November 8, 2022
Have you finished playing Unpacking and thought to yourself, “I wish I had more puzzle/organisation video games in my life”? Well, you’re in luck! From the small Canadian indie studio, Max Inferno, comes a cozy puzzle game called A Little to the Left. While the game itself doesn’t have an obvious plot, much like Unpacking, there is an underlying narrative hidden beyond the puzzles. You’re tasked to organise a house after it’s been turned into disarray by a mischievous cat “with an inclination for chaos”. Though, that sounds like every cat, doesn’t it? Does A Little to the Left spark joy? Or is it time to clean the kitty litter?
A tidy heart
Originally, A Little to the Left started on itch.io, submitted to the Game Maker’s Toolkit 2020 Game Jam. By March of 2021, the team of two decided to make it a full-fledged game. In 2022, Max Inferno partnered up with Secret Mode to produce the game and distribute it to a wider audience.
A Little to the Left begins with chapter one, Home Sweet Home. You’ll perform menial tasks and puzzles such as cleaning up cat toys, organising pencils, or making things uniform. Some of the levels feel rather close to home as a cat owner. One has you organising 5 photos in order of a timeline, each photo picturing the cat and an object they’re about to break. The next puzzle has a vase with flowers inside that are drooping, and after solving the puzzle, the shadow of the cat looms into frame, signalling impending doom for our flowers. The next puzzle involves putting the vase back together as it cracks open and spills out on the floor.
We move like cagey tigers
One enjoyable puzzle within the game is a take of the Tower of Hanoi problem. This is a classic puzzle that has you needing to stack a series of circles in different diameters from one rod to another. A Little to the Left takes this concept and changes it to stacking cans of wet cat food that match the same label colours. Whilst initially seeming easy to solve, the deceptive challenge comes from trying to figure out how to get each can to the correct column. This is especially tricky considering you can only move one can at a time, and you can’t move a can that has another stacked on top of it. Another set of puzzles I enjoy were seen in the game’s demo and had the player organising objects you’d put in draws. Most people would have draws filled with stuff, whether it’s batteries, utensils, or other random crap. Being able to put these objects in their spot is satisfying.
Each level can get more and more challenging, but that difficulty often comes from trying to understand what the game wants you to do. It wants you to think differently. Some levels are re-playable with a star symbolising how many different ways any given puzzle can be solved. Two or more stars means a puzzle has multiple solutions. You don’t have to get all stars to move onto the next level, but each chapter has a “completion” percentage that allows players to test themselves and replay puzzles in new ways. If you’re having trouble, you can ask for a hint, or you can skip the puzzle entirely with no penalties for choosing either option. You can also replay any puzzle at any time. It’s this kind of design decision that allows A Little to the Left to be enjoyable by any skill level without the stress sometimes associated with these kinds of games.
They’re very cool for cats
“A lot of these puzzles can be picked up and played in short bursts that still remain satisfying…”
Some of the game’s puzzles might even involve the cat, and in a couple of instances, has the nuisance pet ruin your hard work, forcing you to start over. Each chapter also relates to certain areas around the house, the first taking place in a living room or office and the second chapter, Lost Recipe, involving things found in the kitchen. Organising pasta spirals and stacking spoons has never been so much fun. One puzzle in the kitchen creates time pressure as a task needs to be completed before the adorable demon returns.
A lot of these puzzles can be picked up and played in short bursts that still remain satisfying, like a game of solitaire. Whilst it’s fun to have all of these puzzles realised within the context of the world, you don’t always get the satisfaction of looking at the results of your hard work and puzzle-solving ability. I love the fact that a lot of the puzzles can build upon others, though sometimes they can also feel repetitive.
Cat’s out of the bag
The game has five levels, and you can complete it all in around 2.5-4 hours. This depends on how fast you can complete the puzzles, of course, and doesn’t include solving some puzzles more than once. A Little to the Left also delivers players a new unique puzzle each day called Daily Tidy Delivery. These will build upon your knowledge of puzzles completed in the main game. Every time you complete a daily puzzle, it adds to your streak. Some puzzles will have multiple solutions, so to complete your daily, you’ll need to complete it more than once. Whilst the game experience is smooth and felt good to play, some puzzles are harder to control than others. This was especially apparent with a certain puzzle involving photo frames, with no leniency in allowing things to snap into place, and so instead it felt unwieldy.
The fourth chapter starts strong, dips in creativity a little in the middle, and then ends with the game’s strongest puzzles that harken back to earlier parts of the game and build upon what you had learned.
A Little to the Left lacks a colour-blind mode that would benefit those who struggle with puzzles that rely on colour. Outside of this though, the game itself doesn’t need a lot of accessibility functions. Fonts are large and easy to read, though having a dyslexic font would be great to see. I also love the fact that you can control the game in multiple ways. You can use a mouse, or WASD keys, space bar, and arrow keys too. There’s full controller support as well. A key rebinding option isn’t available, but considering how many ways you can play this game, there’s bound to be an option that is great for everyone.
Arachnophobes may run into problems with two puzzles that feature a spider. To be specific for those looking to avoid those instances, these are found in the 15th and final puzzle in the fourth chapter, Inner Nature. Developer Max Inferno does recommend the skip puzzle option for those impacted when you come across these puzzles. This is really nice to see, but there isn’t a warning about it anywhere on the screen or even in the settings. These moments do come and go quickly enough and the spiders aren’t defined in a specific way, so it might not set you off at all.
Curiosity killed the cat
The art style of A Little to the Left is similar to illustrations in a modern child’s picture book. It’s cute. The choice to have muted colours is slightly disappointing as things aren’t quite as vivid as one would hope. Yet, it’s still in your face with the choices of colours. Lots of pinks, blues, and yellows. The music itself has a soft instrumental feel to it. There are certain satisfying sounds when you click on objects, like the sound of a sticker ripping off an apple, or the ding that accompanies the completion of a level. It’s all charming and really ticks my aesthetic box. The flat design to things is an art style I really enjoy. Both the art style and the music lend themselves to the cozy game experience.
A Little to the Left is a fantastic game if you need something quick, or you want to de-stress. It’s another game to throw in the cozy game genre that has gotten more and more popular these days. The puzzles can be challenging, to the point where you’ll need to grab a hint or even skip the level and mull on it later. But the fact that there’s no penalty for using a hint or skipping a puzzle is great to see. It’s fun and adorable, and with the Daily Tidy giving players more puzzles to solve each day, it’ll be exciting to see where this game ends up.
- You're not punished if you get hints or skip a puzzle
- Puzzles will challenge you
- Art style feels like an illustrated kids book
- Wholesome and cozy
- Has a daily unique puzzle delivered to each player
- Lacks some accessibility features
- Some puzzles are harder to control
A Little to the Left is a fun puzzle game for all ages. The depth and variety of puzzle is good to see, with extra replayability allowing certain puzzles to shine. A daily puzzle delivered to each player provides a unique touch. While the game is great, there aren’t a lot of accessibility options such as a colour-blind mode or arachnophobia filter. However, the nature of the game is still easily approachable with beautifully stylised art and music bringing great pleasure. A Little to the Left is pure wholesome and cozy fun.