Have you heard of Illusion: A Tale of the Mind? Me neither. Launching in the middle of advertising campaigns for much bigger games, this little puzzle game has passed a lot of us by… Though it’s probably something you should give a chance.
Like Limbo and Braid before it, Illusion is a surreal little puzzle platformer that is designed to make you think and gawk at the screen in awe of its beauty. Now there is a small snag there since Illusion doesn’t really reinvent the wheel when it comes to environments or character designs; it’s pretty enough, sure, but it’s nothing you haven’t been wowed by before, and certainly not up to the visual scratch of games in this genre – You take the wheel as Emma, who like in most creepy games, is a lost child with no memory of who she is or why she’s there, but dammit if she isn’t going to continue running to the right! Almost immediately she starts to hear a voice calling for help so as the good little protagonist we are, you run to rescue this disembodied voice. Now, this is where the creepiness gets dialed up a few notches when it’s discovered that the voice belongs to a stuffed bunny that Emma decides to name Topsy (Because of course she does), and being that this is a weird indie game, Topsy is creepy as all hell. A freakish caricature of what a cuddly bunny MIGHT look like after you’ve dropped a ton of acid. Not long after this we learn that all this action is taking place inside the mind of Euclid, which if you can read is given away fairly early by the title of the game… Euclid is a reluctant stage performer who we also find out is super sad, and missing their beloved Marion – The story is beautiful in a very sad way and really makes you feel for our hero who just wants happiness like the rest of us.
Euclid sets the stage of the entire art style by living in what seems to be 1920’s Paris, bringing a style very reminiscent of Moulin Rouge. So the entire game plays out like a performance on a stage with a lot of crazy colour mixing in with the weird imagery and suitable music – Like I said, Illusion is a bloody pretty thing to look at – Good because looking at the scenery is pretty much all you’ll do…
Illusion suffers with its key point… It’s a puzzle game with only ONE puzzle… On repeat till you get to the end and think “Jesus I’m glad that’s over”. It’s always the same. Enter a large room, find weird shape things, move weird shape things, continue till you want to end your own life then realize that one of the shapes is VERY SLIGHTLY out of alignment… But good luck working out exactly which one. Occasionally the repetitive puzzles are broken up by some legitimately scary chases where our little Emma has to flee from some… Shadow arms – During these moments you scarper away from the grabby hands, and find yourself a hiding spot to cry in, which would be fine and probably enjoyable if it wasn’t for Emma handling like an elephant on tranquilizers, lumbering around the field of view and taking a fair few steps to come to a stop. This makes avoiding the demon claws a nightmare to dodge, and what was meant to be a nice action break suddenly becomes a tedious rage-inducing, broken mechanic.
So yes, Illusion is worth a run through if only for the environments and the story of Euclid alone. It’s not often that I get so invested in a storyline, but the tragedy that is Euclid is hard not to get wrapped up in, and I found myself putting up with the repetition and the tedium of the gameplay to find out more. So, if you want something like Limbo or Braid, go elsewhere. If you want to share in one of the most emotive stories I’ve ever seen, and some pretty environments to enjoy it in, then definitely give this hidden gem a go.
I give Illusion: A Tale of the Mind 5/10… Though the story is a definite 10