Heavenly Bodies Review
Heavenly Bodies is one of those small, delightful gems of a game that remind me of the powers of the indie marketplace. 2pt Interactive’s physics-based puzzle game is focused, gorgeous and often infuriating. However, using a clear theme and setting to add depth and complexity to what, on the surface, look like simple challenges, Heavenly Bodies reimagines what, and how, a puzzle game can be played.
Heavenly Bodies follows either one or a pair of cosmonauts having to complete a series of tasks in space. The first and most obvious sign that you are in for a good time with Heavenly Bodies is within its art and sound design. This gentle, minimalist art design paired alongside an abstract score and cold war UI aesthetic is clean and immediately sets a clear and succinct theming for each of the games various challenges.
What’s startling about the challenges of Heavenly Bodies, which can be adjusted depending on your own personal needs/desires, is that it doesn’t necessarily come from the puzzles themselves. At the beginning of each of the levels, you are handed a guidebook which, by and large, tells you what you need to do, with the exact instructions to complete each puzzle, presented as what I imagine an Ikea instruction manual in the 70s would have looked like. These directions are clean, succinct and easy to understand. There are other optional challenges scattered throughout each level to busy the mind of the more abstract thinker, but having the core goal spelled out so clearly allows for the true challenge of Heavenly Bodies to stand, or float, on its own two feet.
As one would imagine from a game set in space, our Heavenly Bodies float around each level within a gravity-free vacuum. The player has control over the arms, legs and hands of the cosmonaut in a micro-movement mechanics set akin to QWOP or Manual Samuel. But whereas those games lose a lot of their charm past the first 10 minutes of attempts, hanging their hats on the novelty of movement alone, Heavenly Bodies does such a great job of making the micro-mechanics make sense within its world so that said novelty never wears off, in part due to having the aforementioned instructions there for reference at all times.
Like a shooting star
Instead of trying to figure out what obscure MacGuffin you need to manipulate to complete the goal, you know exactly what you need to do. Discovering how you do that is the challenge, and there are many ways to tackle each goal. Instead of fixing a door with a spanner, maybe you could use your inertia to give you enough kinetic energy to jimmy the door with a crowbar? Discovery within a set of clear parameters simultaneously freed me to explore the many avenues of success without ever allowing me to drift too far from the mission. Except when I accidentally ejected myself from the spaceport. I drifted a lot then. Once again, the game has you covered. Stray physically too far from objective and the game will warp you back to your last checkpoint, full in the knowledge of what that lever does now.
Overall, Heavenly Bodies is a triumphant puzzle game. Its setting and premise are novel and excellently executed. The games succinct 5-7 playtime allows the game to not overstay its welcome and the excellent theming gives sensibility to what would otherwise be wholly nonsensical mechanics. Heavenly Bodies is a welcome addition to an already vibrant indie puzzle scene.