A music action-adventure set in the recesses of the human mind.
This is how Bedtime Digital Games describe their new game Figment: if you are familiar with Back to Bed, an adorable puzzle game about guiding a sleepwalking man safely back to his bed, you will quickly see the resemblance. (If the title of the game sounded familiar, you probably remember Chris’ preview here).
The first thing that hits you when entering the game is its gorgeous hand-drawn art style, which was one of the most prominent qualities of its predecessor as well. Starting with a pretty little house, we meet our protagonist Dusty, a careless and pessimistic character, who doesn’t care much for anybody or anything. His companion, the bird Piper, works as great opposition to him – cheery, optimistic, and creating bad puns all day long. Well, perhaps some of them are clever, I guess.
Dusty’s scrapbook is stolen by a dark, sullen creature – and we learn later it’s a manifestation of a nightmare. Dusty’s mind is set on getting it back, no matter the cost, and Piper chirps that “something is wrong with the mind,” and that we need to fix it; as a kind of foreboding to what this whole ordeal is about. And so the story begins, as we venture into the imaginations of the mind.
The game uses some interesting terminology; some of which might seem familiar, but on a very different subject than video games; neurology. Collect endorphins so that the “brain will turn back into yourself again in no time,” pulling you out of whatever it is that’s holding you down. Killing nightmares are a way to release these endorphins – which makes perfect sense since endorphins are basically the stuff that makes you happy. One can also collect endurance neurons, which is basically health points. The game also creates new words such as the “remembrane” – which is a ball of light that represents forgotten memories. They can be collected throughout the game and are also a part of restoring your mind.
The terminology is there for a reason; as the game world itself is a manifestation of the brain, Dusty and Piper has to traverse through the different parts of the brain in order to fight the different nightmares. The right side of the brain is the creative side, and the scenery adjusts accordingly, with instruments decorated as flowers, creating an absurd yet playful atmosphere. The logical part of the brain, on the other hand, is filled with cogs and clocks, with darker colours. There are really interesting concepts concerning the brain that make it into the game, such as the “train of thoughts” which is an object used to solve some of the puzzles in the logical part of the brain. Very well done by the developers – very clever indeed!
The puzzles get more extensive as you proceed in the game, meaning you need to look around everywhere, backtracking and so on. Some of the puzzles that look dimensional like this remind me of the indie game Monument Valley. However, the puzzles are not too hard, which I liked. I am a fan of progress in games and appreciate not having to be stuck on a puzzle for a longer period of time.
The majority of the game is about solving puzzles, but there’s also a bit about battling enemies or so-called nightmares. In terms of gameplay, Figment shows how the hack ‘n’ slash element can be implemented into a relaxing game successfully. It is simple and straightforward – and patience is key when it comes to defeating your enemies. The nightmares come in the form of human fears, such as disease, spiders, etc, which is interesting, because they are both rational and irrational fears – applying to both parts of the brain!
It is clear that Figment is a game that focuses on its musical prowess. And with good reason, too. I loved the sound design in this title. The music changes depending on where you are in the brain and which nightmare you are fighting. The instruments that play in the soundtrack are blended into the scenery in a very beautiful way, and one can clearly see how essential music is to the ethos of this game. It gets better: during the boss encounters they sing songs to you – about what they are, and why they are frightening. The songs are catchy and fun – I really enjoyed them for this reason alone.
Figment offers a unique soundtrack, with specially designed songs – if there ever exists a vinyl of the music, be sure to send it my way, okay? Just sayin’.
Though the game doesn’t contain that much action, it sure is a fantastic adventure game. The levels are imaginative, and gorgeous in an absurd kind of way. Moreover, the way Figment chooses to deal with the distress of the mind is fascinating, and very well done.
As of this moment, the game is only available on Mac, PC, and Linux. Hopefully, it will be available on Xbox, PS4 and Switch soon, because more people definitely need to play this.
All in all, this is an extremely charming game, and is definitely worth checking out if you’re looking to relax and have a good time. Figment is a nod towards awareness around mental health, even though it is perhaps more concealed than other games.