Adventure puzzler Figment’s visuals are a delight, but its lead is insufferable (review)

Figment is an adventure puzzle game that takes place all in the mind to tell a different kind of story in a storybook art design. Retired hero Dusty attempts to bring peace back to the mind in a tale that explores a vision of the brain that doesn’t get a lot of attention.

It’s All In The Mind

Figment’s location is perhaps one of its more interesting aspects. Following a short cutscene about a family road trip, the game then enters the mind of one of its members. It never directly states which family member’s brain the player is in. It could be that of the parents, the child or the collective minds of everyone. The ambiguity makes it easier to be personally attached to the game. That being said, the mind itself is beautifully crafted. Each locale within it is molded to reflect the idea of that part of the mind. For instance, the creative part of the brain features instruments and nature in order to evoke a sense of peace and free flowing thought.

The game pulls from actual brain biology to help with gameplay elements. Endorphins provide health and synapse help to form the stages themselves. Figment’s dedication to making the game feel like it takes place in a brain is commendable.

Figment of the Grand Picture

The story follows the retiree Dusty and his bird companion Piper as they try to bring peace back to the mind. Following an accident, Dusty is recruited back into heroism by his old boss Mayor Relic. The mind has recently suffered a trauma, and now Dusty must defeat the nightmares in order to save the mind. It has all the makings of most other blockbuster games that have come out in recent years but with one caveat, Dusty is insufferable and feels out of place. The other characters such as Mayor Relic or Piper all have a sense of agency to their characters. Dusty is in it only for what boils down to revenge, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t grow.

The course of the story does have him undergo a character arc, but it feels like Dusty is fighting it. His dialog makes him feel like some hardened old soldier, but it only does a disservice to the game. Mayor Relic speaks in rhymes and it adds to the cuteness of the game, but that doesn’t really undercut it like Dusty does. Even the enemies you face often break into song, but they feel more like an extension of their personalities.

The story is compelling once you get past Dusty. It offers interesting takes on mental health and dealing with the various traumas that plague the human mind. The game never felt like it was being preachy, and this is a really hard act to balance when you take into account everything from the characters to even the level design.

Puzzles Galore

A part of Figment’s charm lies in its puzzles. Each level is made up of a few of these, and clearing them is the only way to progress. The problem lies in the execution. The puzzles themselves aren’t bad, but the controls leave something to be desired. Navigating the world feels a little sluggish, and it doesn’t help that Dusty jogs pretty slowly and rolls on slightly faster. Even the combat, which has him swinging a wooden sword, doesn’t feel rewarding. The swings are slow and even when charged feel just a time bit off with how they connect. In addition to that, managing your items feels vague, and contextual actions give you the sense that you know what they do. Aside from that, the puzzles themselves feel simple and don’t require any intense overthinking.

Final Reaction

Figment definitely is a unique game. Its approach to brain biology, mental health and psychology work together brilliantly. Unfortunately, because they’re stuck with a weak protagonist and subpar controls, the game itself feels less than perfect. The subject matter of the game remains superb, however. With minor tweaks to the main character, the game could be truly phenomenal.

Ultimately I’m torn. The story at face value feels dull, but this doesn’t mean that the game is bad. It’s lacking a certain spark but the subject matter of the game is still engrossing. The symbolism in the game is superb. From the locations of the brain to the character designs, Figment has a lot offer and I feel that the ideas it brings to the table will be enjoyable for most people even with its flaws.

Rating: 3.5/5 Atoms

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