Often I praise various media forms for adhering to simplicity. Games and films and whatever else don’t need to be jampacked with a billion different things, constantly vying for the person’s attention at all times. Something as simple in concept as Tetris is legendary for just that. So when I saw gameplay footage of Akurra some time ago, I was intrigued, though the expectations were cooled by bigger, flashier games. What a mistake to believe.
Quick structure disclaimer: Given this (and all the others) is only a demo, I won’t be too in-depth with my coverage, and will only reflect on the good and the bad. No overly long personal history or filibuster. No nonsense. That said, I will provide a synopsis for the game below.
“Explore ancient puzzle filled islands, meet strange new friends, and unlock epic secrets in an atmospheric world with a retro aesthetic. Experience a creative new take on a classic puzzle genre in the open world puzzle adventure Akurra!“
To be upfront immediately, Akurra might be my favorite game demo I’ve played thus far. There’s just something to it.
If my enjoyment of this is any indication, I may just really enjoy simple, 2D puzzle games. Titles that take as simple a concept as “moving barrels onto switches” and continues to build and build in a natural progression. There is some experimentation necessary to understand all the bits and bobs, but it is endlessly satisfying to figure out a seemingly unbeatable puzzle.
Gameplay did not throw me off guard nearly as much as the atmosphere, however. While not technically a metroidvania, it almost lingers within that genre with its emphasis on exploration, discovery, and ambience. There is zero text present in the game; everything is told visually. The musical score is soothing, with a hint of Amazonian charm. You ride on a turtle and visit different islands that house powerful spirits. Is that really not enough to sell you on this?
Through nearly an hour of gameplay, I never got tired. If anything, it ended before I could feel anything even remotely similar to fatigue. With every island came new material, new puzzles to solve, and new sights to take in. It’s like an island-focused sokoban Super Mario World. “Fun” is never off the table.
There are even hotkeys to undo your actions in a given area and/or resetting the entire room! It’s entirely tailored to be as convenient as possible, despite how straightforward the mechanics.
And yet, perhaps because of its simplicity, I struggle to find much to really say on it, both good and bad. You don’t really do much except for solve puzzles and collect things. There’s very little narrative to speak of. Cool things happen, though I don’t wish to spoil the entire game. If sokoban speaks to your gaming spirit and the island aesthetic engrosses you, look no further.
I, uh… I kind of got nothing. Well, I could try to see it from an outsider’s perspective… but I enjoyed this a substantial amount and have basically nothing to complain about.
I suppose the player character does move around maybe a little too loosely. There have been a few times where I walked into spikes or the ocean without meaning to, thinking I’d just be turning rather than moving.
Though I know my own limits, I could see others being somewhat turned off by just how cryptic a lot of this is. You solve a puzzle just to encounter another puzzle; the chain of puzzles continues without remorse. Keys and gems and stars and more—the player will collect more than they have anything to do with in some circumstances. Players know very early on that the reward for one is just the start of another. One must be really into the genre to get much out of this.
There’s just not enough there to have any concrete issues. It’s just a really well-designed, small-scale sokoban puzzle game.
Do give this game a shot if anything I’ve stated here sounds appealing. Akurra started out as a solid, but not terribly exciting option for the currently going Steam Next Fest, and now it’s currently my MVP. Sometimes you just need to give things a chance and see what sticks. For me, I am a sucker for puzzles, apparently. Really looking forward to its release in December.
Akurra has a demo you can play now on Steam. (Link under “Game Summary.”)
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Thank you for your time. Have a great timezone.