Burn everything you own on the road to reflection in Bonfire Peaks. The Finger Guns Review.
It’s tricky to review a puzzle game. Back in the day when I was given Ant Workshop’s terrific Binaries to review, I knew it would be a difficult slog, to the point where I nearly passed it on to someone else, it was frustrating me so much. If you’re anything like me, the words ‘puzzler’ may send shivers down your spine when you’re asked to complete the game in order to rattle off some paragraphs about it. Fortunately, Bonfire Peaks is the antithesis to damn near every video game that’s currently out there, and it’s all the better for it. When the visuals combine to create a Minecraft x Firewatch mashup in my head, I want to see what’s next. I want to see how creative this game can get and how it’s gonna challenge me next. That feeling of finally beating a puzzle in a game like this is undefeated, and spurs me to keep going.
‘If I can beat that one, the next one surely won’t be so bad, right?’, I kept telling myself. The irony of this of course is that I can be stuck on a puzzle for an hour and then beat the next four or five in minutes. It’s remarkable how well Bonfire Peaks teaches you without any real prompts or hand-holding. You can’t skip, you can’t press buttons for hints. If you wanna beat the levels you have to work it out and the feeling of accomplishment doesn’t get old. I’m not that smart, quite honestly, and when I finally beat a level on Bonfire Peaks I’m looking up Only Connect application forms. That I’ve been playing this game in between bouts of Fortnite probably tells you all you need to know about my mental capacity.
The thing is, it kept dragging me back. Over and over again. Bonfire Peaks is absolutely brilliant.
Bonfire Peaks reaches the heights it does because it’s not wasting your time. Pure and simple, you’re given all the time in the world to play through this intrinsically difficult puzzle game and it’s all the better for it. I’ve screwed up certain levels possibly over a hundred times later into the game, and the game is the embodiment of your mate at college who just smoked weed and played guitar whilst you write dissertations. It’s cool man, just take a breath and take another look at what’s in front of you.
And that’s the core of Bonfire Peaks. Whether or not you’re into puzzlers that’ll fry your brain into mush whenever you’re simply staring at voxel blocks, the sheer relaxation of your surroundings don’t ever let you become frustrated. Maybe that’s a weird thing to say, but if I had been staring at a puzzle for too long I simply zoomed out and took everything in. Bonfire Peaks is a beautiful game, contrasting its difficulty.
Hell, even the menu screen is a puzzle in itself. When you complete a level, you’ll return to a world that provides you with blocks to navigate the world. Getting to each individual level is a bit of a puzzle in itself. Fortunately they’re nowhere near as difficult as the levels you’ve either just finished or are about to take on and provide a little levity after you’ve successfully not thrown your controller through a window. It’s a welcome mechanic, adding a nice twist on the ‘hub world’ we’re so very, very used to.
Still if you’re really finding it tough to get through, you don’t have to complete every level to keep your adventure moving. There’s a story playing out with your character and seeing it through gets you to really focus, as it raises an awful lot of questions from the outset.
Each level tasks you with finding your way to a bonfire in order to burn a box of your belongings. It’s not immediately explained why your character has chosen to do this, but each level has a new box of ‘stuff’ that has to be burned in order for our protagonist to move himself along. Each level is made up of blocks upon grid-based stages which can’t be moved, so you’re given your box of belongings and you need to work out how to get it to the bonfire. Again, you have all the time in the world so there’s little to worry about. Some levels will provide a multitude of boxes that you can use to step on, create a bridge or even stairs to make it to a higher bonfire. Each puzzle is dutifully designed, even if I’m told the game to ‘do one’ (paraphrasing) a fair few times in my playthroughs. Sending boxes across floating rivers is also an option, and your belongings can sit atop them to guide towards the bonfire.
Mechanically it all feels fairly straightforward to this type of puzzler, but there’s a depth to Bonfire Peaks that turns the most ardent of tasks – getting a box full of stuff into a fire – into a fairly Olympic-level mental challenge. There were plenty of moments where I recorded myself yelping ‘but surely if I do that, then I can do that, but then I’m stuck here so why don’t I do th…oh no, I can’t turn around here’, and so on and so forth. I don’t think I’ve ever talked to myself more while playing a video game this year, perhaps trying to communicate with my brain that’s high on farming Fortnite XP that this can’t be as difficult as we’re making it out to be. You get a little taken aback by the beautiful visuals and remember that it’s just a puzzle you need to figure out and you’ve done this hundreds of times before.
And what a gorgeous place to inhabit it is.The beautiful, crisp voxel world is a joy to behold, especially when you’re figuring out puzzles in the snow or the rain. The zen of the world along with the music (also created by the games designer, coder and artist Corey Martin) adds to the wondrous ambience of Bonfire Peaks and I’m going to need it on vinyl as soon as possible. The more I discovered about this mysterious mountain with puzzles and unlimited bonfires the more I wanted to see, and with a game like this there’s no real reason not to want to keep moving. It’s all just too pretty to be ignored. I’ve got some fairly nice screensavers now.
Your experience with Bonfire Peaks will entirely depend on your patience with puzzlers that are designed to test you. It can be argued the unlimited time you have to figure it out, the relaxing atmosphere and the gorgeous soundtrack may perhaps feel a little deceptive, but if you’re on board there’s a terrific game here that’ll make you feel smarter for playing it. It did that for me and I don’t know anything about anything.
No genre can make you shout ‘I hate this game, but I love this game’ more than the puzzle genre, and Bonfire Peaks is the epitome of this exact feeling.
Kick back, burn everything you own, turn your brain to ‘on’ and enjoy the silence.
You’ll be glad you did.
Bonfire Peaks is a gorgeous experience, with a multitude of puzzles that will challenge even the most hardened genre aficionado. The sense of completion is wondrous, and the voxel world is a peaceful one to work through at your own pace. You’ve been never been so utterly relaxed and completely infuriated at the same time. It’s quite the achievement.
Bonfire Peaks is out now on Nintendo Switch, PC, PS4 / PS5 (reviewed on PS5) and macOS
Developer: Corey Martin
Publisher: Draknek & Friends
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were provided with a promotional copy of the game. For our full review policy, please go here.
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