One of the greatest things about video games is the ability to take real life puzzles and turn them into something much more challenging, beautiful, and useful without having to waste hundreds of hours carving wood or chipping away at a block of marble only to have to start over if something goes wrong. That was what first drew me to Perfect Angle: The Puzzle Game Based on Optical Illusions by Ivanovich Games. I love optical illusions and the amount of detail that can be put into a digital one can possibly go well beyond the imagination. At some level Perfect Angle does this quite well, but overall it’s not a great game.
Visually this game doesn’t necessarily disappoint. The graphics, which can be set at a range of levels from low to ultra, are a mixture of multiple styles. The basic gameplay looks pretty good. I was playing on normal though, so it’s quite possible that they can look really good if your PC has the specs. The puzzles look great and the ambient objects are a little blurry/pixelated, but within reason. Never did I feel that the visuals weren’t good enough to play the game. Except for the menus. Those are just awful. It’s just a dark red with white, black, and grey circles running through it with ok looking text. They don’t actually play a huge factor in the gameplay and differ from the very simple pause menu, but the main menu is ugly enough to note in a review. The pause menu is just an opaque black screen with thin, white san-serif text. Nothing special about it.
What I think really didn’t work for me as far as the gameplay visuals was that everything was so disconnected. The levels all have very little to do with each other and often don’t make sense. The idea is that you’re travelling through some sort of facility and there are walking transitions between stages if you have that setting on, yet they are still so odd and set apart from each other. Especially in certain rooms where everything is covered in red and black lines or you go outside and see pieces of unfinished construction and such coupled with advertisements. It just doesn’t make a lot of sense. One thing that Ivanovich Games did rather poorly was its product placement. The game is riddled with ads for other games and since this isn’t some free to play thing it was kind of annoying. Mostly because it’s all just out-of-place. Tons of random posters and signs for other games strewn about. Even in some of the cutscenes other games are offhandedly referenced and then links are provided in the following proceed to next level menu. They even used their logo as the logo of the company in the game. It just felt really cheap.
The cutscenes don’t look bad, but they don’t necessarily mesh with the rest of the game. They’re 2D hand drawn stills that look very childlike in nature which wouldn’t be a problem if they weren’t being directly juxtaposed with a dark toned 3D world filled with constant rain and police cars for some odd reason. Again the graphics don’t look bad and the puzzles actually look pretty good, but altogether it just doesn’t work cohesively.
The gameplay is good at face value, but has many flaws for all the wrong reasons. This is an optical illusion game and from start to finish that’s what it is at the core. You can play with a gamepad, but you shouldn’t because only the movement works. Actually pressing buttons, which only affects level transitions and menu settings, doesn’t work on the gamepad and the buttons aren’t customizable so you pretty much have to dual wield a keyboard or mouse with a gamepad to make it work. A laptop pad works fine, but a mouse is ideal because of the click and drag gameplay. The way it works is that each stage drops you in a room with the camera focused on a center point. In most stages, all you can do is rotate the camera or as far as plot is concerned, the character’s head, until you are looking at the focal object(s) at the right or “perfect angle.” Essentially you just rotate the screen at an unlimited number of angles until the game decides you’ve gotten close enough to the target angle to get a pass. The game is not wholly forgiving but it does give you more grace than I would have expected going into the game. Each puzzle ends with the shape of an object that means something to the plot in some way or at least it’s meant to. I was really happy with the core gameplay, but it needs to be polished. It doesn’t run as smoothly as well-known click and drags like Portal, which is several years older. There is the occasional delayed drag or lack of precision. But there’s no time limit or lives or any repercussions to speak of so it doesn’t really make that much of a difference.
What is really interesting at first, but gets old really quickly is the amount of gimmicks used to spice up the gameplay in certain levels. There are levels that want you to do other things instead of just find the perfect angle. Sometimes it’s playing with the water level to make the items float at a certain level before you can find the perfect angle. Other times it’s shooting missiles at things and blowing up parts of the stage in specific ways. Levels like these may require you to restart, but you can do that easily an unlimited number of times. The game will let you continue from whatever stage you left of on so time really isn’t a factor at all in this game. The problem with the puzzles, especially the more abstract ones, is that you aren’t really given any clues as to what the shape you’re looking for is. You just play blindly until you find the right shape and then the cutscenes fill you in. This can be a real problem when you get to some of the really abstract and challenging puzzles. There are useable hint items but the game only gives you a total of five of them and the option to purchase more via microtransactions. The hints only give you the target shape so they don’t really bring you any closer to actually solving the puzzle even when you do use them in some cases. Really the game should just give you the target shape and let you play towards a specific goal. This becomes even more annoying when you hit levels where the objects in the room don’t all come together as part of the puzzle. You will get to points where most of the stuff in the area is just to distract you and really you just need to find a couple specific objects fitted together at just the right view in a sea of trash. Not knowing your target shape makes this really difficult. Ultimately I found the gameplay to be great at a conceptual level, but lacking in the final product.
The sound works in Perfect Angle. There is music or more honestly tones in the background. They are very soft and add a sense of drama to the game, but they are light ambiance at best and don’t really disturb the game or try to turn it into a music experience. For this particular game I think that actually worked better than having a legitimate soundtrack. There is also a lot of background noise to create the darker atmosphere that the game is going for. Rain and dropping water is a huge part of the sound. Maybe even a bit too much. There’s not actually gameplay sound when you’re playing. The only indicator that you’ve actually done anything is when you solve the puzzle and the game says “perfect angle” and then gives you a little tone when it reveals the object you were looking for. Sound is not bad, but isn’t strong enough to make the game worth buying over it.
The writing, which comes in several languages, is average at best. This is the story of a police bomb tech that has gotten into an accident and has lost his memory. He remembers nothing and is solving these puzzles to bring back his memory. It’s all done in first person with most of the levels ending with a short monolog about how the target object affects his memory in some way. Every few levels there is a cutscene which tells just a bit more of the story. The problem is that at first the story starts off really interesting and even a bit scary and then lazily devolves into a Memento scenario where it turns out that everything has already happened and everything you thought was important has already passed. It turns out that you just keep losing your memory every day and that solving the puzzles helps you rebuild it in pieces. It was very disappointing and happens only about a fifth of the way through which really pulls the steam out of the plot because it changes from you trying to solve a mystery where you need to save a family member from terrorists to you have already solved said mystery and saved said loved one and just have to remember it. The way the dialog is written is not great. It’s very real in that the character is talking to himself and covering every minute detail, which makes perfect sense in this scenario, but at the same time it’s not great writing for a story and even less a game. Too much pointless exposition and very on the nose. The use of only one speaking character really limits the way the story is told. It would probably have been better with at least a second Glados type figure commanding the main character to do things or at the very least having conversations with him.
The game has no replay value. There are no recorded stats and all of the 36 achievements are progress based. It is a whopping 105 levels though. The first 20 stages can be beaten in under 30 minutes so assume the whole game will take no less than two to three hours, but depending on how much harder the puzzles get for you and how well you are able to perceive them it could take several times longer. I think $13 is a bit too high for this game though. It’s a lot of stages, but not a high quality game. It also may not hold your attention till the end. Maybe at $5 I’d say it was worth picking up. Definitely no more than $10.
Perfect Angle was a bit of a disappointment for me. I felt like it had so much potential when I watched the trailer, but ultimately it lacks polish and gets bogged down with gimmicks and a subpar plot. I would like to see another game like this made, but in a much different way with smoother mechanics and a stronger story. Something closer to Portal or Magrunner, because it has a very similar feel to both of those games in a number of ways. Final verdict is that you should pass at that price point.
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