By Ronald Gordon
Are the old days of computer Flash games coming to an end or are mobile and consoles platforms helping them evolve?
Marker Limited’s Samsara, which I played on the Xbox One, is a single player platforming game featuring the story of the Zee, who stumbles into the mysterious realm of Samsara through a portal. Things only get more difficult from there as Zee, who appears as a little boy in a red hoodie with a teddy bear backpack, now has to find his way out of Samsara through a series of puzzles and levels. Each puzzle gives you a set of wooden blocks to use to build pathways and it’s up to you to find a way to help Zee reach his portal.
However, this isn’t your simple run-of-the-mill puzzle game because Samsara has a special feature that is used in every level. Every level is split in half – above ground and an upside down world below. The line between them acts as one way mirror. So blocks placed on one side of the mirror are reflected to the other side. The function of mirror physics only make the game more challenging. As you progress as later on, Zee’s soul gets split in half and you’ll have to find a way to get both halves to their own portal.
Samsara reminds me a lot of the Flash games that used to be prominent on the Internet, Flash games that you’d play in secret in the computer lab when your teacher wasn’t looking. They were always super fun and Samsara definitely gave me a nice touch of nostalgia. A game that reminded me of Samsara is Fireboy and Watergirl, where there are two controllable characters who both have their own exits within the level.
But Samsara lost the luster after the first couple chapters, at least in my case, since there isn’t any background music in any level. So it’s all just ambient forest sounds like birds chirping, wind blowing through the leaves, crickets and etc. I need more to keep my attention.
Another issue? There are no obvious hints for you should do and you’re just dropped into a level with some blocks and an objective. I’m not saying that the answer should be completely revealed to me. But if I’ve been stumped for a good five minutes, the least you can do is tell me which way a block should go.
The art style, however, is very pretty as the forests and different levels are beautifully animated. The levels even have little leaves that fall and background elements like various animals or trees moving with the wind. You can tell the creators put thought and feeling into the art and that’s what kept me along for the ride. When it’s working well, Samsara can feel like a unique and intriguing game. If you want to experience what it would be like to play a Flash game on your console and I would recommend it to anyone who wants to pass the time with a good but not amazing puzzle game.
Ronald Gordon is one of our new New York Videogame Critics Circle interns from a partnership with the DreamYard Prep School in the Bronx.