I’m a fan of puzzles, whether they’re woven into the game as we see with every Artifex Mundi title, or used as the core gameplay mechanic as presented within Neverout. Sometimes it’s nice to see a game offer many puzzles within the gameplay that are all unique and vary in their delivery, yet it’s just as interesting to see how games can take a single idea and still keep you entertained and invested – Like Relicta with its magnets and The Sojourn with its statues. The Pillar: Puzzle Escape is a puzzle game that also has one puzzle mechanic, but does it provide enough variations to keep things fresh?
The Pillar: Puzzle Escape was developed by Paper Bunker, a developer who has created games on PC, Mobile and VR. My first question, when I started the game for the first time was, “why isn’t this game in VR?”. VR games are known to sacrifice texture detail in order to run smoothly, but with this game having simplistic textures and assets, it would have made a brilliant and very immersive relaxing PSVR title.
Eastasiasoft helped out with the console port, so that may be why it remained flat, but you never know – they did add in a feature within 48 hours of me requesting it the other day…
In 2016 we saw the release of a very colourful puzzle game known as The Witness, it looked very simplistic in its aesthetics but the gameplay was very cryptic and difficult. This was a game that took a single puzzle and managed to create around 650 unique puzzles by tweaking the mechanics and altering how you had to approach them. Why am I bringing up The Witness? Because The Pillar: Puzzle Escape has clearly taken a lot of inspiration from this game, from the colourful and simplistic design to the puzzles and atmosphere.
There is no story within the game, it’s described as an ‘arcade puzzle and room escape game’ on the developer’s website, a description I can’t argue with. The game spans eight levels, each with a number of colour-based puzzles, hidden photos, and some environmental puzzles to solve and find. After completing the game and obtaining the platinum (which you only have to complete half the game in order to achieve!), I came away having enjoyed my time yet feeling a little disappointed with the diversity of the puzzles on offer.
There are four main variants of the colour puzzles, each one is different and they do progressively get harder (especially the memory game), but I really wanted a few more twists on the mechanics, more environmental puzzles, and a more difficult experience. But, saying that, I let my mother play the game and she loved it as it wasn’t too hard nor too easy for her (she loves the Artifex Mundi games for the same reason). So, there is a target audience out there for the game, but it may not be for the die-hard puzzle enthusiasts. Let’s look into it a bit deeper…
When you name your game “The Pillar: Puzzle Escape” there’s two images that appear within your head; Pillars and Puzzles – thankfully this game has both in abundance! Your objective in each of the levels is to simply activate and solve the puzzles on the pillars, which are hidden underground, and collect all of the pieces of a torn-up photograph (optional). It sounds easy enough, and it mostly is. However, despite the puzzles being on the ‘easy side’ in most instances, each level will easily take you around 30-45 minutes to complete depending on if you wish to look for the collectables and how fast you can solve the puzzles.
Speaking of, what kind of puzzles will you face? The Witness presented us with a grid as you drew a line in various ways in order to connect two points or mimic things you see in the environment. The Pillar has you complete one of four puzzles which are presented upon a gird (similar to The Witness only you’re using the squares on the grid and not the lines) as well as looking at the environment for clues and solutions (insert “you can copy my homework but change it a little” meme here…)
• The main puzzle will be second nature to fans of the Artifex Mundi titles, as we’ve completed it many times over the years! You have a grid with multiple pairs of coloured squares. It’s your task to connect both blocks of the same colour together without crossing another colour, all whilst filling in every square on the grid.
• There’s another classic puzzle in which you have a starting point and you have to move into every square within the shaped grid without doubling back on yourself.
• Another puzzle is the popular sliding puzzle, where you slide a block around in order to colour in all blocks without landing on one that you’ve already coloured in.
• Finally, the memory puzzle shows you various lines being drawn on the graph like a game of Snake, you have to remember how they’re drawn and replicate them without making a mistake.
These are the four main ‘pillar’ puzzles but you’ll also encounter light-based puzzles and having to look around for combinations written on the walls and solutions to grid-based puzzles.
As a fan of puzzle games who dabbles in many games that feature similar puzzles to this game, I found the vast majority of the actual puzzles rather easy – especially the ‘connect the two colours’ puzzles. However, I had a lot of trouble with the memory ones as I’m terrible at remembering things – so trying to recall the two or three squiggles which were just drawn in front of me very fast was a struggle. However, I liked this as these were the hardest puzzles for me and they offered the most satisfaction upon completion.
I also found myself very confused and lost in level five. Now, in order to platinum the game you only have to complete the first four levels, but I wanted to carry on as I was enjoying myself – I regretted this the moment I encountered this new level though. I’m not going to give you the answer or ruin any of the puzzles, but if you decided to carry on playing after you got the platinum, look down for the answer ;).
The harder puzzles and more confusing levels which require you to look around and spot patterns and numbers on the walls, in order to solve keypad and picross-like puzzles, are the final four. However, you only need to complete the first four levels and collect the pictures to get the platinum. There will be some people out there who don’t care, they buy a game to play it and they’ll happily complete all of the levels due to how relaxing and enjoyable the game is to play. However, a lot of people on PlayStation and Xbox have become ‘obsessed’ with trophies, these people will grab the platinum/1000GS and then stop playing.
I personally have nothing against this, I just wish the game would reward those who continue playing to the end credits. It reminds me of Outcast: Second Contact – in that game you got the platinum just before you went off to defeat the final boss! This meant most people wouldn’t have even bothered playing the final hour and seeing the conclusion to the game, why continue playing if you’ve just got all the trophies?
Witness the beautiful visuals
Okay, I’ve mentioned the elephant in the room a few times but now we have to talk about it a little more. The Pillar: Puzzle Escape has leant heavily on The witness for all of its inspiration, from the puzzle format to the colourful visuals. The main difference here is that this game is presented in small enclosed ‘worlds’ which each have their own theme and designs, whereas The Witness was one massive open-world which locked out regions based on solving various puzzles and finding passageways into them.
I’m a massive fan of the visuals, everything is simplistic in design and very colourful, making it seem like you’re within a surreal dream world (albeit one which has you trapped until you solve various puzzles and open gateways). I found the game very relaxing as I casually walked around the various worlds looking for the torn pictures and solving the puzzles, my parents also felt the same when I let them play it on my old PS4 which I gave them last year. They’ve not played The Witness so they had nothing to compare this game to, so when asked what they thought about the visuals, they said it looked “lovely” and “very beautiful”.
In regards to the music, it has a nice soundtrack that offers relaxing tunes to further create a calm and casual atmosphere.
Should you buy The Pillar: Puzzle Escape? If you like The Witness but thought it was too hard, or you couldn’t be bothered solving all 650 increasingly difficult puzzles, then yes. If you like puzzle games, like the Artifex Mundi collections, and want a game you can casually play without a story (arcade style), then yes. If you’re looking for a game you can obtain the platinum trophy rather easily without the use of any guides, then yes. However, if you’re looking for a game as complex and difficult as The Witness with many, many variations on the core mechanic and very tricky to find solutions that require you to be very observant, then this will be too easy for you I imagine.
Although I obtained the platinum within around 2-3 hours of playing the game, I continued playing through the final four levels – something I strongly advise anyone who picks it up to also do. I know Switch gamers will probably do this more than others, due to the platform’s lack of trophy support, but you’re missing out on half the game and the trickier puzzles if you give up once the final trophy ‘dings’.
The one thing I wish The Pillar: Puzzle Escape included is support for PSVR. As I mentioned above, the quality of the game and the simplicity of the assets would allow this game to transition into VR quite easily whilst still retaining the same visual design and look. I would have loved to immerse myself as I walk around the world solving puzzles and looking for collectables. Maybe one day…
I just wanted to say thanks to Eastasiasoft and Paper Bunker for promptly adding a feature I requested a few days ago. When we got the game there was no invert y-axis option – there was an ‘invert controls’ option but that literally swapped the left and right thumbstick commands. Around 24-48 hours after I asked for the inclusion of the invert option, there was a patch for the game on the PS4 which added inverting support. I know some publishers and developers may be fed up with me bringing up things like missing subtitles and the invert either not working or not being there, but having the option is night and day for me as I literally can’t play games without it.
So, if the developers are reading this review, thank you for the prompt patch from all of us who play with an inverted y-axis!
The Pillar: Puzzle Escape is a colourful casual puzzle game with relaxing music and atmosphere. Although the puzzles don’t vary much from the mechanics you encounter in the first few levels, some of them do become trickier as you enter the final four levels. If looking to grab the platinum, you only need to complete the first four levels, but I strongly recommend playing through all eight in order to enjoy everything the game has to offer. PSVR support and more variations on the puzzles would have enhanced the overall experience, but those looking for a more relaxing and less stressful version of The Witness will surely enjoy this beautiful puzzle game.
The Pillar: Puzzle Escape£7.99
- - Very nice visual design, heavily influenced by The Witness
- - The music creates a calm and relaxing atmosphere, allowing you to casually solve the puzzles
- - It's an easy platinum which only requires you to complete half the game, but if you continue then the puzzles become trickier and more satisfying to complete
- - Each of the levels have their own visual design
- - The game now has an 'invert y-axis' option
- - Although the game does introduce new mechanics and ways to solve the puzzles, there isn't a lot of variation
- - Despite having an easy platinum, it also feels like you're not rewarded for actually completing the game
- - The game is a little short (depending on your skill level), but I still feel it's worth the asking price
- - Not a negative but I would have loved PSVR support