Developer: Eyebrow Interactive / Publisher: Eyebrow Interactive / Played on: PC / Price: $9.99 / ESRB: Everyone [Mild Fantasy Violence]
A realization hit me a few hours into Closure — we’re smack in the middle of a puzzle game renaissance in indie circles on the PC. Amusingly this cuts both ways for puzzle enthusiasts. It means that we have an unmatched selection of new and inventive games to play, but it also makes competition more stiff. Closure is a fantastic puzzle game that hits all the hallmarks of a classic, but nagging puzzle design cause it to stumble just short of Portal greatness.
Like every good puzzle game, Closure revolves around one basic mechanic and builds on it in increasingly complicated ways. Here’s the jist: Closure is all about illumination. If a platform is lit by any source of light, it exists, meaning you can walk on it, drop objects on it, etc. Everything else is total black and void, meaning you can fall right through it even if a platform would be there were it illuminated.
Each puzzle is a simple challenge; get from the start to the exit. Doing so often requires fancy finagling of the light mechanic. For example, you can carry an orb of light that illuminates the ground under you, but you may have to drop it and jump out of that radius of light to pass completely through a wall that would otherwise block your path. There are numerous other permutations on light generation like beams that can rotate and cranes that grab the aforementioned orbs and move them along predetermined paths. The mechanics in Closure are wonderfully simple and escalate in extremely mind-bending ways, especially when you must combine them with precise timing to move objects through a level.
Closure’s difficulty is the only aspect of the gameplay that works against itself. First off, the puzzles in Closure are extremely complicated, which isn’t a problem in itself. I enjoy a dense puzzler, and Closure finds some devious ways to employ its light mechanic. The problem is that unlike most modern puzzle games, it’s possible (and likely) to kill yourself or render a puzzle unsolvable by dropping an item into the void. That requires that you restart the whole puzzle which isn’t necessarily bad, but later puzzles are long and require a series of very exacting moves. If you miss one jump or hit the wrong button, you’ll have to re-do everything up to that point. Many puzzles involve mundane tasks like leapfrogging light orbs to walk to an exit, so working back through those steps four or five times is tiresome. Most modern puzzle games operate under the idea that if you “get” a puzzle, you don’t need to redo it. Closure requires both mental prowess and meticulous platforming, which is jarring if you’re expecting the modern, softer touch.
With a completely greyscale color palette, I’d forgive likening Closure to Limbo. However, Limbo operated mostly in shades of grey whereas Closure is all about stark contrast. Most of the game operates in pure white or black, which does a great job visually conveying what is interactable geometry and what is black nothingness. Closure is artistically superb as well. The game includes three main areas, each with a distinct style ranging from bizarre alien machinery to haunted fairytale style villages and woods. The bizarre and disquieting visuals complement the feel of the gameplay perfectly. It creates this feeling that there’s always something ominous and distressing just out of view. Thematically, the visuals remind me of the Oddworld series. They’re wonderfully original and just wrong in an inexplicable way.
Closure’s music echoes the sentiments of its visuals — it’s alien, bizarre, and uncomfortable. The soundtrack is composed of disjointed and brash electronic pieces combined with dissonant orchestra hits that keep you on edge, which is a bizarre feeling when puzzlers usually opt for relaxing soundtracks. It vaguely reminds me of late 90s industrial music: angry and otherworldly. Sound effects are appropriately minimal, nothing more than footsteps and mechanical clinks when operating the game’s bizarre apparatuses.
With a basic set of controls (jump, pick up, reset puzzle), Closure is simple to control. The only issue comes in the aforementioned puzzle design, which often forces you to reset the whole screen if you mix up the buttons or jump at the wrong time.
I was impressed to find that Closure has baked-in controller support though; I plugged in a 360 controller and was good to go. The usual quirks apply — if you don’t have the controller on when you launch the game, it’s a pain to get it working, but if you have it plugged up before you launch it’ll bind all the controls automatically. You can even re-bind the controls to your liking which is appreciated.
Closure is another fantastic puzzler that belongs in the Steam library of anyone that enjoyed Portal or Vessel. Though the level of precision required to solve some puzzles is a little beyond my taste, it’s great that games of this nature are starting to become so prolific that those looking for puzzles with a little more bite can find them.