The Pillar: Puzzle Escape
Developer: Paper Bunker, eastasiasoft
Genre: Puzzle, Adventure, Casual
Platform: PS4 (Also available on Xbox One, Switch, PC)
Age Rating: PEGI 3
Release Date: 13/01/2021
A code was provided for review purposes.
I’ve always loved puzzle games, despite them often being a niche genre. They can provide a relaxing experience that also keeps the mind engaged. In some cases, they are also able to weave memorable narratives and characters, such as the Professor Layton games. It can also be difficult to make a game stand out when puzzles are the main focus. Unfortunately for The Pillar: Puzzle Escape, while offering a short but enjoyable journey, it relies too heavily on its inspirations to leave much of an impression.
What Am I Doing Here?
The game begins with you waking up in a dark room without any explanation. You walk out into the daylight and down an enclosed path to come to your very first puzzle. You solve it with ease before continuing onto the next level. The Pillar: Puzzle Escape has you wandering a variety of relatively small levels, finding secrets while solving a myriad of puzzles to progress. It’s a simple premise, but effective for this roughly 3-hour adventure.
There isn’t much of a narrative, but there are some aspects that allude to one as well as possible themes. At the end of each level, you’ll get to witness another piece getting added to some sort of sequence. This is really the only semblance of a story that The Pillar: Puzzle Escape has. It’s not really clear what the meaning is, however, I feel like that’s what the game intends. The little pieces we get are up to the player’s own interpretation of what it’s all about.
Acknowledging The Witness in the Room
I think it’s time to point out the obvious. The Pillar: Puzzle Escape takes heavy inspiration from 2016’s The Witness, another puzzle game that received critical acclaim. This does provide benefits, but ultimately, becomes a bit of detriment to the overall experience. Everything from the art style, puzzle aesthetic and minimalist story, is so similar to that of The Witness. The game does a decent job of mimicking these aspects to provide a solid adventure, however, it’s never able to capture what made that game so brilliant.
As the name of the game suggests, The Pillar: Puzzle Escape features an abundance of puzzles for you to solve. Most of these take place on a grid-like surface, where you will need to interact with coloured squares in different ways. One has you forming pathways between the same colours to fill the entire grid without overlapping. Another has you trying to fill a pattern with a single path. Alongside similar ones like these, they aren’t very challenging for the average person and can get a bit repetitive towards the end, but they are still well designed and perfect for younger players.
However, there is one puzzle that can be pretty frustrating and isn’t really a puzzle at all, just an elaborate game of Simon Says. This shows you a sequence of pathways on a grid, where you have to copy them in the same order. It’s uninspired and can get arbitrarily difficult due to the speed at which the game shows you these multiple paths. In fact, the game sometimes can’t keep up itself, stuttering and missing the beginning of those it shows. I ended up dreading these when they often appeared, where the only thing they test is your memory.
The game does try to break up the pace and offer more variety with the use of environmental puzzles. There’s one in particular that stands out, which has you connect different beams of light in a row to make particular colours. It’s a smart design that shows the game can branch away from the game that inspired it. There are a few others, but I wish there was more, instead of the almost constant barrage of grid-like puzzles.
Compact but Varied Levels
The Pillar: Puzzle Escape is set in a number of levels that all have their own unique design. Walking around a small maze, basking under the stars on a floating level in space and even a Stonehenge inspired location. These offer a sense of wonder and variety that you wouldn’t think important in a shorter game. While these levels don’t offer much in exploration, enough has been done to make it so they aren’t completely linear, where a couple are quite open.
The art style is heavily reminiscent of The Witness, but while it is certainly still visually appealing, it doesn’t match up to the former. It’s quite simplistic, yet still manages to look good, especially in combination with the strong level design. However, there still ended up being a few performance issues despite not being visually demanding or have much happening on the screen.
A Serene Soundtrack
The music in The Pillar: Puzzle Escape is perfect for this type of game. It exudes a sense of tranquillity that is necessary for an adventure that is mainly about puzzle-solving. It captures the tone of each setting while making sure to maintain a relaxing atmosphere that will keep the player focussed on solving the challenges posed. The audio is quite subdued as well, which helps bring attention to the puzzles and levels.
There is plenty to enjoy in The Pillar: Puzzle Escape. This is a solid adventure that boasts many different, well-designed puzzles for the most part, but can get repetitive as you breeze through. It’s a simple game with charming visuals and relaxing music, which will be great for those that found The Witness too challenging. However, it ends up relying too much on the design of that game to really carve out a unique identity of its own. The Pillar: Puzzle Escape may not capture the same level of wonder, mystery and exploration that The Witness had, but it’s still a rewarding puzzle game that will be perfect for a younger audience.
Rapid Reviews Rating
You can purchase The Pillar: Puzzle Escape for the PS4 here.