Whilst I always try to keep on top of all the big video games that hit consoles, sometimes it’s nice to play something that I’d never even heard of before that falls a little bit under the radar. That’s exactly what I’ve done with Illusion: A Tale of the Mind – the puzzle-adventure from publisher Ravenscourt that before its release last week I’d never even heard of.
Sometimes I end up playing through a hidden gem, other times it’s something completely awful. On this occasion though, I’ve ended up with something that’s just… well… average.
Illusion: A Tale of the Mind’s tale sees the player taking on the role of a young girl named Emma who escapes from a strange prison by a living toy named Topsy. Once free, they realise they’re actually in the troubled mind of a man named Euclide: a circus strongman who’s suffering from heartbreak and emotional trauma. As you work your way further through his mind and uncover more of Euclide’s memories, you discover his connection to Emma and try to figure out how you can help save him from his ever-growing despair.
It’s a very emotional tale that tackles some slightly dark themes. You’ll see how Euclide suffers through the trouble of a broken heart, a savage war, and even alcoholism as he battles his demons, and it makes for a touching experience. Unfortunately, it can falter a little during the final chapter (especially with the over-the-top villain), but in all it did enough to keep me intrigued until the credits rolled.
Most of Illusion: A Tale of the Mind is spent traversing the strange environment and completing the puzzles that are littered across it. The puzzle variety itself is decent and changes up in between chapters, though the most prominent ones see you making shapes out of objects in the environment by looking at them from a specific perspective, using different shaped glass shards to form an image, or re-arranging objects to create a shadow in a specific shape. There are some real clever enigmas on offer that’ll really test your puzzle-solving skills, though at the same time there are a few bloody annoying ones too.
The most annoying puzzles in the game are the ones where you have to line up three different coloured objects and then move the camera to a certain perspective so they make a specific shape. Now the actual puzzle style itself is done well in other areas of the game but the times when you have to actually move the coloured objects as well is just plain annoying, especially since you can never quite see where they are until you go back to activating the puzzle and moving the camera again. It might seem like I’m nit-picking a bit and it’s a little hard to explain why they’re so infuriating, but believe me, if you played the game and encountered them you’d see what I mean.
You’ll often need specific items when solving puzzles, be it the glass shards, the disks, or the objects used to form a shadow. They’re all littered across the environment and often require you to solve another puzzle to obtain, but they’re never usually too hidden that you have to go out of your way to hunt them down. Just try your best not to miss any – I was stupid and didn’t realise that three objects in Chapter Two were collectible items, so I had to traverse the entirety of the level again in order to find them all.
Besides the puzzle items, there are also gramophones and pictures to find that offer more depth into the game’s story. Much like the objects required for puzzles though, these are always incredibly easy to find in the environment so you won’t have to go out of your way to hunt them down.
Mixed amongst the puzzles are a few platforming and chase sequences, though these are a bit of a mixed bag too. The platforming segments often just saw you timing jumps with disappearing platforms – they weren’t particularly unique, but they were enjoyable enough and made players do something different outside of solving puzzles.
On the other hand, the chases could just be plain frustrating. There was one at the end of the game’s first chapter where not only was the hit detection completely off, but that would see Emma randomly get stuck in the environment for no reason at all. Add to that a harsh checkpoint system and some long loading times, and it’s easy to see why they were some of the weakest moments of the game.
Another particularly annoying moment comes later in the game when the player is tasked to navigate through a dark maze. It’s a stupidly large maze and you literally can’t see what’s ahead of you, whilst the only sense of direction you’re given is a brief message when you hit a dead end. I spent a good fifteen minutes simply trying to find my way through it, and believe me, it’s incredibly frustrating. Much like the chase sequences, it just showed off the worst side of Illusion: A Tale of the Mind.
Whilst Illusion: A Tale of the Mind’s visuals aren’t the best you’re going to see (some areas of the game are just plain ugly), the world itself is absolutely fascinating. I love games that take what could be considered real-life architecture and just twist it into bizarre forms, and Illusion: A Tale of the Mind does that throughout the entirety of the adventure. Whether it’s some twisted looking Circus, a war-torn city in the middle of a battle, or just some fantasy dreamscape, everything in the game is designed in an intriguing and captivating way.
There are frozen silhouettes in place of the civilians that would typically inhabit these locales too, which adds an extra dose of character to the game. You’ll often find them in the middle of some menial task, observing something going on around them, or even fighting in war, but they always convey a sense of emotion that’s fitting with whatever situation you find yourself in.
I think that Illusion: A Tale of the Mind is probably the perfect example of what is considered an ‘average’ game. There’s no denying that it has a wonderfully weird world and that there are some really clever moments to encounter during the roughly four-hour adventure, but there were also too many times where I was left frustrated by some poorly designed puzzle or annoying chase sequence for me too feel too enamoured by it all.
It’s certainly not a bad game and I wasn’t bored during my time with Illusion: A Tale of the Mind. There are just too many better puzzle-adventures out there right now that are probably a bit more deserving of your time.
Developer: Frima Studios
Release Date: Out Now
Format(s): PlayStation 4 (Reviewed), Xbox One, PC