It’s no Myst-ery what classic game inspired this brilliant puzzler…
There’ve been plenty of games inspired by Myst over the years and The Eyes of Ara is no different, with it sending you on a first-person adventure across a series of locales as you look to solve an abundance of brain teasers. The player is tasked with exploring an abandoned castle that has somehow started to emit a mysterious signal – it’s a nice little setup that adds plenty of intrigue to the tale, whilst the countless notes and photographs that are littered across the castle help flesh out its history. It’s good stuff.
The Eyes of Ara’s puzzles are brilliant, with each utilising both the environment and the objects you find in it to great effect across each cleverly designed conundrum. You’ll always feel like you’re doing something different thanks to the fact that no two puzzles ever feel the same, whilst each area of the huge castle is full to the brim with tricky enigmas to keep your brain ticking. I thoroughly enjoyed solving the puzzles, with each ‘eureka!’ moment proving more satisfying than the last.
One thing I really appreciated was the fact that you don’t take items you collect with you between different areas, meaning the inventory you have with you will only be relevant to the puzzles in that room. The castle itself is pretty big and you’re given a bit of freedom in how you decide to explore it, but you always have the comforting feeling that everything you need to solve the puzzle will be in the area you’re currently exploring. It doesn’t necessarily make the game any easier because The Eyes of Ara doesn’t hold your hand as far as the puzzle-solving itself is concerned, but it’s one of those small little features that goes a long way in giving the player a more enjoyable time.
The Eyes of Ara is no walk in the park though, with some puzzles really pushing players’ skills to their limits. I’m not ashamed to admit that I got through some via pure trial-and-error alone, though it is a little shaming to admit that I also had to check an online walkthrough once or twice too…
Whilst a lot of this could be down to my own lacking puzzle-solving skills, The Eyes of Ara could be guilty of being a little bit too obscure with its solutions at times too. Some of the puzzles are very intricate and require a lot of thought to complete, whilst other times the solution is so well hidden in the environment or those aforementioned notes you find that it’s easy to spend ages trying to figure out what to do. Fortunately, 90% of the game’s puzzles offer a fair balance of difficulty, but there will be a few that might push your patience to its limit.
It’s also worth mentioning that things can be a bit of a mixed bag on the Switch, with The Eyes of Ara at its best when played handheld. If you play on the TV you’ve got to deal with awkward motion controls and it just feels unnecessarily fiddly, especially when tackling puzzles that require precision. Handheld players are limited to touch screen controls, but fortunately they prove to be a more than viable way to tackle each enigma thrown your way.
If you’re a fan of puzzlers, you won’t want to miss out on The Eyes of Ara, with the roughly eight-hour adventure full to the brim with clever enigmas that will push your puzzle-solving skills to their limit. Sure, some of them can feel a little bit too obtuse in design and there are moments of frustration to be found, but the majority feel so satisfying to solve that it’s hard not to be kept grinning with every bit of progress you make throughout this intriguing puzzle-fuelled escapade.
Developer: 100 Stones Interactive
Publisher: 100 Stones Interactive
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PC