Xbox One, PS4, PC
August 4, 2020
The world is one hell of a puzzling place right now, so spending time on the first person, sci-fi puzzle game Relicta seems quite apt. To me, it was a bit of an analogy of being in Stage 4 lockdown here in Melbourne – frustrating, sometimes boring, but if you look at it from a certain angle you can turn that boredom into something positive.
Relicta sees you play as Dr. Angelica Patel, a scientist who works on Chandra Base, which is situated on the Moon. The game starts with a pretty dramatic cut scene which shows Patel blacked out with one of her colleagues trying to interact with her through her headset. When Patel awakens, there’s been a massive system malfunction which her colleague begs her not to interfere with. With her daughter’s life at stake, Patel lifts her bad ass Mum self off the ground says “I don’t think so!” to her colleague and charges forward to save her kid.
The game then brings you two years before this incident, to 2118. Patel has been experimenting with physics by using specially made “gravitonic wearable interface” gloves. These look like futuristic white and black leather motorcycle gloves with suction caps on the outsides and tiny little planets rotating in the palms. In short – they’re pretty wicked. She experiments with these gloves by completing courses that are situated in different environmental settings that make up the backyard of the Chandra Base.
“It can be argued that the real protagonist in Relicta are cubes. You are constantly interacting with them; more than you interact with any other person, even with Patel herself.”
These courses consist of electronic partitions that come in two varieties. The purple ones you cannot walk through unless the weighted pads surrounding it have pressure on them. This pressure can come from cubes around you or by using your own weight. The second, of the yellow variety, you can walk through but cannot take any cubes through with you.
It can be argued that the real protagonist in Relicta are these cubes. With the game having a first person perspective, you only see Dr. Patel and her colleagues through desk photos and video calls. You are constantly interacting with these cubes more than you interact with any other person, even with Patel herself. Your manipulation of them is the key to advancing through those electronic partitions and to progress through the game.
With the aid of your gloves, these cubes can be changed from red or blue. If you add a gravitational pull to them you can attract them towards each other if they are also the same colour and throw them apart if they are the opposite colour. This is useful for getting the cubes into tight spots or high places.
What I like about Relicta is that it is does give you multiple ways that you can move these cubes around and interacting with them is pretty cool. You really feel the power of your gloves by all the ways you can manipulate and experiment with the cubes. It made me feel like a super hero, throwing these cubes up into the air and watching them fly through areas.
On the flip-side, my main problem with Relicta was its inability to be flexible with those who are new to the puzzle genre. I myself haven’t played too many puzzle games and Relicta seems to be built especially for puzzle fans. This may not seem like an issue, but it does alienate a lot of players who would want to give Relicta a go but find it hard to navigate. The biggest issue is that instructions about the physics mechanics are only explained to you once via the main system, nicknamed Sys. There are no tutorials that you can go back to if you get stuck and this was extremely frustrating. Like, what happens if you miss the instructions? It seemed like a massive oversight to not include a way for players to have a way to access these mechanics. I was so stuck on the majority of courses that I needed help from YouTube to see how the mechanics worked as I couldn’t find any other way for the game to give me a refresher.
When you finish each course you take an elevator back down to the base where the narrative continues. There is no real narrative whilst you are completing the puzzles; sometimes Patel may say something funny or a small conversation will occur between her and a colleague via her headset, but mainly it’s puzzle time all the time.
On the base, you can explore your surrounding, which I found beautiful but lacking in things to do and explore. I know that there are 30 collectibles to find throughout the base, a number of them being data discs. You can play these discs on your PDA, which is a portable computer system that folds out into a screen from a device that looks like a tape recorder. These discs contain additional information about Chandra, including emails between your colleagues. However, none of this information was particularly interesting.
Chandra Base had a very Gattaca meets Prey kind of feel to it, but seeing as it was bare of humans and loot, it reminded me of a book that has a pretty front cover but is filled with blank pages. Due to this, Chandra felt kind of soulless to me. I did have some fun playing Relicta, once I got the hang on the mechanics. However, it was the lack of player support and the way its world felt underdeveloped and cold that made me more frustrated than excited when playing this puzzle platformer.
- Female POC protagonist
- Solving puzzles can be done in multiple ways
- Cool, slick sci-fi feel
- Game physics were more miss than hit
- Not user friendly to new players of the puzzle genre
- World is pretty bare
- No access to tutorials if you get stuck on mechanics
As I’ve mentioned, Relicta is a puzzle game that is for players who are familiar with the genre. For those who aren’t the game won’t do much to make you feel at home and welcome. It’s like tagging along to a party with a friend and once you get there, no one makes an effort to interact with you. The party has all the things that make a gathering fun – booze, music, snacks, but without that “welcome” feeling, you’re not likely to have the best time. Sure, you may have a few good drinks and eat some good food, but you won’t stick around for long. That’s what I found with Relicta; as a player who is new to the puzzle platformer, it didn’t make me feel comfortable by offering me even the tiniest bit of support to set me up for success.
Therefore, if you are a fan of the puzzle platformer genre, Relicta may be a game worth diving into. However, if you’re like me and are just starting to dip your toes into the world of puzzle games, it may be better to start with something a little less demanding and come back to this one at a later date.