Right from its opening cutscene, Figment isn’t afraid to get stuck in and tackle its hugely important and always centric theme of depression. Looming behind the bright colours and musical melodies seen on the surface, Figment’s plot and locations are buried deep within the human mind, telling a story of the difficulties faced when coping with the disease. The game handles the burden of dealing with this topic rather well, especially considering the vast potential for error or misjudgement that comes with it, and it’s one that we’re glad to have experienced.
Opening with a black screen, Figment’s soundtrack tells you that you’re a father absently speaking to your young child, blankly driving along until your car is involved in a crash. It’s a rather chilling opener, and one that evolves immediately into the very different world that can be seen in the screenshots on this page. You’re left to simply wonder what happened, before coming to the realisation that you’re now inside the man’s mind, running around as his emotions in a similar fashion to Disney Pixar’s ‘Inside Out’.
From here on out you’re tasked with exploring the inner workings of the mind as Dusty – the brain’s former voice of courage – solving puzzles to rid the demons within. The game is split up into three main chunks, granting you access to both the creative and logical sides of the brain before rising up to the consciousness, and each of these areas has its own aesthetic and level design theme.
These themes, at least from a sensory point of view, are fantastic; the creative side is full of music, silliness, and crazy designs, while the logical side literally runs like clockwork. The gameplay itself is a slightly more mixed affair, however, regardless of which area you’re in, with the puzzles somehow being extremely creative and annoyingly repetitive at the same time.
You see, almost every task revolves around the idea of finding batteries to power certain objects, and handles that can be used to manipulate them. As you get used to the game’s flow, you’ll start to find yourself thinking, “Right, a handle will definitely be needed for that,” and you’ll almost always be spot on with your assumptions. The way in which you stumble across these items can sometimes be incredibly clever, especially as you stumble into completely new areas, but the familiar nature does impact the enjoyment a little. The difficulty balance does work quite nicely from puzzle to puzzle, though, with the game never feeling too easy or too hard.
You’ll also be partaking in occasional doses of combat, with Dusty being able to swing a wooden sword at foes. The combat never really provides anything more than a quick hammering of the ‘Y’ button, and actually acts more as a way to split up the otherwise constant puzzles, but it’s when these two elements work together that the game really shines. During boss battles, which see you fighting away physical renditions of nightmares, you’ll need to keep on top of enemies that surround you while simultaneously working out how to get around. The puzzles alone aren’t quite as complex as the ones seen throughout the main adventure, but the excitement of the battle and combination of the two elements helps them to stand out as the most enjoyable moments of the game.
As we’ve already touched upon slightly, the artistic direction in Figment is truly beautiful; the muted colour palette acts a nice halfway point between the fun you’d expect to have playing a video game and the sombre tones of the game’s subject. The music is great, too, with the game’s ‘nightmare’ bosses singing humorous songs throughout that reminded us of the singing Phantom boss in Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle.
The characters are occasionally rather grating, however, and we initially found ourselves being almost too put off by NPC voices. You’ll find houses scattered around the mind, with a quick knock on the door allowing you to hear their thoughts, but the voice acting for these characters is so ridiculously over-the-top and barmy that we quickly stopped talking to them. The conversation between Dusty and your sidekick Piper is usually better, though, with healthy doses of puns and sarcasm leading you through what would have otherwise been a rather mundane adventure.
There are a few things that let Figment down, such as those we’ve already mentioned and the lack of an accessible world map to show you where certain locations are when needed, but the game is very well done on the whole. The pacing of the game’s first areas, which are full of humour and creativity while occasionally reminding you of the darker overtones, works really nicely to set you up for a slightly murkier finale. Perhaps most importantly, though, Figment manages to tackle that always looming topic of depression without pushing away those who might be sensitive to its plot; the characters are open and self-aware in how they speak and act, and the game does a good job of not shoving things in your face unnecessarily. It’s not quite a must-have experience, but it certainly takes a very decent stab at its goal.
Figment is an attractive, creative puzzler that explores the human mind’s inner demons very nicely indeed. The gameplay is good, if never revolutionary, with just a handful of downers being present in an otherwise solid experience. The game’s most creative moments – such as its boss battles – and the way in which it deals with its heavy subject matter are the real winners here, though, and should go a long way towards encouraging a purchase for those who are most interested.