Given the stresses of the past few years, it’s really no surprise to see the rise of cosy gaming as people seek out more relaxing experiences to wash away the pressures of modern life. A Little to the Left, a chilled puzzle game with a pleasing pattern matching, organisational theme, wholeheartedly embraces this movement. Oh, and there’s a mischievous cat as well.
What starts off as simply fixing tilted picture frames and stacking piles of paper soon starts on the various tidying rituals and neuroses that so many of us have. Later puzzles are increasingly obsessive about having everything be just so, to the point that organising a draw somehow, bizarrely has candles of different lengths to fit a cut out in a plastic organisation tray, before shifting into the much more abstract in the final stretch.
The majority of the puzzles are a simple, soothing delight to play through, but it can sometimes be a little tricky to grasp where a puzzle is heading leading to a touch of frustration creeping in, especially when you shift from one chapter to the next and the paradigm changes. In particular, some puzzles require you to create your own symmetry, which it took me far too long to realise, while some simply feel too obtuse and require you to inhabit the mind of the creator. Other more purely organisational puzzles can also be a bit of a chore when trying to grab from a pile of overlapping 2D objects (especially on a laptop touchpad or with with a controller moving the cursor with an analogue stick), and that’s exacerbated when needing to rotate objects by grabbing and moving the cursor – this really needs an improved input option. Frustration can start to creep in
These foibles are countered by the simple charms of the other puzzles in A Little to the Left, a good number of which have multiple solutions, letting you embrace your own aesthetic preference for whether books should be ordered by height or thickness, pencils by colour or sharpness. If you’re ever stuck, there’s a cute hints system where you rub out scribbles on top of a sketch of a solution or clue, and if you simply don’t like a puzzle or are happy with what you’ve done, you can just hit escape and pick ‘Let It Be’ to move on.
Every once in a while, a fluffy white cat might intrude in whatever task it is you’re doing — a paw coming in to playfully grab at some envelopes or a tail swooshing in to mess up some papers. It’s hard not to exclaim “Kitty, no!” as the cat’s chaotic side shows itself, but there’s a clear love and adoration for cheeky felines – inspired by Max Inferno’s own cat Rookie – that shows itself as the game becomes more and more abstract. I’m sure that, if you’re playing with children, they’ll get a real kick out of the cat’s intrusions.
Alongside the main run through the game, there’s also a Daily Tidy. This remixes one of the more than 75 puzzles in the game, changing up the items used, giving a new twist on something you’ve seen before. If you’re just looking for something to into for a quick few minutes each day, this is perfect.
Running throughout A Little to the Left you have a wonderful musical background. It constantly moves forward, with each chapter having a particular theme, orchestration and gradually evolving minimalist composition. It’s surprisingly up tempo for such a laid back game, but the timbre of the layered harp, marimba, piano, flute, glockenspiel and so on all give it an adventurous feel. I would hazard that the relentless repetition and looping of the soundtrack might drive others to distraction, but it compliments the game very well for the person that’s playing or people that are engaging and watching the game.