Obduction, a puzzle experience from Cyan Inc is almost a fantastic game. The game is very much worth experiencing, but don’t feel bad if you abandon it part way through. It leaves a lot to be desired with regards to its puzzle construction and could well leave the player feeling more frustrated than enlightened. The gradually revealed story provides an intriguing base for the player to move through, however, this is partially ruined by puzzles that seem largely contrived and lazily designed, very much enforcing the sentiment of ‘why am I bothering doing this?’.
At the start of Obduction, you find yourself transported to what appears to be another planet. The apparently human built settlement you ‘land’ in is initially completely devoid of other life and you are left to piece together clues as to what this place is, where the people are, and why you are here. Along the way you must solve puzzles in order to open doors and progress in order to complete the long term goal of escaping.
Unfortunately much of the playtime in Obduction is marred by random invisible walls throughout the levels and, above all, by puzzles that leave the player feeling generally frustrated and un-rewarded. Many of the puzzles are simply a case of finding the right thing to do, the thing you’re trying to do, or trekking around the map to activate certain things to do the thing you’re trying to do. They don’t feel like puzzles, but more like chores. The characters movement does often jar the player out of immersion via obstacles such as randomly getting stuck on tiny rocks or not being able to jump off objects that really aren’t very high. Simple little things that leave the movement around the levels feeling rather unnatural and, frankly, quite frustrating. Having to go all the way around an object you should simply be able to hop over takes an unnecessarily long time and merely drags out sections of the game that should be much faster. It feels a shame to have a game that’s so visually interesting with a story that’s so potentially intriguing only for it to be slowed down pointlessly by less than interesting puzzles. The transition scenes between game areas are also somewhat awkward. There is a mechanic that allows you to essentially teleport to different regions. While teleporting the game screen becomes a large number of colored dots which is rather visually confusing and will tank your frames per second on almost any system; a potential oversight on the developers part. Yes it looks sort of pretty but it does cause the game performance to suffer.
Visually, Obduction features absolutely nothing to complain about. The setting is fascinating and the graphics bring it to life in a wonderful fashion with a superb mix of color and some truly fantastic set pieces. The world leaves you genuinely interested to look around and explore (aside from the puzzles barring your ability to move around more easily). A fair bit of time can be spent simply wandering around and taking in the scenery.
For the most part the in-game music fits the game very well. However, the music does seem to drop out every so often, detracting from the atmosphere and leaving the game feeling suddenly empty which is something of a shame, but not a massive issue as the music throughout the game as a whole is very pleasant. In-game sound effects are well done and fit in excellently with the environment. At no point do the game sounds come across as jarring or immersion breaking.
The UI is very basic and clearly designed so it offers minimal visual intrusion in the game. The menus are also very simple and easy to navigate while offering a sufficient number of options with regards to visuals and sound.
On the whole, Obduction is worth playing. It has a lot of offer but falls short on its puzzles sadly, leaving the player with an experience that feels more sluggish than it really should.