but others still might leave you scratching your head, particularly if you can’t understand how or why a certain thing is the solution. They’re also unhelpful in cases where puzzles have multiple solutions – another trick up A Little to the Left‘s sleeve.
Around a third of the puzzles can be solved in two or three ways. These are typically the puzzles that are about sorting items into an order or pattern. Do you sort by shape or by colour, or perhaps by another, more random criteria? Having different solutions is Max Inferno’s way of acknowledging that there are multiple preferred ways to organise: after all, in real life, we’re not going to all organise our drawers full of tat in the same way. (Although, in real life, we’re just not going to organise our drawers of tat at all. But that’s just us.) It also means there’s a reason to jump back in and play even when you’ve reached the end credits. Those additional solutions are going to bug you otherwise.
There’s one key feature of A Little to the Left that we haven’t talked about yet: the adorable, if troublesome, cat that pops up from time to time. Any cat owner will know that organisation and cats do not go well together. We’ve all been there: laid out the table just for the cat to jump on it and put everything in disarray. And the same will happen here: on some puzzles, usually when you least expect it, a fluffball of a cat will appear – or a sneaky paw will reach in from the edge of the screen – to undo your hard work. It’s equally hilarious and annoying. Much like our real-life cats.
We’d probably recommend playing A Little to the Left with a mouse if you’re on PC. It does fully support controller play, but controlling a cursor with a thumbstick can be unruly, and some levels in particular where you’ll need to do a lot of scrolling and panning (snowflake puzzle, we’re looking at you) will be unduly arduous. That said, we’ve tried A Little to the Left on Steam Deck and it works beautifully. The gameplay itself is suited very well to handheld devices due to its easy pick-up-and-play nature. Particularly its Daily Tidy feature in which a random puzzle is presented to you every day: a great reason to pick it up for a few minutes at a time even long after completing the main game.
Even as frustrating as some of A Little to the Left‘s more obscure puzzles can be, we still find ourselves going back to it, picking up a Daily Tidy or trying to figure out those last few solutions. Yes, there’s a big difference between the best and the worst puzzles here, but really, it doesn’t matter: you’ll revel in the good, and you’ll feel challenged by the ones whose solutions elude you. Coming from a two-person design studio, A Little to the Left is a breath of fresh air and exactly the sort of wholesome game we need more of.