For the purpose of transparency, this review was completed using a review code provided by Investigate North. The use of a review code does not affect my judgement of this product.
Until recently I avoided puzzle games, as they weren’t really my cup-of-tea when it came to gaming. But, one thing VR gaming has taught me is to fully appreciate puzzle games. I was anticipating playing Aporia: Beyond The Valley, even-though it is not a VR game – so what did I think of the experience?
The team at Investigate North took a very interesting approach to the story-telling when it came to the game, choosing not to use dialogue to explain what is going on in the story. Instead they have used what I can best explain as light shows, and paintings on clothes around the game to tell the story. The way they have done this sort of leaves it open to user interpretation to what is actually going on. For me it was a story about betrayal, and what happened as a result of the betrayal. But, others may interpret it completely differently – that is the beauty of what they have done with this game. Where to some this might sound like a bad decision, for me even with having to try to figure the story out myself, it still felt like a rich storyline, and it really gets you using your own imagination.
As mentioned at the beginning this game is a puzzle game, however, there is some other elements that make up the gameplay for Aporia: Beyond The Valley. Ok, the main content is the puzzle element, but it also throws in some platforming element at times – be it jumping from ledge to ledge or simply having to jump gaps to navigate around the area. Where this can add a little extra, the game really is all about the puzzling aspect, and that is what makes the game one I will find hard not to recommend.
The puzzles all related around the glowing baton you possess, which is shown throughout the story-telling part of the game. This is essentially used for everything; a tool to help plants grow, a light for the darker areas, a lighter for torches and most importantly a key. The puzzles range from quite simple to some of the best thought-out puzzles I have seen in any puzzle game I have played through. The simple ones could be growing a vine to move onto the next area, or simply to open a door. Now the more difficult ones range from using hieroglyphs to using valves to solve a water based puzzle. My favourite was one of the most elaborate light based puzzles I have ever witnessed. But, I don’t want to say much more about the puzzles than that, as they have to be experienced yourself to really appropriate them.
Where the point everything is performed with the baton may sound like it could make the game simple, this is not always the case. The baton is filled with a liquid that helps it perform all these actions, and each action you perform will drain the liquid in the baton. Meaning there may be times where your baton is drained and you will have to explore to try to find the refills for your baton. The exploration is made a lot more enjoyable by the world and area’s you are exploring (I will touch on this more later). So, as well as working on the puzzles and platforming elements, it is also important to make sure you explore and keep you baton topped up.
One thing I really liked about the game, is that the progression seemed so natural, and solving each puzzle revealed more of the story; meaning you felt rewarded. Also, there were times where just by playing the game in a natural way would solve some of the puzzles and you felt genuinely surprised you had done it. But, even if it was the case it just seemed to solve itself or the more frustrating the puzzles, you felt you had achieved something in completing them. Meaning the rewarding feeling out-weighs those frustrating times in the game.
I previously mentioned the exploration is made enjoyable by the world and area’s, and this is because visually the game and world you are playing in the game is beautiful. The world is made up of well-built up areas that offer a lot a break in the lighting, and some of the best looking sun-rays I have seen in a game. The attention to detail in the textures and the world is outstanding and it really does assault your eyes with how beautiful it can look and be, and at times I just found I was stopping mid-exploration to just take in the sights the game offers. This really does bring you into the world of Ez’rat Qin, as soon as you start playing the game.
If you were just to move through Aporia: Beyond The Valley completing the puzzles and that is it, you are likely to get through the game in 3–4 hours depending on your ability in working out the puzzles. However, I found that I spent a further 3 hours just exploring the world, and taking in some of the sights they offered meaning the game lasted me about 6–7 hours, which for me is a good length for a game like this. Also, I could play through it again to make sure I found all the paintings, and see if I could maybe interpret the story in a different way – this is the true beauty of the game, and leaves it open for multiple play throughs.
With the controls, the game is open to both people who prefer using a mouse and keyboard or controller, which is something many people would expect with games these days. For me I have not long been gaming on a PC, and find that I struggle with mouse and keyboard controls at the moment. However I persevered with mouse and keyboard for the first hour of gameplay, and found I was feeling more comfortable with that method than I have with other games -so I image it will smooth for people who prefer it that method. I then played the rest using the Xbox One controller, and they have transferred to control scheme to the controller very well to make the best use of it – so people who prefer this method it also works well.
If you have any questions about the review, or want to let me know what you think – feel free to tweet me @TattasticGamer