First-person puzzlers are still a rare enough treat that it's always worth perking up your ears when one comes along. While Standpoint - out on Steam today - is far more of a pure puzzler than the likes of Portal or the Talos Principle, it's as smart as either. I'm not yet halfway through, because my flipping goodness, it's hard. But here are my impressions so far.
Standpoint professes to be about the five stages of grief. I’m not sure I ever understood it on that level. But I should also add that I’m astonishingly fortunate that so far in my life, I’ve not had to grieve a loved one. Perhaps I’m simply not equipped to appreciate the subtleties of its obscure narration. However, despite all that, it remains a tremendously good puzzle game.
A first-person puzzler, there’s some ambience of Portal and Antichamber, but not nearly enough to make a comparison feel appropriate. Instead this is a far less complex affair, its bleakly grey corridors require you to rotate your gravitational direction such that you can continue on. Not a new concept, but I can’t remember enjoying it in such a simply delivered fashion.
Things begin fairly obviously. There’s a wall blocking your path, but it’s clear between its top and the ceiling. So you point toward the roof and roll 180 degrees. Now the floor’s the ceiling. As you go through this section’s five levels, each taking me between ten and twenty minutes, the complication ramps up nice and quickly. Moving partitions, segmented walls, deadly surfaces, crates to carry down such obstacle-filled corridors, and the like.
What’s most lovely about this little thing is how movement quickly becomes fluid. Changing which wall you stick to might seem a little mundane, but at points here it can feel like flying. Using inertia, you realise that skipping dangerous barriers can be done by flipping while running, or rotating 90 degrees as you fall can allow for deftly avoiding barriers and increasing momentum.
However, while checkpointing starts of splendidly, as you get a bit deeper in things can start to frustrate. The moves you’re being asked to perform are extraordinarily complicated, and require pin-point timing. And that’s all good. But when it then throws a surprise at you, or faces you with a particularly difficult section, it’s a hefty bummer to discover you’re on the wrong side of a bunch of busywork to repeat again and again.
And then it gets so difficult. I’m guessing with five stages of grief, and five sections per stage, it’ll be 25 stages long. I’m on the ninth. I’ve spent so long getting here. I’m determined to get further. Each stage is taking longer and longer to master, but when I do, I feel so damned amazing.
The moves at this point are fantastically hard, attempting to use momentum to flip and twist down lethal-sided corridors, dodging deadly moving barriers, as I flip and twist and dive. By this point it becomes a case of working out why you’re failing in order to progress, repeatedly trying a section until you master it. And it’s making my heart race as I panic I’ll mess up the final twist, then jubilant when I don’t.
The grief stuff is still going on, this female voice making opaque remarks about something, and it still feels pretty disingenuous. But the demands the game is making of you, to become just better at it than you were five minutes ago, are compelling.
Whether it gets too ludicrously difficult later on I can’t tell you, because I’m beaten by time before I had to write this up. But if it continues to be as smart about what it expects of me, it’ll continue to be a treat. If it just becomes a mad fiddle, it’ll frustrate me away.
There’s a lot of puzzle game here for you $13. While the screenshots don't show it, it’s in a very repetitive environment, but as you play that isn’t an issue. I’m impressed with this. It's super-tough, but extremely well put together.