Light up all the bulbs with this challenging puzzler
I judge puzzle games by how stupid I feel when playing them, and trust me when I say Filament is the exact definition of that.
Filament is hard, that’s a fact. It’s a testament to age-old puzzlers of yore that built themselves around a single mechanic. You’re an astronaut stranded on the Alabaster, a spaceship with a missing crew on lockdown. Along the way you complete puzzles taking place within various power terminals throughout the ship, while also communicating with Juniper, the pilot, as you unravel the mystery of what happened to the ship and save your own skins.
These puzzles have you guiding a little robotic bulb (the eponymous Filament) through a series of complex rooms. The robot has a cable attached to it that unwinds with every step, which will wrap around different objects in the environment. It’s up to you to wrap that wire between several pillars to light them up in sequence, and once each one has been lit, you can proceed to the next area. In many ways, it feels like a natural evolution of EA’s Unravel, which also featured a cute small character using threads of fibre to complete puzzles.
Don’t cross the streams
It’s simple at first; the starting rooms have you completing puzzles that are rather straightforward to complete. I did these with no real error, but the complications set in around my third puzzle chamber. New elements were introduced, such as having to match up coloured pillars or avoiding certain ones that cancel your power line.
You’re unable to cross the cables too, meaning you’re instead thinking tactically about which order to light the nodes up. You can’t just simply step over a cable, you can’t make a wrong move, or you’re stuck in a dead-end. Even when something looks good on paper, you try it out, and it blows up in your face. This proved to be the most stress-inducing aspect of my
playthrough and caused many headaches trying to solve, even spending an hour on just one room.
That’s quite the genius of Filament though. It basically takes a single style of puzzle but consistently iterates on it so that no two rooms feel the same. It’s steady enough to help give the puzzler a unique identity but never feels repetitive or boring. It also helps that there isn’t a sole route through the story, with many puzzles able to be completed out of sequence. Stuck on a
certain stage and you can quit and try elsewhere. It solves the absolute headache of not being able to progress at all in a puzzle game due to becoming trapped in one particular area.
Not just a pretty face
These segments are also broken up with exploration and story, which is also a huge part of Filament. As you explore the Alabaster, you come across computer terminals which provide additional information on the plot and setting, often also accompanied by Juniper’s comedic dialogue. There are crew logs, records and personal items that all aid in building the bigger
picture for you. It’s not the main focus of the game, but it indulges players who take a more curious approach to stories with a deeper mystery.
This is all pieced together by a soft 3D art style that calls back to classic puzzlers such as Portal and Polarity. Although played from a top-down view, the details are as rich and crisp as they need to be, letting you drink in the atmosphere from a disconnected perspective. It also helps the puzzle areas in a practical sense, with every node and object being presented in a clear,
accessible manner. This can sometimes be a problem for some top-down indie titles, but there was never a moment where I felt stuck because I couldn’t figure out what I was seeing on the screen.
Atmospheric is the appropriate word here. Filament is a fun puzzle game full of character and has a light-hearted presentation. But it’s still a story about a missing space crew and can take on more serious tones when it needs to. Although it’s just a hands-on preview, for now, I was very impressed by what I played. It’s well-paced; hard but not completely unfair. You won’t exactly be tearing out your hair, but it will provide a reasonable difficulty curve. And while a little rough around the edges, the repeated use of a single puzzle lends itself comfortably to the identity it wants to go for and builds up the potential for a timeless creation.