by Matt Porter
reviewed on PC
Black versus White. Light against Dark. These are concepts we are very familiar with as gamers. But no game has ever approached these concepts in the same way that Closure has. A few months ago, console gamers were blown away by the clever puzzles and intriguing art style, and now PC users get to experience the full game for the first time. Developed by Eyebrow Interactive, a team of merely three members, Closure takes the player on a mind-bending journey through a world where if no light is shining on an object, it simply does not exist.
On your own
It really does take a lot of getting used to. It is also hard to explain. Imagine you are faced with a sheer wall with an exit on the other side. Normally the wall would be unscalable, but if you move the light source so that only the very bottom of the wall was visible, then you can simply hop over it like it was a small platform. It is such a simple, yet clever mechanic, and the art style really lends itself to the simplicity. The entire game is black and white, and it’s as simple as that when it comes to dying. If you are standing in the light, you are fine. If you fall into the darkness, regardless of what is actually there, then it’s lights out – quite literally, and you will have to start the whole level all over again. This leads to infuriating moments where you think you have got the puzzle sorted out, only to move that final light source the wrong way, leading you to fall into oblivion. However it is only ever your own stupid fault, never the fault of the game, and that is what makes it so addictive.
As with any good puzzle game, as the puzzles grow in complexity, so does the sense of achievement you get after completing them. The game starts out with the simplest of tutorials. You grab the globe of light, and it illuminates the path for you as you run. From there, Closure pretty much drops you in at the deep end, and allows you to discover the new mechanics as they appear on your own. There are no lengthy hand holding sequences. The developers respect you as a player and understand that you are able to work things out on your own. The first time I encountered the light sources that extinguish when you approach, I was caught out and fell to my death. That was all the tutorial I needed for this mechanic, as I would never be going near them again without clutching onto a globe of light for dear life. It really benefits the game, as having four wall breaking guides pop up every time you found something new would really ruin the wonderful atmosphere. Just as you would imagine for a world depicted entirely in black and white, Closure has a distinctly sombre feel, punctuated by the haunting musical mixture of industrial beats and piano score.
It is a shame that a proper overarching narrative seems to have been neglected. You play as a spindly legged creature, who dons masks to transform into twisted recreations of different characters such as a young lady or a miner. Supposedly you are playing through past events in their lives, but nothing is ever fully explained. Sadly, the lack of story could be something which prevents Closure from being ranked among the great puzzle games. Games like Braid and Portal were able to suck the player into the world through the storytelling, as well as the gameplay. Even Limbo, a game without dialogue, managed to tell a story, so it is a shame that there is not something more substantial here.
Even if you don’t solve the puzzle straight away, Closure is still fun to play. Messing around with the world by moving lights around is great, and there is something exciting about knowing you are standing inside an invisible wall. There are machines you can place globes of light in which will move them around for you. This leads to situations where you ride a wall of light all the way up to a platform above. It is smart, and it makes you feel smart. Other mechanics include lights which are attached to elastic tethers, or doors which can only be opened by shining lights on specific points in the level. You will often have to move boxes around to allow you to get to higher places. This sounds simple enough, but it isn’t just you and the environment which are affected by light, it’s the objects too. You had better make sure that the box is on well-lit ground, or it might fall into the blackness. The game does a good job of letting you know if you have accidentally lost an object that is integral to finishing the level, such as a box or a key. If this happens it gives you a prompt to restart the level. This can be done at any time, and there is no penalty for restarting. There are no scores to beat, or time limits to stick to. Closure is a game to explore and enjoy, it is not there to pressure you, and rarely frustrates.
The darkness is unforgiving, and occasionally I solved the puzzle for a particular level, only to accidentally miss a jump and have to start the whole thing again. Thankfully most of the levels are short, so this never became too much of a problem. Another small complaint would be the amount of times I had to shepherd a key to a door. Since your character can only hold one thing at once, it occasionally became a case of picking up a light and moving it forward slightly to illuminate the path, followed by walking back to get the key, taking it forwards, and then repeating the process. This did not happen that often, and perhaps there were more elegant solutions that I had not thought of, but the few times it did happen I was disappointed in the lack of imagination.
Take a leap
Most of the puzzles are superbly created though, and any minor annoyances were wiped away by the clever gameplay and intense atmosphere. Closure is beautiful to look at, and the gameplay is clever and fun to control. Much like in the game, where you jump off a ledge clutching a light, hoping that the ground will materialise beneath you to catch you, I urge you to take a leap of faith with this wonderful puzzle platformer.
Beautifully stylised visuals. Addictive and ingenious gameplay.
Lacking a deep story. Occasional lack of imagination in puzzle design.