I’ve been leaning toward more relaxing games of a casual nature these days, mainly due to a prolonged arm injury that takes months to recover from fully. While this does mean less adrenaline-pumping button-mashing, on the bright side, it forces me to try out other genres I normally wouldn’t go for.
With The Pillar, I actually found what I was looking for - an easy-breezy atmosphere with no panic-inducing timers in sight or hidden dangers lurking in the corners - but while I thought it might be another surprise fave, it kind of left me with mixed emotions.
The puzzle marathon is indeed very Zen - too Zen, in fact, that you won’t mind getting stuck as you roam around the mysterious floating island in complete and utter isolation. The beautiful background music not only lulls you to a false sense of security, but it also makes for an incredibly relaxing yet emotionally stirring experience. The overall vibe is complemented perfectly by stunning stylized surroundings - the aesthetics remind me a little bit of The Pathless at times. The pleasing visuals alone make you feel like escaping the escape room experience isn’t really a huge priority.
There’s not much dilly-dallying here, as you’re immediately thrust into this cryptic world without much preamble. There are no tutorials, no maps, no complicated menus. All you really have to do is try to make sense of the world around you while solving puzzles to make it through to the next area - it is a puzzle game, after all.
While there is some level of variety to the puzzles you need to solve, the grid patterns do get repetitive after a while. I’m not going to spoil you with the details of the different kinds of puzzles themselves - they’re pretty intuitive, and part of the fun is trying to figure out what to do next. Once you do, the “eureka” moment is priceless. The gameplay experience is easy on iOS too, since controls aren’t too complicated.
It can be pretty exhilarating to explore at leisure and then stumble upon a numerical code or two needed to unlock certain doors (these combinations can be creatively concealed too, as you might need to rotate your camera angles a little bit to get them right), or when you come across fragments of an image littered across each level. That’s only ever for the thrill of the hunt, as it doesn’t have much bearing on your gameplay - which, unfortunately, doesn’t really offer too much.
It does hold up its own as a puzzler, and perhaps the lack of variety lends to the leisurely nature of the game. It doesn’t provide too high a difficulty level for puzzle aficionados, but it’s a-okay for someone like me, who’s not too keen on hardcore puzzles anyway. It doesn’t really get frustrating, either, as even though you get stuck for a puzzle or two, you can mostly get through via trial-and-error.
The Pillar is a relatively short game, and most levels will take you about half an hour or so to “escape” from. Ironically, it really is puzzling for me not to have loved this game as much as I thought I would, especially with its casual and relaxed nature.
Maybe I was looking for something more to do, or a better narrative since the world is so intriguing. I suppose the problem is that by adding the element of exploration to a puzzle game, it’s almost as if the game is trying to entice you with the promise of a cryptic story with a satisfying outcome, as opposed to if it were just a straightforward series of puzzles. It was definitely entertaining for a while for a quick gaming session during breaks, but it wasn’t something that I felt like I wanted to get right back to as soon as I put my phone down.