Samsara is a single player puzzle platformer developed by Marker Limited out of Auckland, New Zealand. In the game, the player guides Zee and a “shadowed echo” through puzzle platforming levels by dropping objects to safely guide Zee and the shadow to the portal in the level. The twist being the levels are mirrored, from level design, to where you drop your blocks.
Release Date: 7th February 2018
Price: AU$22.45 on Xbox One, $14.99 USD on Steam
Size: 287.53 MB
Genre: Puzzle, Platformer
Reviewed on: Xbox One, also available on Steam.
The story for Samsara is really only in the name. Samsara, meaning “the cycle of death and rebirth to which life in the material world is bound.” However, this only made sense once I had finished the game. The story in game, is non existent. Even the few cut scenes presented feel like random clips instead of a beginning, middle and end to a story. The game more or less drops you into the game and says, you’re playing a game, just play it.
I thought the game would end up telling some sort of story, and to a degree it does. It just isn’t in the fore front. Instead the ending feels like it was here to do just that, let the game end. Again, the story is not the focus here, although I’m sure you could find a more profound meaning like in INSIDE or LIMBO. The focus here was clearly the gameplay and visuals.
Samsara’s gameplay if I had to compare it to anything, it would be Braid. But, that is a stretch. Samsara is unique. The concept alone sold me and I’m not even a massive fan of puzzle games. The concept of having mirrored gameplay, where one side affects the other was a great idea that for the most part, pushes your brain power to the max.
The gameplay is constantly throwing curve balls as well to avoid the game becoming repetitive. These involve blocks with different properties like wood sinking to the bottom to concrete being able to stick more freely. The game definitely stumped on more than a few levels, even getting myself to resort to the old school style of pen and paper. However, the game can have some difficulty inconsistencies. Usually when a new block is introduced. They border on the 5 to 10 second mark.
It’s a very minor complaint though as some levels more than make up for it being between 5 and 10 minutes on some. I never was frustrated with the game and didn’t want to put the game at any point in my play-through. It’s a puzzle games job to test your mental power and make you feel like you actually solved something, and Samsara definitely accomplished this goal. The game has 72 levels all up and although a few levels can feel similar in the same world, they are different enough to offer variety in their own way and this is what creates the feeling of something new each level and not knowing what to expect.
By far, the best aspect of the game in my opinion. The game feels like it is inside a child’s story book. The characters being the right mix of simple and interesting, to the levels being gorgeous along with the backdrops. The game feels like it could be a kids cartoon, it’s gorgeous. From the woods in the beginning to the creepy carnival or even the quite different change of pace in the “friendly” neighborhood that’s soaked in red in the mirrored version. It truly adds another level to this game and the experience overall.
The sound here is sparingly used. There are chirping birds in the woods, to a howling wolf in the neighborhood. As for a soundtrack though? It seems to only be used once you complete a puzzle. Other than this, it’s just you, guiding Zee and the shadow to the portal with nothing else but some background noise, you, and the puzzle. But, it’s great, it really gets you to concentrate and absorb yourself in this story book.
Although the story of Samsara is not an amazing experience, in fact, it’s pretty lack luster. However, from the puzzles making you feel that sense of accomplishment along with the art style being amazing and all in all feeling like a playable children’s book with some dark undertones. Samsara is a gaming experience like no other I’ve played. My only real complaint would be the game is short. I completed Samsara after the 2 hour mark which is pretty short. However, for the price point being as low as it is, I’d still say the experience is worth it and is a memorable one at that.