Overcome trauma in this imaginative little adventure.
So many fairytales and children’s stories are full of trauma. Figment begins with a car crash before delving into the mind of a child suffering the after effects of depression. Yet through this darkness there’s a message of hope – a wake up call for children and adults alike.
You’d be forgiven for thinking Figment was a Media Molecule game, with developers Bedtime Digital Games having a similar ideology of creativity. Each highly detailed level takes us to a different area of the mind, following pencil paths through the Cerebrum City, the musical creativity of the Freedom Isles and the mechanical logic of Clockwork Town. It unfolds like a storybook in soft pastel shades with hints of Tim Burton weirdness, from the musical script to the nightmarish enemies – not to mention a particularly terrifying spider boss.
Our hero is Dusty, the courage of the mind personified. He is a gruff old man upset about his lost scrapbook who just wants to settle in his rocking chair and sip on a cold cider. He’s a relatable character but he’s soon thrust on a journey through the mind to solve puzzles and battle taunting creatures, all accompanied by a typically irritating bird sidekick Piper. The script is a mixed bag of terrible puns and clever wordplay, while the beautifully breezy tunes make way for jarring rock music during boss fights.
Most of the adventure is spent solving puzzles. Some are a little obtuse, but mostly these are satisfying challenges. Collect coloured batteries to mobilise machinery and create new paths; turn fans to blow away plagues of fog; plant seeds to grow shoots to access new areas; push heavy blocks on to weights and light pathways in the correct order; guide literal trains of thought. It’s simple stuff that does begin to get tedious, exacerbated by Dusty’s slow running speed, but entering each new area brings wonder and delight. There are optional memories to collect, too, that provide an extra challenge and flesh out the narrative.
Combat, by comparison, is shallow. Dusty can roll to dodge attacks and swing a sword to attack – holding the button allows for a charged version. There are only a few enemy types, though, and wildly swinging the sword works well enough, especially when the isometric camera occasionally obscures the view. To rid the mind of fear, though, the nightmares must be destroyed – boss battles that are more puzzles than fights. These are the best moments of Figment that bring all its elements together: using the environment in clever ways while dodging attacks, all the while being taunted in rhyme.
This short little adventure is sometimes laborious, but it’s all so charmingly presented that any flaws are easily forgiven. Its diorama levels are artfully designed, its mindful ideas smartly implemented, its subtext subtly underplayed. Figment’s aesthetic is as imaginative as its name suggests, with a thoughtful and uplifting view on mental health – a game that will put your mind to the test in more ways than one.