by Kiran Sury
reviewed on PS3
A three-man team
A blockbuster game requires millions of dollars in funding, with hundreds of people spread across the globe working together to bring the fall’s next hit. Whether it be Call of Duty, Assassin’s Creed or the yearly edition of Madden, these games sell enough copies to justify their enormous cost and provide an experience beyond compare.
The PlayStation Network, however, has proven that small studios still have an important place in videogame development. Titles like Braid, Limbo and Journey provide a unique, touching gameplay experience, and were all developed by small teams working on a budget. Closure, a puzzler created by three guys working out of their parent’s basement (or, you know, a well-lit office) deserves to be ranked with the best PSN games available. It does what all great puzzle games do – take a simple concept, expand upon it, and provide an experience greater than the sum of its parts.
Bring a night light
The simple concept that Closure embraces is light manipulation. Games have used this before, but only in terms of ‘walk into the dark and a monster will kill you.’ It is an arbitrary way of restricting the player to the ‘proper’ path and adding tension. In Closure, you must stay in the light because things in the dark cease to exist. This makes the darkness as important as the light. By clever placement of light sources, you can walk through walls by the simple step of making them disappear into the night.
Levels take the form of a simple ‘get to the exit’ strategy. There are no enemies blocking your way, but the challenge of traversing the monochrome landscape is more than enough. At first you merely have to follow a moving light lest you fall behind into the darkness. Then you get your first light orb, a small glowing sphere that becomes your salvation. You need to put it down to move boxes and other objects, so finding creative ways to keep it with you is important. Later on movable spotlights and teleporting light orbs free up your hands, but add the challenge of preemptively placing lights to make a path further down the level. An early mistake can spell doom later on, but quick restarts somewhat mitigate the annoyance.
Closure is helped by an extremely well balanced learning curve. The game teaches you by showing rather than telling, but manages to build up the concepts in such a way that you never feel in over your head. Unfortunately, understanding the concepts is not the same as executing them. On occasion I would figure out the solution to a puzzle, but would have difficulty completing it because precise movements and timing were required, something the controls don’t always provide. Mid-level checkpoints would have made the game more accessible to those who are more cerebral than manually dexterous.
The game tries to tell a story that, while adding to the atmosphere, doesn’t really make sense. You start off as a spider-monkey creature that apparently enters the dreams of other beings, including a construction worker and a schoolgirl. What they are doing dreaming of the dreary landscapes is not clear, but their realms are distinct. The hand drawn art in the game’s three main areas varies from mechanical to organic, all the while fitting the same motif of somber and creepy, but in a good way. The accompanying music is similarly matched, and the puzzles change too as they focus on new concepts.
There is not much point to replaying the game unless you are a completionist after the extras hidden throughout the levels (and possible alternate ending). Those who have played the online version, though, should know that this game is completely different – better graphics, better controls, and new puzzles. Closure’s gameplay is innovative and its puzzles are well thought out – qualities that make it a game most definitely worth your while.
Aesthetic meshes well with gameplay, light manipulation as it has never been done before.
No mid-level checkpoints, some challenges require finicky solutions.