Monday, April 11, 2022

Up Left Out - Thoughts

I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with sliding tile puzzles that—admittedly—leans on the latter more than the former. When the tiles are faceless or asymmetrical, I usually enjoy monkeying with the pieces until I accidently come by the solution. But for traditional puzzles, I'm forced to relive my childhood frustration, transported back to the impenetrable bonus minigame from Bart vs. the World. I'm obviously better at them as an adult than a child, but I nevertheless view them as the more restrictive and unimaginative cousin of Sokoban-style puzzles. Thus, I began Up Left Out cautiously, uncertain if I'd be forced once again to mash together the irreparable bust of Homer Simpson.

But thank goodness I stuck with it—Up Left Out is a fantastic little puzzler that will give your brain a delightful workout.

Like with klocki, Up Left Out's greatest strength is the way it frequently plays with its rules. It starts off with a simple goal: move every block once. Eventually new objectives and gimmicks will weasel their way onto your board, like blocks of varying sizes, blocks you can rotate, blocks that need to be aligned, and blocks that grant access to similarly-shaped blocks. If that sentence sounds silly or confusing, have no fear; Up Left Out carefully complicates its mechanics one step at a time, ensuring the player never feels lost.

As you continue to rotate, align, and mimic the blocks on the table, you'll notice that there's a kind of unexpected quirk to the way they move. The board itself utilizes classic ice physics, meaning once a block moves it won't stop until colliding with the wall or another object. At first I feared this would make puzzles more step-intensive than they needed to be, but I quite enjoyed the mechanic by the end. It keeps the constant reorganization of the tile puzzler interesting, sometimes turning what would otherwise be a simple move into a challenge.

Up Left Out bears a decent mix of easy-to-moderate puzzles, taking care not to lean on one mechanic too heavily. The fifth to last puzzle (pictured below) is probably the most complicated, requiring deft maneuvering inside of its claustrophobic confines (which is why it's my favorite). Besides that, you won't find any real brain scratchers among the lot. Up Left Out prefers to stimulate rather than demoralize the player, so you'll always be close to a solution as long as you can muster up the brainpower. If it's lacking in any area, it's that it might be a bit too short—but with a $1 price tag, it's kind of silly to ask for more.

I found Up Left Out to be a lot of fun, offering a pleasant diversion that you can blast through in one or two afternoons. It's more of a substantial puzzle game than Maciej Targoni's other entries, but still adheres to his philosophy of keeping the experience tranquil and relaxing. Up Left Out tests but never confronts, knowing how to keep the player calm without putting them to sleep. It's one of the few tile puzzlers that I can jibe with; if you spot Up Left Out on sale, don't hesitate to pick it up.

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