Since the days of the original Portal, first-person puzzlers have evolved tremendously and have added so much to the gaming world. Recent titles like The Turing Test, The Witness, QUBE, and The Talos Principle have shown that this genre has a whole lot to offer in regards to unique storytelling and mind-boggling puzzles, and Relicta adds itself to this list of recent first-person puzzlers.
What we have with Relicta that sets itself apart are electromagnetic gloves that allow for some object manipulation and some very interesting puzzle mechanics. But is this a title that deserves to be in the upper-echelon of puzzle games? Or does Relicta need to get in the back of the line? Let’s find out!
Relicta‘s story is an intense one, albeit not well acted. It is a strange combination, because there is genuinely something interesting happening with the relicta chamber and how it is affecting scientific employees stationed on the moon. The setting and everything around it is solid, but the characters, including the main protagonist Angie Patel, are rather stale and depend too much on swearing to sound edgy and cool. Because they are all “brilliant” scientists, their immature use of language kind of hurts their overall character, and I found myself not caring for any of them during some pivotal moments.
However, the many bases and testing sites on the moon itself are mesmerizing, and I love the sci-fi world that is built. One of the pieces of technology they are working on are these touch-free gloves that are able to manipulate matter in certain ways, including adding and even reversing polarity. It is really cool stuff, but it is just unfortunate that it is combined with not very likeable characters.
I would say that the fault does not really lie on the voice actors as much as I would blame the script and writing. For what the story is trying to tell compellingly, it just hurts a bit overall to have such melodrama with soap opera-like characters that are difficult to connect with.
Before I move on, I have to commend the game’s tutorial, as it was perfectly made in order to introduce the puzzling concept as well as moving the story along simultaneously.
Relicta‘s actual gameplay is a first-person puzzle platformer very similar to something like The Talos Principle. When you are not watching cutscenes or making your way to the next area, you are stuck in these testing chambers where Angie is forced to solve the puzzles with the gloves they are working on.
Each little section tasks you with ultimately opening up a yellow gate that lets you move on to the next section. There are switches, special boxes, magnetic platforms, and gates that all add to the puzzling experience, and everything continues to get more and more complicated as the game progresses.
Manipulating the boxes is the highlight of the game, because most of the best puzzles use the boxes and the unique polarity manipulation provided by the gloves. Red and blue attract, and same colors repel. Figuring out what color to make the box and the magnetic platforms in order to travel the box from Point-A to Point-B is incredibly satisfying, and each new gimmick introduced throughout shows the depth of this puzzle idea and the value of the Relicta.
The puzzles themselves are the right balance between accessible and challenging. It is the kind of balance that leaves the answer in plain sight, but it may take some time for the mind to put 2-and-2 together. However, some puzzles are significantly longer than others and can be a bit exhausting and maybe even discouraging. These longer puzzles also affect the story as well, as 30-60 minutes can go by with no development because a line of puzzles are required before the game can move on. Things do feel quite halted at times because of this.
There are some collectibles to find in between puzzle areas back at the bases which adds a little bit to the more relaxing gameplay. It is nothing huge, but they do add a little to the story and give more purpose to the time not puzzling.
One strange technical concern I have is how much strain the game adds to the Switch. I have a day-one Switch from Japan, and I game on my console just about every day, so I admit that it has been through a lot. However, I have never heard the fan spin so loudly before, which was cause for concern. I noticed after 20ish minutes of gameplay in Relicta would make the Switch heat up tremendously and cause the fan to spin at maximum speed. I do not know exactly why this is happening, but it did force me to keep my play sessions to a minimum en route to clearing the game.
Relicta is a solid puzzle game with an awesomely unique mechanic that I cannot say I have experience before. Its story is intense, fun, and creative, but it does suffer a bit from poor character development.
There is a lot of game here, and just bulling through the main campaign and puzzles will take you at least 10 hours to clear. For the price, that is a great deal, especially if you are a completionist, as there are lots of extra things to do to add even more to the value.
It may not be the best first-person puzzler out there, and I do have real worry about the potential overheating, but I do have to recommend Relicta. It may have some polarizing issues, but it is the polarizing that sold me on the game.
Awesome puzzle mechanic
Really well-built sci-fi world
Great feeling when solving puzzles
Characters are hard to connect with
Story pacing suffers at times due to long puzzles
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My name is Jason Capp. I am a husband, father, son, and brother, and I am a gamer, a writer, and a wannabe pro wrestler. It is hard to erase the smile on this simple man.