I love tidying up in games, and I’m not just talking about playing Unpacking and House Flipper, either. Any game I play with an inventory gets a regular, satisfying purge. I’m either marching to an in-game shopkeeper and holding my adventuring sack upside down, or just swiftly frisbeeing items straight into the bin. If it’s cluttering my screen, it’s cluttering my mind. Zero regrets. That’s the gamer dopamine hit I’m chasing.
So, as you might have guessed, I love the idea of A Little To The Left, a game that celebrates neatness and tidiness through a string of fun puzzles. If you love the satisfaction of arranging books on your shelf in order of height, or displaying your mugs in order of which can hold the most tea, then you’ll love this game too. Some simple tidying puzzles would have been enough for me, but A Little To The Left takes the idea in interesting directions through smart puzzle design.
Starting with the basics, you’re tasked with some simple tidying up like putting a stack of papers into a neat pile, before it ramps up to more organisational tasks like arranging a group of pencils in order of height. Often it’s more aesthetic, like sorting buttons by colour. But wait. Can’t the buttons be organised in other ways too? What about size? By how many holes? And shape? Ahhhh. It's a moment of pure panic that A Little To The Left takes in its stride, as many puzzles do have multiple solutions. Whatever way you decide to sort the buttons you’ll still get your gold star, A for effort. Then it’s onto the next puzzle.
I really love this approach to organising. A Little To The Left understands that everyone has their own ways of tidying (as Alice0 found out when she played the demo back in May). Most of the time, you’ll understand exactly what you need to do from a brief glance at the objects in front of you, but others require a little more poking around. Some of my favourites were themed around pattern spotting: arranging a set of postcards to make a landscape scene; organising a group of sticky notes so they show one, long squiggle.
Some puzzles, however, were a little too abstract and it ruined the overall zen-vibe of the game. One tasked me with picking the leaves off a bunch of branches but I couldn't figure out which ones needed plucking (nothing looked withered or an off-yellow colour). Each time I clicked on a wrong leaf, it would magically sprout back.
Any tidying philosophy or logic was seemingly thrown out the window, instead replaced by me aimless clicking around the screen. Turns out that it was a mirror puzzle where you needed to make the left side of the screen look like the right (shout out to Alice.B for helping me see the light). I guess not understanding exactly what the puzzle wanted is more on me than the game, but even when there's a hiccup or miscommunication, it's one out of the 70-ish puzzles it's in no way a big deal. There's still plenty of variety in the game’s puzzles that keep it from feeling like a long list of monotonous chores, even though that's pretty much exactly what you're doing. Gasp. Tricked into doing housework. The nerve.
The puzzles also feel incredibly tactile. Putting pins in a pinboard has a satisfying push, placing cutlery in a draw has a brilliant rattle, and there’s even a bit in the game where you're just peeling those tiny sticker-labels off pieces of fruit. It's not even a puzzle of any sort, but the satisfaction of each peel still feels just as good. Is there anyone in the world who doesn’t love peeling those off?
Occasionally, your tidying will be interrupted by the paw of a mischievous cat, wrecking your efforts with one deadly swipe - the papers you neatly stacked now strewn about the desk and the precisely placed cutlery on a dinner table now in total disarray. The cat, or as I like to call her, the destroyer of all things beautiful, queen of chaos, high priestess of mayhem, is a fun addition and provides a cute rivalry between a human neat freak and a creature of pure anarchy.
Even with the addition of a furry creature who wants to see the whole world burn to the ground, the vibe of the game remains totally laid-back. If you're having trouble with a puzzle you can use the games hint system to help you out in the form of a notebook where you use an eraser on a scribble to reveal the correct solution underneath. There’s even a ‘Let It Be’ option that skips the puzzle all together if it’s too tough or you’re not vibing with it. A Little To The Left wants you to find the fun in tidying up, not the frustrations.
A Little To The Left surpassed my tidying expectations. Feeling that jolt of satisfaction never gets tired, and the sheer variety of puzzles keeps things interesting. It’s a game with lots of little surprises, right up until the very end where the game takes a surprising, but welcome, magical realist turn. With its charming visuals and playfuy soundtrack, its a puzzle game that feels like the complete package.