Title: Samsara
Platform: Xbox One, PC (reviewed)
Developer: Marker Limited
Publisher: Marker Limited
Release date: Out now
Price: PC: £12/$15
Xbox One: £13/$15
TL;DR: A relaxing puzzle game that isn’t too taxing.
Family Friendly?: Click here for more information

Samsara is a “reflective,” puzzle game, where the objective is to get yourself (and later, your shadowy friend) from your starting point to the exit of each level. You play as Zee, a young girl who, while out walking in the park, meets a squirrel and follows it through a portal (as you do), leaving her trapped in a strange underworld. It’s your job to guide Zee through a number of puzzles to get her safely back home. With a total of eight “realms.” with eight different levels in each, you must make use of a limited number of blocks of varying shapes and sizes to make a bridge from the starting point to the exit.

The controls are simple; drag the blocks with your mouse and rotate them by clicking on them. If they cannot be placed where you have put them, the block will simply despawn and reappear at its starting point. Once the blocks have been positioned to your liking, clicking on Zee will prompt her to move forward and hopefully, to the exit. If the puzzle is incomplete or if there are any gaps in her path, she will fall to her death, though there is no punishment for this as the blocks you have already placed remain in the same position, and your Zee is placed back at her starting position.

As you make your way through, the levels become more complex as more mechanics are added. A shadow copy of yourself(?) is soon introduced into the dark world that is mirrored beneath you and, with its own exit portal to reach, you will need to guide both Zee and her shadowy friend safely through.

When positioning the blocks in the mirrored world – the inverted, shadow world – you will also get a copy of that block (and its position) mirrored in the other world, meaning the same block can be used by both to reach their respective goals. If you get stuck or just want a different perspective, you can “invert,” the level by flipping it upside down. While this is a nice touch, the overall simplicity of the game doesn’t really require it.

As you move further along, more blocks are added and, instead of the normal laws of physics applying to them, the mirrored block will stay where placed, or its position switched completely. This is really where Samsara starts to feel more challenging, but not overly, keyboard-throwingly so. The addition of a vine that can act as a platform and will wither or grow, depending on whether you or your shadow friend walk on it, adds even more complexity to the puzzles, as do the red and blue “warp portals,” that move you in and out of the mirrored world.

Strangely though, Samsara feels like it’s missing something. While the puzzles do get more complex to the point where looking at some of the later levels just flat-out make your brain hurt, there’s only a limited number of ways you can place the blocks. Therefore, you end up solving the puzzle without really knowing how you did it. So instead of feeling satisfaction at having figured it out, you often only feel surprise that it worked.

The sound feels like it is lacking, too. The beginning of the game is accompanied by a melodic piano piece, but sadly, this doesn’t carry over into the levels, which are left fairly devoid of sound, other than the placing of blocks or the understated but still jarring sound of a misplaced block or Zee falling to her death. What the game lacks in sound though, it makes up for visuals; while the puzzle in the foreground is more basic, the backdrops of the different realms are surprisingly detailed and atmospheric.

Overall, Samsara is not a challenging game. There are one or two levels that require some thought but nothing that feels particularly taxing. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, if you’re looking for a game to really test you, this may not be what you’re looking for. If, however, you’re after something a bit more easygoing, with a handful of easy achievements, this might be the game for you.

The Good

  • Relaxing
  • Detailed background visuals
  • Achievements!

The Bad

  • Not enough background music/sound

Family Focus

Rated: Not yet rated; suitable for all ages, though young ones may struggle with the puzzle solving.

Disclaimer: This review is based on a retail copy of the game provided by the publisher for the purposes of this review.