The premise of Pillar is interesting in that it shapes puzzles around different personality traits, including focused, distant, capable, enduring , giving and renewing. The game’s creator, Michael Hicks, has drawn his inspiration from the Myers-Briggs Type indicator (MBTi) assessment questionnaire which was designed to try and discover how individuals perceive the world, as well as look at how they make decisions.
Each personality type, represented by the characters, has different puzzles to beat with some pairing up to work together. These mini-games range from trying to sneak past people using means of distraction; like shouting hey, hiding, and moving into the area they were blocking. The Focused personality type does this while Distant has a slight twist. When playing Distant’s puzzles you can freeze time to place speakers and switches, with these being pressed when walked over by the player or a guard. The speakers will then shout for you.
I have to say I wasn’t a massive fan of the Focused puzzles at all, and felt the way the same situation was handled by Distant’s power was much better. Then you have the lights puzzles where Capable and Giving pair up. Here both are following the same path, with the aim being to turn on the lights in each area. Capable’s switches can break lights, as well as turn them off, while Giving helps to give light. You have to alternate between the two to guarantee the environment is basked in light, with the puzzles themselves being relatively simple to work out.
Meanwhile the other pair of personalities, Enduring and Renewing, must work together to collect orbs in a maze. Enduring can take some punishment from the traps, while Renewing can travel through teleport points and move barriers out of the way. Again these mazes are rather simple to conquer, with minimal tactical input on how to gather the blue orbs that unlock doors.
All of these characters are searching for a mysterious artefact, this being the titular Pillar, which is said to grant knowledge. You aren’t told this in the game as there is no overt exposition, but left to work it out with clues in the environment and notes scattered around the place. These help to shape the individuals and attempt to explain what their motivations are.
The thing is I like everything about Pillar except the gameplay, which felt more like taking a personality test than anything else. At the beginning you are even asked what kind of person you are, though the choice just takes you to one of the characters and their puzzles. I don’t hate the puzzles or gameplay, but at the same time I didn’t feel drawn in.
I really liked the musical score which I though fit perfectly with the rather nice hand painted environments of Pillar. The music seems to swell at the right time and flow smoothly in the background while working out the next step. The paintings of the environment are also nicely done, and fit well with the tone of the game. I just don’t think the gameplay itself is up to scratch. It challenges here and there, but ultimately doesn’t feel consistent.
Narrative wise you are supposed to work things out for yourself using the world around you, but even a little paragraph setting up Pillar would give the game some soul. Throughout the game I just felt like something was missing, and in the end I found I didn’t have a connection to what I was playing. Maybe that says something about my personality, and that could be the point of the entire game.
To me Pillar is a game that simply exists, and even then I don’t see it having an appeal to a broad audience. I really like the premise that Michael has come up with – wanting to set a game based on personality types – but I don’t think that idea is fully explored here. Some of the puzzles are fun while others aren’t. I don’t want to say that Pillar is a badly put together piece of work, because it isn’t, and clearly love went into the project. However, it isn’t a fun puzzle game, and feels like a missed opportunity.