I feel it is safe to assume that you are probably a savvy video game player, therefore you have probably played the laser and mirror puzzle at least once. You know the one, a laser comes out of point A and you need to navigate all the obstacles in order to get it to point B. They tend to be either super easy or stupid hard and they tend to really break the pace of the game by making you suddenly need to give some thoughtful deliberation in your fast-paced action-adventure. Archaica: The Path of Light by Two Mammoths put that puzzle exactly where it belongs: in a puzzle game. This game is slow, deliberative, and challenging in the best ways. The only real problem I have is that the pace of the gameplay doesn't match the urgency of the story.
Archaica: The Path of Light is available on Steam starting on September 8.
You are The Chosen One, and have chosen to walk the Path of Light to help save the world from impending disaster. To tell you more would be to give spoilers. Not every puzzle game has a story and not every game needs a story. Fortunately, Archaica has not just a story, but a pretty good one. This is revealed as you play and find little bits and pieces of story as you progress through the levels. What you find is incredibly cryptic and occasionally hard to follow, but it has to do with the Gods and the Builders of this world. The story can be difficult to follow at times, but I guess if the game was straightforward that would kind of ruin the whole "Exploring and unraveling the secret ruins of a lost civilization" feeling. I do have a slight problem with the ending for reasons I'm going to need to tiptoe around. Let's just say that there isn't all that much resolution for the problem.
There is one aspect of the story I have a problem with. It isn't a problem with the story itself, which is rather good, but with where this story is. This is an apocalypse, an all-encompassing cataclysm that threatens to engulf this world. That's a big setup with a lot of urgency, but it never comes into play. Not even in a time trial option. You're a chosen one trying to save a planet, but apparently you can take your sweet time doing it. Again, this isn't a problem with the story as a whole, I just with that it came into play more.
The gameplay is both exceedingly simple and exceedingly difficult: Make the lasers go through all the crystals of corresponding color to open up the gateway. There is also an added spritz of one of those "I Spy" books with a few hidden goodies around the level. As time goes on and the levels get more challenging you need to utilize more tools, such as a portal, a beam splitter, and a color changer among others. You start off in the Circle of Attainment, then the world opens up. Of course, when I say "opens up" I mean "You can start your linear progression of worlds." You have five worlds to progress through, each one more difficult than the last. It's okay though, you can find charges to give you hints that will tell you where you should put things, though not what goes there. I can't help but appreciate a game whose hints aren't just giving you the solution. Sometimes you just want a little nudge in the right direction, and believe me you will need a few nudges. Or perhaps I'm just bad at puzzle games and/or I need to stop playing them at 1 in the morning
It's a very basic puzzle game, but there's nothing wrong with it and honestly, I think the beauty is in the simplicity. A puzzle game doesn't need a whole lot of unnecessary complications to be viable, they just need a solid core around which to build the rest of the game.
To track your achievements and progress, Archaica uses a device called The Totem. Everything you do unlocks something on the totem and the game promises more story on the world. I tried to get it all unlocked, but seeing as I needed a few hints I couldn't tell you what you get from that. The things you have to do include beating each of the realms, collecting bits of the Almanach, which is where you keep bits of the story and information on the pieces you use, and charges for clues. These are, at most, a little difficult to achieve. I'd describe it as only moderate difficulty except for the one that requires going without hints, that one is tricky. Don't think 100% completion will be too easy though because of what I'm going to go into next: The Stone Keys.
In addition to all of the puzzles and hidden objects, there are other puzzles around called Stone Keys. When you unlock these keys, you open a secret level that is a lot harder than the others but they also reveal a lot about the world. Even without the hidden levels, the stone keys themselves can be really hard to unlock. You don't get any hints for these either, so it's just you on your own to solve some of the hardest puzzles. Hard, but again, they're totally achievable. You just need to think a bit outside the box.
Graphics and audio
The graphics are nice, but very static. There is not a lot of movement in the graphics. That's fine, it's a slow-paced game, but it can occasionally be boring to look at. Pretty, but boring. You're always navigating around ruins, but the background is always very different. In one realm you'll be navigating a desert city, the next you'll be on an island, and in the next you'll be in a volcano.
The best word I can use to describe the audio would be "Meditative." It's very calm and serene, which, again, matches the slow pace of a puzzle game but not so much the story. The whole general ambiance is like you're trying to solve some sort of zen puzzle, which is a great way to go with a puzzle game but I just can't get over the fact that in all of this you're trying to save the world.
Even though the story seemed to clash with everything else, I do heartily recommend Archaica: The Path of Light to any fans of a good puzzle game. It has a good atmosphere, tough puzzles, and enough hidden stuff to make 100 percent achievement difficult without being frustrating. It has very accessible puzzles for beginners, really tough puzzles for veterans, and every middling difficulty for everyone in between. For a first game, I think it's really impressive. Good job, Two Mammoths. Your game has a bit of a tonal problem but the game itself stumped me quite a few times.
|+ Challenging puzzles||– Mismatched story and atmosphere|
|+ Great Ambiance||– Linear progression of levels|
|+ Intriguing Story|