Puzzle game mechanics are at their best when they force you to think in a completely different way then you are used to. Portal forced you to rethink how you get from point A to B while Braid forces you to rethink causality and time. Closure and its light based gameplay are in good company with this crowd, but can it live up to the lofty expectations brought on by such comparisons?
This is the first game I've played with a totally superfluous Brightness option
Closure's gameplay is a twist on the idea of object permanence. Object permanence is one of the first things every baby eventually learns: that things you lose sight of do not necessarily blink out of existence. It's why peek-a-boo eventually loses its glamour and isn't nearly as fun with a twelve year old. Closure's twist is to force you to rethink this core concept of logic that everyone takes for granted by the age of two. If you don't see something in Closure, it does not exist. Jump outside of the light and you will fall to your death. Usually you have a little light globe that you carry around as a lifeline to let you explore the level, but if you want to actually get to the goal you will almost certainly have to delve outside that safety zone.
This is when the mechanic really starts to break your brain. Well placed light can turn an impassible wall into a jump between two platforms. Moving lights change a mountain into an elevator. It really takes some getting used to and if you are at all like me, the mechanic will start to become so second nature by the end that after a long session of playing, I actually freaked out a little bit as I was about to step into a dark room in my house. That's the sign of a truly pervasive concept.
After a brief introduction to the basic principles you are presented with three sets of 24 levels behind three doors. You can do the sets in whatever order you want, but the 24 levels within each set unlock sequentially. This is because each set comes with new toys and mechanics to teach you. Spotlights, reflective lenses, and scepters to place your glowing orbs in with different effects are all concepts that you will slowly work your way to mastering. The only issue with this setup is that I started to feel like the second Closure was upping the difficulty with any given game mechanic to its peak level, the game moved on to another one. My misgivings were tossed aside after I completed all of the initial 72 levels and was presented with 10 more levels that put all of my previously gained skills to the test. Complex systems of reflectors, deft use of spotlights to drop keys exactly where you need them, and making bridges through glass will push you to the limit. Those last 10 levels were actually two of my six hour gameplay due to their overall difficulty and length.
Time for some disturbing audio effects
Some levels have a silver moth that you have to put in a bit of extra effort to obtain as collectibles. This turns out to be more important than I thought since after I finished the 10 final levels there was a strange ending that required a certain number of silver moths to go further. So if you want to be sure you've seen absolutely everything there is to see you'll have to go through those levels again and go the extra mile. A trophy for beating the main story is awarded after you beat those ten levels, though, so this is more like something extra for people who really love the game's mechanics and just can't get enough.
There's no explicit narrative but each grouping of levels comes with a different protagonist to play as in a different setting. You start out as a strange spider-like creature for the introductory levels that puts on masks to become three other protagonists: a working man in a junkyard, a woman walking through a forest, and a little girl exploring a carnival after hours. The darkness based gameplay and stark visuals make each of these settings a little more creepy than they'd probably be in a real situation. Though honestly, walking around a carnival in stark blackness would be plenty scary for me. Adding to this atmosphere is some heart pounding audio with songs that, although repetitive, fit the mood of the game perfectly and heighten the ambiance. How the music slows down and sounds muffled when you jump in water is a great effect and turns out to be pretty eerie. Closure will never pop out of a closet and startle you, but it leaves you with a general sense of unease that is far more unsettling.
If Sony's Spring Fever event headliner Journey wasn't enough of a game for you, then Closure should be right up your alley. The presentation here is secondary to an interesting take on puzzle gameplay, and the value is pretty impressive for the price. So give Closure a chance, but don't blame me if you start using a nightlight.
This review is based on a digital copy of Closure for SEN (PSN).