Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Closure Review

Every month I like to take a look through the new titles released on XBLA/PSN to see if anything interesting has come out. I’ll download the demo and try it out to see if I like the game enough to actually pay money for it. When I noticed Closure on the PSN store as a new release, its unique art instantly drew me in for a closer look. After playing the demo I decided to fork over the $15 and play through the entire thing. From playing the demo, I could tell that it was a puzzle platformer akin to Limbo and Portal. The mechanic was interesting and something I hadn’t seen before, so I hoped I was getting a solid return on investment with this game.

The mechanics of Closure revolve around navigating the darkness that covers each level, save for the light surrounding various light sources. Some can be carried by your character, while some are stationary. Some can be rotated to reveal various parts of the area, and some need a light source to be turned on. The main goal is to get from your starting point to the door which is somewhere in the level. Strategy comes into play, as 98% of each level is pure darkness and once you move away from the light, you fall off and die. To move anywhere, you must use a light source to illuminate your path, which becomes increasingly complicated as you get into the later levels.

I found the mechanic very interesting and fun to play with as I moved through the 82 levels. If there was a wall in the way, I had to put the light source I was carrying -- a crystal ball of light -- down where the darkness covered up the wall, and then jump over to another part of illuminated ground on the other side of the wall. I think that this kind of perception-altering puzzle is the right direction for puzzle platformers. Like Portal, Closure forced me to think in a different frame of mind. I had to think in terms of where my light was and where I could use other light sources. Unfortunately, the game was almost too easy. Aside from a few tricky timing situations and the final 10 levels, I went through the game without much frustration. That may be a good thing, but I feel that a puzzle-platformer should provide a small level of frustration as the difficulty increases to keep you coming back. That way, when you do solve the puzzle and get through to the next level, you feel a sense of accomplishment and want to try again. Since the story is non-existent, that sense of accomplishment is all you’ll really get from this game.

The character you control goes through the first 72 levels by changing into one of 3…costumes…I think. Your four-legged main character puts on a mask and transforms into something different. Each of 3 “masks” separates the 72 levels into 3 sets of 24 with each group having some common artistic theme and roughly similar tactics. For example, the last set is mostly set in a circus-themed place, with odd distorted carnival music playing and use of a pop-gun to solve puzzles. I definitely got a creepy vibe from each setting, and I liked it for the first 20 minutes. The same MIDI song plays in every level of a group and it gets old after the first few rooms. Also, the music slows and eventually stops once you enter the water found on some of the maps. While it is a kind-of cool effect that adds a small amount of continuity, like the music, it gets old really quick. The black-and-white art style is out of the ordinary, unless you’ve played LIMBO and remembered that most of what is in here was done better by games before it.

Verdict: I really like the concept of utilizing light as a form of movement in Closure… and that’s about all I like about it. Everything else, from the difficulty of the levels, the lack of anything extra or interesting, to the disappointing aesthetic and absence of story, shows of the game’s mediocrity. If you like games like Braid, LIMBO, Portal, and Outland, then you might want to check this game out for a new puzzle-solving mechanic. However, I don’t think the game is worth the $15 it costs when there is a plethora of other games that give more value than Closure.
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