- + Unique blend of puzzles
- + Interesting narrative
- + Solving harder puzzles with the help of a friend is satisfying
- - More lively, detailed environments would have been nicer
Want to look beyond the score? Check out the full review below…
Start Replay: “Puzzled”
I don’t tend to use my brain very often, but when a good puzzler comes around I can’t help but dust off the cobwebs and put my mind to the test. The Talos Principle offers in-depth puzzling in a similar style to Valve’s Portal; overcoming obstacles in your path via moving cubes, circumventing lasers and avoiding threats. It’s packed with conundrums to solve, not to mention a heavy amount of narrative that runs alongside.
Featuring a philosophical story based within Greek mythology, its basic but serene setting provides the backdrop to mind-bending mazes. Narrative is given through terminals dotted around each area that contain mounds of information about the game’s world and the experiments you’re conducting. It deserves a lot of attention and isn’t something you can simply get the gist of straight away, but if you just want to solve puzzles then the choice is yours.
Through the eyes of an unnamed android you must complete puzzles to acquire sigils. Three different types of sigil are present and each one has its own colour coordinated designation: green, gold and red; puzzle difficulty is reliant on which one you’re attempting to obtain. From the offset there are 7 areas to participate in and advancing through each one will gradually increase the complexity of each puzzle. New tools and techniques are introduced the further you get, which will often bring curiosity amidst frustration. Just when you thought you knew how to play, new mechanics will add yet another piece to the puzzle.
There are three main “facilities” that each house several areas contained within their own biome. At the beginning you’re met by grassy woodland areas in A, which are the followed by dessert in B and some snow-based locations in C. The variety of styles are still basic, but it helped me stave off boredom from the same environment type. Overall there are more than 120 puzzles to complete.
Typically a puzzle will task you with getting from A to B, leaving how you get there dependant on what equipment is handed to you. Most obstacles will either come in the form of gates that must be bypassed, or include a mixture of threats that also require an alternate perspective. To start you’re given a jammer, which will power down blue barriers and freeze any threats. You can only use one jammer on one designated spot, and the introduction of multiple jammers ups the intricacy of each task. Sometimes you might need to disrupt a barrier with a jammer in order to get another jammer through for further use. Other times you might need to alter the patrol of two explosive robots, pausing one for a limited time until there’s enough of a gap between their routine to pass through.
Patience and determination is a key part of Talos. There were many times I simply couldn’t understand how to complete a puzzle, but once I started to think outside of the box I began to proceed with speed. That’s not to say I became an instant expert, perseverance was a key part to my progression. Head beyond the first few areas and you’ll need to combine previously unseen methods; this includes joining up lasers to open a new path, using height to your advantage and experimenting until successful. It’s extremely gratifying to figure out the more complex puzzles scattered around Talos Principle. Despite the lack of multiplayer, playing the game with friends and working together to try different solutions lends itself well to couch co-op.
I’ve had more fun relaxing whilst trying to complete puzzles than I have diving into its deep narrative. I simply didn’t have the attention span to care for the story I was playing, but that’s not to say it’s bad, by any means. My enjoyment came from finding the 3D sigils tucked away, hovering in one spot and reminding me of collectibles found in adventure titles during the 90’s. In a strange way that nostalgia combined with creative level design kept me captivated to push through even the hardest of puzzles.
Whilst its heavy narrative might not be for everyone, the gratification of solving puzzles and working together with friends is a rewarding experience.
*The Talos Principle was provided to Start Replay on PS4 by Devolver Digital