Samsara Xbox One Review

February 24, 2018 by  
Filed under Xbox One, Reviews & Features, Xbox

Publisher: Marker Limited  Developer: Marker Limited  Genre: Puzzle  Players: 1

Age Rating: 3+  Other console/handheld formats: N/A

Samsara, in a nutshell, is a puzzle game in which you place planks in order for your main character to reach a warp hole, which is placed somewhere on the screen. Sounds simple enough, but there’s certainly more to it than that.

The levels are separated into two sections, top and bottom, both almost mirroring each other. The top is the ‘good’ side, the bottom the ‘dark’ side, a reflection. Using the planks, you have to work out where to place them, either in the good side or the dark side, in order to help your character to cross over the blocky platforms and reach a warp hole.

Samsara has a beautiful art style, almost like a children’s story book.

As well as this mirror-split into good and dark, later you also have to contend with a shadowy version of yourself, meaning you have two characters to move around the screen, as well as portals that teleport you from one side to the other, and different types of planks that can only be used in specific ways.

The gameplay is clever in that you have to take into consideration your moves in order to move forward. For instance, when you place a plank, it’s reflection will appear in the opposite side, and you have to work out whether it will help or hinder your character’s progress. Levels aren’t perfectly mirrored either, so positioning a plank in a particular way one side may cause it to be positioned differently in the reflected side.

This thought process becomes particularly difficult when you have two characters on-screen, each needing to reach a warp hole of their own, but their paths taking different routes to get to it; you have to place planks that will enable both characters to cross safely to their warp holes, and this is where the puzzles come into their own.

Puzzles are certainly clever and very well thought out, though the gameplay might feel a little too repetitive for some. The art style is interesting and as mystical as you might expect based on the concept, though that doesn’t do much to help the gameplay feel refreshed.

There are 6 areas each with a total of 7 7 levels, and the only action you’ll be performing throughout is rotating and positioning these planks; it’s not particularly innovative. Of course, working out how to place them is supposed to be the fun part, though considering this is the only type of action you’ll be performing, it can feel quite monotonous.

Also after each level, you are warped back to a main menu, but just the act of playing a puzzle, and then being warped back to the menu where you simply click another menu and enter the next level, is rather underwhelming; instead of having your character return to the menu, simply having the next level load immediately would have helped keep the pace flowing nicely.

Puzzles are very creative, but it doesn’t veer much from simply placing planks correctly.

There’s also very few cutscenes – very few. There’s an opening in which you follow a squirrel, which acts as a tutorial; a scene in which you see your character parted from his shadowy self – and then the ending, and that’s all there is for story; there’s much substance in the puzzle-solving, but not much when it comes to story.

It would have been interesting to have more of a story here; the developers could have told a psychological story, about a young boy dealing with mental health issues, or issues which cause him to disappear into his own imagination as a way to escape his problems, but it doesn’t give much of a reason as to why these events occur – he just falls into ‘magic land’ where magical stuff happens. The levels are about mirrors, good sides and dark sides, being split in two, and being transported elsewhere – there’s a lot of potential for a more substantial story that has been ignored.

Still, the emphasis is on puzzle-solving and as a puzzle game, Samsara does exactly what it says on the tin. Levels aren’t particularly varied, and there’s not much in between levels to break up the pattern of playing one after the other, but the game will appeal to those who like to give their brains a good work out.