Figment is created by Bedtime Digital Games, indie developers from Denmark, who had worked on games like Back to Bed and Chronology. The title is another surrealist puzzler in their portfolio, displaying their signature style of hand-drawn landscapes and thought-provoking narrative. Surrealist indie puzzle-adventures have been able to gain cult status – the point-and-click favorite Machinarium comes to mind – which Figment’s themes and presentation have the potential to reach.
Figment is available on Steam, GOG, Play Store, App Store, Playstation 4 and Nintendo Switch.
STORY – THE STUFF OF CHILDHOOD DREAMS (AND NIGHTMARES)
Figment begins with a grey world and a car accident. And then suddenly you are pulled into the strange world – little floating islands built and connected with scraps of real-life items. It makes you uneasy to think how these two worlds are related to each other. But as Dusty’s story presses on and you collect fragments of mysterious memories, bits and pieces start to link up and help you put together a heartwarming story and message about dealing with trauma. By the end of the game, the touching end may help you realize some things you are holding back in the real world.
The game’s presentation of the story is straightforward. You delve into the deep recesses of the mind in an effort to stop a Nightmare that holds the past (which is represented by a scrapbook) hostage. You come across some silly yet scary enemies, knock on citizen’s doors for morsels of philosophy, and fiddle with the wacky environment. From the Outer Cerebrum to the Pathway, the landscape itself is a character that reveals a lot about the person whose mind you are exploring.
Piper is the bird that tags along and acts as your exposition fairy. She does a fair bit of connecting you to the story, such as urging you on to face your fears. However, she also has the unfortunate tendency of over-explaining the game world, which works best discovered by the player. Dusty and Piper do have a great dynamic that aside from pushing the narrative forward, lightens up the progressively dark themes that you encounter in the game. If you were also battling through a hostile environment, I’m sure you’d appreciate some light and funny banter in between!
GAMEPLAY – BRAINS AND BRAWN REQUIRED HERE
Dusty picks up a sword early in this adventure. Combat is plain and you know the two main moves right off the bat. It is largely unchanged throughout the duration of the game. Its implementation felt a little tacked-on to me, with random encounters that don’t really add to the game. I think the game has a greater appeal to the point-and-click rather than the action-adventure crowd, so while the battle encounters and boss battles were decent fun, they didn’t feel integrated into the flow of the game.
The game had previously been on a variety of platforms and is now available on mobile. The virtual buttons worked well and were placed ergonomically on the screen. There were sections of the game where especially with the moving platforms I had a hard time distinguishing the edges I can climb on and hop off. The difficulty may have been a combination of the slippery touch joystick and the art style of the entire game. Other than that, control worked just fine.
The puzzles were typical of the point-and-click genre, and some sections can actually be a real challenge. It’s necessary to explore every part of the stage to progress forward, which involves some backtracking. The way that the puzzles involve the entire environment is a great integration, and you really feel like you are interacting with fleshed-out scenes. While many beautiful games choose to leave their background art alone, Figment makes sure you pay attention to the entire world.
Your sword does have a new role and comes in use as you whack a few things to solve some puzzles. However, the solutions revolving around batteries, bridges, and elevators did wear on after a while. The game tries to keep the challenges fresh in each new stage, but the pick-up-this-item-and-put-it-here nature of most of puzzles felt repetitive.
One puzzle that leans into the musical theme – for the worse – is the challenge in the middle of the game that requires players to use their ear to “tune” each instrument and properly mesh the song together. I’ve never been a fan of those kinds of puzzles, and it could be an issue for disabled players, no-rhythm players, or even players who don’t have good sound hardware.
There is a fair number of collectibles and achievements in the game. The plot-important memories are pretty easy to miss while you’re going through the entire main adventure, so a lot of backtracking will be required. How much you love the art of this game will be put to the test if you want to reach 100% completion.
Depending on whether or not you’re interested in achievements and total completion, Figment can take anywhere from 3 to 5 hours to complete.
AUDIO AND GRAPHICS – THE STUFF OF CHILDHOOD DREAMS (AND NIGHTMARES)
I will admit the first thing that made me want to play Figment is because of its art direction. The landscape reminded me of Salvador Dalí or Vladimir Kush paintings. It straddled the line between surreal and kitsch, a balance of silly and serious that really added to the whole experience. As your progress through the levels, you will also notice a shift from the bright sunny palette to a darker atmosphere. The game is also smart about its representations which you can pick up on – for example, Freedom Isles and Clockwork Town constitute the regular right and left brain that we know about.
Figment was described as a “musical action-adventure,” and it did not disappoint in this regard. Not just in the soundtrack arena, but in the overall sound design of the game. The voice acting and the singing villains were great performances that really fleshed out the characters and plot. I was bopping my head from the funky rhymes to the sentimental vocals, from the gentle background music to the boss theme’s thrashing guitars. I enjoyed several tracks down the road, and It won’t surprise me if I pop on the OST to accompany me while I work.
Figment was reviewed on mobile with a key provided by Bedtime Digital Games.