I was left with very positive impressions of ‘A Little to the Left’ after seeing the showcase from Summer Games Fest. A puzzle game about putting things neatly in their place, it’s basically Marie Kondo: The Game. Now inching its way onto PC and Switch, does the game stack up or come crumbling down? Lets get into it.
In the world of 2022, self-care, mindfulness and relaxation are essential in what feels like the perma-crisis of the world. Unpacking showed off its chops by stealing home two game awards, including EE Game of the Year. The game itself was an explosion of cosy, with a hint of puzzle.
A Little to The Left is in the same vein as Unpacking, furthering this new ‘zen’ genre we are seeing emerging to prominence in the industry. A Little to The Left is a game of tidying, sorting, stacking, ordering… You get the picture. In a series of bitesize puzzles, players can work their way through brainteasers crafted around every day objects at their own pace. No time limit, no consequences. Just you and your cosy puzzle.
Over five chapters, players will work through an overarching theme from each chapter with nuances to each puzzle sourced by that theme. From food to messy drawers, furniture to Tupperware and flower arranging and beyond, there’s a variety of themes here based around the ordinary and ‘everyday’.
The Cleaning Tower of Pisa
While A Little to The Left can certainly claim to be cosy and gratifying, there’s also a certain challenge to some of these puzzles. Most of the puzzles have reasonably clear solutions, and if not, usually by clicking around and moving things about it may become clearer. For some puzzles, a chime will sound if something is in the right place which can help identify the path forward (Pavlovs dogs anyone?). There’s no explicit instructions on how to complete these puzzles so these chimes are sometimes your only nudge in the right direction.
There is also a handy hint mode in the pause menu, there for when a player is truly stuck. In here you can see the finished article. I was actually surprised how much I had to use the hint section; some puzzles have almost no direction to them. You can play around for a while and not be any further than you started, or end up even more confused. Despite there being multiple solutions to some puzzle types, it can be tricky to determine what the game wants from the player.
One example is a calendar with some stickers on. The aim is to put the remaining stickers on the calendar. Even looking at the hint, I had no idea how I was ever supposed to come to that conclusion. There was no rhythm or pattern that I could discern, and this happened a handful of times. I even skipped (more on that in a second) three in a row because I couldn’t see any logical sense between the hint and the solution to get there. It almost felt like I was trying to guess the way someone else would clean this up with no explanation of why. It sometimes reminded me of Wario Ware, but without the instructions. Perhaps I just prefer my puzzle games to be more explicit with with its direction and solution.
That brings me onto the fantastic feature – ‘Let it be’. Everyone’s mind works differently, so everyone’s ide of having things ‘in its place’ is also different. Solving these puzzles may come more naturally to some than others. There is nothing more disappointing than not being able to work out a puzzle and therefore not being able to move forward, something that can happen in puzzle games. A Little to the Left solves this with the ‘Let it Be’ mode. This enables you to skip to the next puzzle and return later. You’re able to do this as many times as you want.
A Little to the Left manages to strike an excellent balance between puzzle challenge and relaxing and accommodating play. If you fancy a challenge, you can go back to more challenging puzzles you may not have done. Sometimes I just yearned for a bit of organisation and would let some of the puzzles go, for a more relaxing experience. Having that choice is great.
(Law and) Order
There’s a lot of satisfaction to completing the puzzles in A Little To The Left. These range in sizes too, taking a minute to perhaps a few minutes to complete. My favourite among them were the types of puzzles where you were given a huge ‘bits and bobs’ drawer, or a toolbox. They usually take the longest but are the most gratifying. There is something humbling about your real life ‘bits and bobs’ drawer being a total mess, yet being willingly to clean up a digital one and taking great pleasure in it.
There is such a variety of puzzle mechanics used in A Little to the Left to enable the varied puzzles. I don’t think I ever said ‘oh this one again’. From bringing objects to life, to scrubbing mechanics. Spinning vases to match detail, to sliding and clipping mechanisms embedded within household objects, everyday scenarios and nature.
Occasionally, just when you have those letters stacked in size order, a friendly neighbourhood cat will come and paw their way to destroy your neat pile. This fiendish feline is inspired by the developer’s own cat ‘Rookie’. Rookie likes to remind you that you are indeed still a slave to his species and that cats truly do rule everything and there is nothing you can do about it. It’s actually quite delightful, and although Rookie will try and scuffle up your tidy work, this can usually be resolved in a jiffy.
A Little to the Left doesn’t end with the main campaign. The option of a ‘Daily Tidy’ is located on the home screen. This gives players a fresh fix, once a day. This kind of reminded me of when Nintendo did their brain training games. It can be utilised as either a bit of Brain Training or a few minutes of winding down and relaxing for the day. There are stamps to collect if you manage to keep up your daily tidy for over a few days to even over a year. This mode works especially well as a wind down for me. It was nice to almost create a barrier between work from home life, and.. well… digital home life. I can see how this will be a fantastic tool when released on iOS and Android.
I had no technical issues with this game, and the soft palette colours and harp music add to the lovely execution of the design. It is an easy recommendation in the puzzle and cosy genre, one that will quiet your mind yet challenge your neurons and scratch the itch for order.
A Little to the Left has quaint, cosy design married with a multitude of gratifying puzzles and a mischievous cat. If you have an eye for organisation and live for the order of the everyday things in life, this’ll tick your boxes.
A Little to the Left is out November 8th on PC via Steam, with releases for Switch and IOS/Android planned by the end of the year.
Developer: Max Inferno
Publisher: Secret Mode
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were provided with a promotional code from the publisher. For our full review policy, please go here.
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