I must admit, I knew nothing about The Pillar: Puzzle Escape before stepping into its bright, abstract world. I had never heard of it until a review was offered and I had a quick glance over the eerie trailer. The first thing that struck me was how much it looked like The Witness, an indie puzzle game from Jonathon Blow which released in 2016. I was one of the few people I know that loved that game so I was intrigued to see what this game had to offer.
Upon starting up The Pillar: Puzzle Escape, the similarities between it and the aforementioned title became more and more apparent. That, unfortunately, will be a running theme in this review. Anyone who has played The Witness will know what I mean. In The Pillar: Puzzle Escape you are moving, slowly through seven or so stages, solving square puzzles to unlock doors and progressing to the next stage. It is by no means as deep or as open as The Witness but that is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, this game enticed my family to play it with me which never would have happened with The Witness. It’s easier going, more inclusive and the more manageable gameplay is never detrimental to its overall experience.
Shake Loose That Grey Matter
Over the course of this compact game, you are taught four quite similar puzzle types. These puzzles get slightly harder the more you progress and are a mixture of memory, pathfinding and sliding challenges. They all fit into a tile made of squares and all only take an attempt or two to complete. Interspersed with these puzzles are combination locks, switches, a few collectables and other minor puzzles to complete but nothing is ever too taxing or frustrating in any way. While I definitely preferred The Witness overall, this factor is definitely more enjoyable with The Pillar. I know for a fact, my kids and family would have never got on with The Witness and even I often pulled my hair out playing it. We had no such issues with The Pillar and it was a smoother adventure for all involved.
The Pillar is a very chilled, relaxing experience. The music, the easy-going puzzles and the simple level layouts gave the game a warm, relaxing feeling that everyone in my house found very soothing. It was nice to see everyone huddled around the TV, trying to solve puzzles together. It’s the first game in a while, perhaps since Astrobot, that drew everyone together to play. It’s a nice feeling that I don’t think we get enough of with video games these days.
A Pleasant Distraction
The visuals in The Pillar are good, nothing to write home about but pleasant enough. They are bright, vivid and do draw you into the world you are in. If you do look too closely though you will start to notice imperfections. The odd jagged edge or bad texture here and there but nothing too drastic and you do have to really look for them. Overall, the art direction is good and fits the game well. On the musical side, I loved the soundtrack to this title, its soft melodic tones perfectly accompany the gameplay and slowly caress you onto the game’s conclusion.
I was playing the game on the PlayStation 5 through backwards compatibility and even with the extra grunt, I did get the odd framerate drop here and there. Nothing game-breaking but it is certainly noticeable. After a while, I stopped noticing and it did not detract from our fun playing the game. This is easily fixable with a patch or two, don’t let it it sway you on buying the game or not as it is nothing major and I had zero other bugs or performance issues at all while playing.
Somewhere Nice To Escape To
All in all, I liked what The Pillar: Puzzle Escape had to offer. It only took us about 4 or 5 hours to complete and we did it all in one sitting. It will take me a few more to get all the trophies but I am happy to do that. I hate to keep referring to The Witness but the game similarities are uncanny. While I did prefer The Witness overall, I did enjoy the more streamlined, chilled experience that this game to offer, especially if it gets my kids involved and works their brains a little. The Pillar will not change the world but it is certainly a nice distraction and at this point in time, we all certainly need one!