You know what I don’t hear of often? Musical themed video games. And by that I don’t mean Guitar Hero or rhythm based games, I mean games with a musical show edge – a Cats game, or a Phantom of the Opera game. For the most part I imagine this is probably for good reason…probably. But after playing Figment, I’m at least a little saddened by this. Because for all its typical musical cheese, this was a very uplifting and enjoyable experience. The initial shock and cringe of what I was seeing was eventually offset by decent puzzling and some surprisingly nifty numbers.

Figment is a game about a traumatised mind. More specifically, you play as a funny looking character called Dusty, who along with his trusty flying friend Piper are defenders of ‘the mind’ against troublesome nightmares. The opening of the game sees a car crash put the mind into dismay, and a rather nasty nightmare starts causing havoc. Dusty initially doesn’t seem to care much, simply interested in drinking his cider and looking through his scrapbook. However, when one of the nightmares comes along and steals his scrapbook, things get personal, and Dusty and Piper set off to do their job and rid the mind of these invaders.

Figment is a sort of isometric, puzzle action game – with ‘light’ being the adjective of choice here. Puzzles are quite simple, combat even simpler, and levels very contained and easy to navigate. If you imagine how the game Bastion looked, then you’ll have a very vague comparison, though nothing to do with the gameplay. Throughout Figment, Dusty is tasked with chasing various nightmares through the different areas of the mind, dealing with the obstacles in his way and the hostiles they throw at him. In order to rid the nightmares, he needs to defeat them and throw their masks into a void that’s blocking his way further into the mind (where the last nightmare resides). You can probably guess the structure here. Go through levels terrorised by one nightmare, defeat that nightmare, and then progress to the next one, before having a final battle with the main troublemaker.

Dusty hasn’t much in his arsenal. Equipped simply with a wooden sword and the ability to roll, combat is minimalistic. You can hold down the attack button for a sweeping power attack, but that’s essentially as far as it goes. Enemies will spring forth in certain areas, varying from poisonous hounds, to spiders, to giant tentacles, and Dusty must beat them to death with his sword in order to progress. Once defeated, enemies drop experience points which are used to upgrade your health. It’s relatively linear in this respect, and encounters are short and frankly unexciting, however Dusty excels more when using his brain, and boss battles are all the better for it.

Essentially a mix of minor puzzling and manipulating attack patterns, the boss battles may also be a simple affair, but they are enjoyable nonetheless. As an example, an early nightmare utilises a few platforms to stand upon and throw poison at you. You quickly discover that some of these balls of poison sit tight on the ground and can be launched back at the nightmare. Unfortunately he dodges out of the way onto another platform. Therefore you must figure out a way of sabotaging his safe platforms so he has nowhere to run. It doesn’t take much to tackle these battles, and they aren’t exactly difficult, but they are creative.

The puzzling elements are present throughout the game – and certainly more of a focus than the combat. There’s a variety of challenges Dusty has to contend with – usually with regards to reaching inaccessible areas – and predominantly these involve finding items/objects and using them. For example, you can find coloured bulbs that provide energy. If you slot one of these into a compatible socket, it will activate a bridge or some other contraption. As the game gets more challenging you will have to juggle items, using them in particular orders – to gain access to on area for example, to retrieve another item before using another item on another area…so on and so forth. There’s also a nice mix of puzzles in the game. Aside from these item based ones, there’s timed puzzles, dodging of hazards, pattern based puzzles (such as copying a sequence on a light up platform). Some of them can be pretty tricky (if you’re terrible at puzzles like I am), and they’re all quirky, fitting in with this bizarre mind-scape aesthetic.

But so far, so typical – at least as far as the gameplay is concerned (it’s enjoyable, don’t get me wrong, but not exactly distinctive). Where does the game really get interesting? I’ve yet to mention this musical theme beyond the introduction, and there’s a reason for that. This musical edge is really what makes the game stand out. The world is filled with references to instruments and sounds. Aside from the obvious soundtrack (which is very good), objects in the world produce notes when you strike them, and each areas has a theme of its own – different sounds from different instruments, and a different style for each nightmare.

This really shines during the boss encounters. Each come with their own song to sing, cheesy and humours yet impressive in their own way. The disease focussed nightmare sings about being ill for example, while the spider is creepier and sings about trapping you. It really is a creative touch, and the last boss in particular was very good (the heavy metal stylings were right up my alley). It’s this that sets Figment apart from other puzzle/action games, and it creates a jaunty experience, even if the subject matter isn’t all sunshine (traumatic experience leading to nightmares is serious business).

Of course, it’s not without issues. I’ve already intimated that the game is lacking somewhat with regards to its combat, and otherwise the gameplay isn’t anything exceptional. The voice acting can be a bit cringe-worthy at times – including the main nightmare sounding like the two Scandinavian guys from Family Guy (the ones who’ve lived in the US for long enough to affect accents, but still sounds kind of unique). But these don’t do much to hamper the final product, and it’s the game’s unique theme that will make or break it for you. For me, it very much made it. It’s a shame the gameplay didn’t step up to the quality it needed, but it wasn’t bad either. The story has an emotional edge to it as well, despite the game generally being light-hearted, which rounded things off nicely. Bedtime Digital have created another whimsical adventure (their previous game being Back to Bed, which was a good little Lemmings style puzzle game about guiding a man to his bed) and I’d certainly recommend it if you’re into your quirky adventure games. The musical elements were ultimately what made it, and it is certainly a unique title because of it.



Author

John Little
John Little

I started gaming with the release of the PS1 - Crash Bandicoot and Ridge Racer Revolution being the first 'real' games I ever set eyes on - and have been enthralled with the medium ever since. I particularly love strategy and horror games, the sort offered by titles such as Total War and Silent Hill, though I also have a soft spot for a good RPG. I studied Journalism at university in the hopes of progressing into writing about games, but my 'real job' is as a postman. You'll most likely find me covering indie games as I'm always on the look out for interesting little titles, and generally I stick to the PC and PS4 platforms. I'm not interested in MMOs or really any kind of online game, and I have an unusual and frankly worryingly expensive obsession with collecting gaming guide books, but aside from that I like to think I'm a well rounded average gamer. Find me on twitter @JohnLittle29