by Camrin Santchi
reviewed on PC
Welcome to Relicta
Mechanics are essential to any good puzzle game, it is what sets them apart from others in their field. Portal, a legend in the field of puzzle platformers, has its famed portal gun for example, which allows the main character Chell to solve the test chambers of Aperture Science in creative ways that are unheard of in other games of the genre. While others may credit the humor as the best part of Portal, the many uses that can be found from the portal gun itself from inertia to sneaking behind turrets. The game Relicta makes use of a mechanic that allows for very creative uses of polarity and gravity. Armed with gloves that can shift magnetic polarities and even make objects ignore gravity, gamers need to work their way through test tracks that put their minds and their tools to the test, all while a mysterious story unravels around the main character.
Mind Bending Puzzles
While the puzzles can be summed up as ‘putting boxes on switches’ in classic gaming fashion, the game quickly escalates these challenges by having players manipulate gates that only they can pass through, and later on gates that only boxes can go through, fascinatingly enough. Relicta’s puzzles force players to think in multiple dimensions, from the inertia of making boxes repulse each other due to sharing the same polarity, angling the way they bounce off walls just right, not to mention timing the way that gates open and close so that boxes can passed through just to name a few. Boiling it down to ‘boxes on switches’ may be accurate, but it is a beautiful thing when looking at Relicta’s complexity, and that oh so satisfying “Ah-Ha!” moment is quite strong within this game, each puzzle offering at least one of those moments, at least to me.
Mind Bending Story
The story of Relicta is just as complex as its puzzle solving, involving very suspicious situations onboard a moon base, particularly surrounding the Relicta itself, a mysterious… thing that is massive and purple. Apparently it was found on the moon by the base’s previous inhabitants, and used in some way. According to the protagonist, the Relicta has been studied for two years, and still next to nothing is known of it. This comes to a head when it… reacts to the presence of Dr. Angelica Patel, opening itself up and almost seeming to eat her… before she wakes up as if nothing had happened, her AI (Named Systems or Sys for short) even saying she was hallucinating and that nothing had happened. This is suspicious enough already, but then the ‘hallucinations’ continue, making it seem like nothing is as it seems... There’s a very real fear in Patel throughout the tense situations, since things begin to go wrong as her daughter Kira is arriving at the moon base, showing a deep character to Dr. Patel, which can be seen in her quips to Sys, one of her fellow scientists, or her conversations with her daughter, though during puzzles she may be mistaken as a silent protagonist considering how focused she is on solving the test tracks. At times she does have a quip or two regarding a puzzle, including singing “Fly Me to the Moon” after a puzzle which involved launching herself, to which Sys comments that of course she is already on the moon, which takes the wind out of Patel’s sails.
Funnily, Relicta in fact comments on the oddity of going through test tracks for ‘gravity gloves’ (There’s an email that can be read which involves a rant about how such a name diminishes the capabilities of the technology, to my amusement) when there are odd situations afoot. In some cases, a certain repair or system reset is needed that takes place for some reason on the other side of one of these tracks, and at another point Patel chooses to do one in order to try and spend time rather than worry and freak out about the events surrounding her. I felt that it was a passable way to connect the gameplay to the story, since the two are at least at first rather separate: the gameplay is on the test tracks and involves puzzle elements, while the story involves something very strange within the base on Luna, specifically the Relicta and whatever it is. As a consequence, at times Relicta feels split because of how different it feels during the different sections within the game, which can take some getting used to.
An “Ah-Ha”wesome experience!
In all Relicta is a challenging puzzle game with a lot of beauty to it, whether it's the music, the visuals, the “Ah-Ha!” moments that any good puzzle can give you when it's solved, or even in Patel’s entertaining interactions with the other characters. As a lover of puzzles, I can say for sure the ‘just one more puzzle’ vibe is strong with this one, so I recommend Relicta to any fan of the genre, it’s got literal magnetic attraction.
Good Music, Beautiful Settings, Satisfying Puzzles
Whiplash between ‘Gameplay’ segments and ‘Story’ segments, Puzzles can be almost too Difficult