Chaos Between the Lines
There are so many little rituals that the human mind goes through before it is content. Be it triple checking the oven is off, making sure you turn off all those plugs, or a child searching under their bed when they’re scared at night – we take joy in the ritual. A Little to the Left is a product of those feelings, and it captures that joy surprisingly well.
It’s not a game that’s overly complex or hard to understand, often relying on our innate instincts. If you see a picture frame off-center, you must fix it. This methodical behavior gives it a setup that is quick, fast, and constantly moving. It’s slow enough to be relaxing yet quick enough to keep you moving.
A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words
Though there isn’t all that much of a story, it would be unfair to say there isn’t a lot of writing in A Little to the Left. What you go from it will likely depend on how you view your progress through the game. There’s a structure to the way levels play out and evolve but you are never really following a linear story.
Luckily, this allows the gameplay to shine. Though you start out moving picture frames and lining up pencils, the puzzles start to get more esoteric the further you get on. They turn from simply aligning things by size to figuring out the best pattern to display all your little books.
This is until your cat comes along. With a small furry paw, they ruin all your hard work. You are left scrambling to fix the mess they’ve caused. There’s a certain symbiosis to this too. After they pull a table off-screen, you have to wait for them to pull it back – an awareness of the comfort that chaos can sometimes cause.
The game is both a celebration of order and an acknowledgment of the chaos needed to really live our lives. It’s an exercise in being okay with yourself when you can’t fix everything. Your cat, a faithful companion, doesn’t intend to ruin your perfect little setup but we have to accept the chaos they cause to accept them.
For this chaos to really thrive, you need order. Luckily, A Little to the Left has a wonderful aesthetic and tone. Filled with bright colors, it often feels like the cover of a book – an illustration touching at something deeper. Everything is clean and well put together, allowing you space to play between those lines.
In turn, the music is calming and joyous, somewhere between a lullaby and an orchestra. It uses pizzicato strings, light synth, and percussion to give a presence that is both warm and ethereal. The game uses a lot of sound cues, from the cat purring to a slight ding every time you land an item in the right place. This does mean those without sound may struggle a little more but it’s not a particularly hard game to get through.
Through its visuals and sound, the cat is both the most joyous and more frantic part of the game, a feeling familiar to any cat owner. Unfortunately, where the game is let down somewhat is in the volume and solution to some of its puzzles. Where most fit the style and feel of the game, some of them engage in a little too much trial and error to really nail the satisfaction of earlier levels.
Challenges get more abstract, fitting shapes or colors together in specific ways. When you get it, everything feels great. When you don’t, things just feel a little off. The game celebrates the weirdness of human brains but often doesn’t do quite enough to cater to the many ways that we get satisfaction. Some levels could benefit from more ways to play them and not doing so betrays some of its own internal logic.
It does have some robust alternate ways to complete puzzles but it would be nice to see a little more here. If you ever get stuck, it has a hint system, where you can use a rubber to rub out some drawings to find out how to solve it. A better middle ground sits here, something hinting at the right solution without outright stating it. Alternate solutions do give some reason to play the game again but it feels more rigid on second look.
Just a Little Extra
In order to keep you coming back and playing, A Little to the Left has a “Daily Tidy”, a new challenge every day based on previous levels. It is an interesting idea but basing it on previously finished levels leaves it feeling a little subdued. The blistering creativity of the main game feels like an afterthought in perhaps of replayability. The idea is certainly there but it doesn’t compare to the focus of the main game.
A Little to the Left is a genuine joy to play that manages to capture a feeling that many have felt but few have expressed in game form. I did leave the experience wishing for a little more but what I got was a delight.
Disclaimer: Secret Mode provided the game used for this review.
This review is the critique and thoughts of one writer. If you want to see how other critics felt then check it out on OpenCritic.
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