Lost in Space
Stranded on a research ship drifting in space you must find a way to unlock the cockpit to free the pilot if you have any hope of survival. Your only chance rest in your ability to activate the anchors which power the areas. Do you have what it takes to solve 300+ puzzles needed to escape this situation?
Filament from Beard Envy (no relation) is a sci-fi puzzler that challenges the mind as well as your patience. The voice of Juniper serves as your main conduit to understanding what is really going on in this story-driven puzzle game. Casual puzzle gamers be warned this may not be for you. From a gameplay perspective at its core, Filament task you the player with exploring the ship finding “Anchor” points which are elaborate puzzles based on wrapping your light filament around posts ala the Tron cycles. You cannot cross your own path so it is imperative that you think your paths out. Starting off relatively easy the game ramps up the challenge as you move from Anchor to anchor restoring power throughout the ship.
A lesson in geometry wars
The initial stages will have you solving some simple wrap this post and double back here style puzzles before descending into maddening levels of difficulty. Later stages will even have you operating two sets of robots with different lines and colours. While on the surface this sounds simple enough, the intricate level design finds a way of complicating things in every room. The actual level geometry will be your best friend and worst enemy as you navigate tight corridors. While paths may seem obvious at first once you begin winding your cord around and realising that you can only light a post by approaching from a specific angle which you have cut off. Thankfully you can quickly rewind your actions to give it a go from any point of your run or even just reset the screen by holding the ‘B’ button.
The previously mentioned difficulty will turn a lot of people off and thankfully the devs have seen fit to give you the ability to jus return to the ship by holding ‘X’. This brings you back to the hub where you are free to roam the ship and tackle any of the puzzles you have yet to conquer. This little touch helps push back the burnout that can set in when you spend close an hour racking your brain attempting to finalise an Anchor.
All movement is tied to your thumbstick and is everything you’d expect it to be. When wandering the ship you will stumble across propaganda from the Filament corporation as well as ID cards that can help you unlock data encryption within the computer terminals which will give you even more insight into the goings-on of the ship. No spoilers here, but rest assured the story is steeped in mystery and intrigue. The payoff didn’t fully live up to the expectations after the hours upon hours of puzzle-solving but it is an engaging tale nonetheless.
The audio is the real star of this title.
The story when not delivered through the computer terminals or printed materials is expertly delivered via voice work from Juniper, the pilot locked away in the cockpit. She serves as the sole interaction you have with any sentient being in this dizzying array of puzzles and intrigue. While coming off as sweet and naive at first she is clever and not as forthcoming as you may imagine. The music absolutely dazzles. The soft atmospheric tones swell at the appropriate times and help relax you as you reset a stage for the 20th time. Equal parts moody the score is easily one of the best out there, not in variety but in practical execution and use.
Visually, Filament checks all the boxes. The ship itself looks crisp albeit a touch blurry when in handheld mode. But compliments must be paid for the legible text even in handheld. The puzzle environments themselves are dark but that is offset with the warm glow when the posts illuminate bringing the area to life. The majority will be the standard white light, but before long you will be dealing in multicolours adding a new layer of charm to the darkness.
This added colour is also where some of the niggles can found. Puzzle games by their very nature are meant to challenge the mind. Unfortunately, the rules of engagement are not always clear. In one room you may need to avoid transitioning your colour cord until all of one colour is illuminated while another may have you interchanging colours to create pseudo patterns. Further, into the game, you will even have posts that require multiple passes which while easily done is not initially spelled out. As previously mentioned, this is not for the casual puzzle gamer. While never to the point of rage quitting, thanks to the excellent score, most obstacles were completed after a brief walk away from the game to just breathe and recharge.
Filament is by no means going to win over any new puzzle gamers. The inherent difficulty makes completing each of the Anchors a satisfying victory and worth all the time invested. The story, which we avoided spoiling, is competent and engaging but does feel a little shallow in the payoff. That said if you fancy yourself a puzzle enthusiast Filament is an absolute must for your collection that will reward you with its sheer volume and challenge.
Review code provided
Platform: PC, Nintendo
Release Date: 08/10/2020
No. of Players: 1
Developer: Beard Envy
Download link: US eShop / UK eShop