Since starting Player2Reviews, the puzzle genre has been one that I have tackled pretty regularly. They are a nice break from the usual adventure or platforming games that we have tended to most often. They are also, to me, one of the hardest genres to do just right. There is a very unique blend that can make these kinds of games memorable. Concepts like visual appearance, difficulty, and guidance are some of the most important ingredients to nail in a puzzle game. Challenge is a key component, but if you push too hard in either direction you get either a cakewalk that feels unrewarding or a punishing, mind-straining title that you walk away from due to inability to complete. A puzzle game also can heavily rely on a pleasing aesthetic, both via audio and visual presentation. Finding that right blend can set you ahead of the pack. She Remembered Caterpillars does a lot right, while also adding in a subtle lining of a story, which is derived through short text openings to each level. Does it make for that perfect combination of concepts, or is it a bit of an overstep for the genre? Let’s explore what the self-titled fungipunk fantasy has in store for its players.
In Caterpillars, players assume control of color shifting, fungi-like creatures. With often cryptic, creepy backdrops and music to match, these fungi’s cute and colorful exteriors feel misleading. The goal is, as seemingly always, a simple one. Get these creatures from their current position to the objective one, a flower pedal for them to take flight from. The catch is that only one can fit per flower, and they will not take flight until all of them have a spot to call their own. To make this happen, you must effectively navigate them through color coded gates, across color coded bridges, and even manipulate their colors to do so in a variety of ways. Whether you temporarily blend two fungi together to form a new color (red and blue make purple, red and yellow make orange, etc.) or strip a fungi of its color to make it vanilla white, there are more than a handful of out-of-the-box thinking situations where you need to put your intuition to the test. Gates will not let those of the same color pass, while bridges do the opposite, letting only those who match the color or a component of the color walk across. It is really easy to put yourself in a bad position due to this, so like a good game of chess, seeing two moves ahead is the best strategy to not putting yourself in a losing position.
Difficulty wise I would say this game has a good blend. The over 40 levels are segmented off by chapters. At the start of each chapter, a new mechanic is introduced to the players, with the levels being a bit on the easier side. As you progress towards the end of a chapter, the difficulty naturally goes up. In some cases I was really stumped, often when the map featured four fungi to navigate and a “bigger” area of play. It is really easy to get turned around in situations. But it was incredibly rewarding to hit those “ah-ha” moments where everything finally falls into place. Its sampling of new features is really well done, like an upscale dinner with a multi-course offering of fine-tuned small plates. It just doesn’t throw everything at you and hope something sticks, it delivers it in a fine tuned, thought out manner. I won’t get into the gameplay much more past that, as often is the case with the genre, it’s one of those things that are better to experience than it is to read about, especially when it comes to color coding (and for those not so good with color, shape blending) and puzzle revolving that.
The narrative was an emotional, cryptic one that revolved around death and its ominous sensibility that it is in fact, unstoppable. While the player is mostly tasked with filling in the blanks instead of being spoon fed the story, sadly I could not see the game through due to a game breaking bug midway through the levels in the 30’s. The developers are aware, and I plan on finishing the game once patched, but until then, I cannot speak on the conclusion of the story.
Visually speaking, the game gets it right. The colors pop where they need to, primarily in its characters and obstacles, while remaining more neutral and muted in the colors of the environment. The fungi are sort of reminiscent of Pikmin naturally, being leafy, colorful little blobs of creations. The music is solid too, often getting creepy in a way that I was not anticipating, but certainly fit considering the underlying themes. The level design was done very well, which feeds into the balance of that difficulty.
I think She Remembered Caterpillars does get a lot of the formulation right, although its technical formula is a bit off right now considering its game breaking bug. Should I go back and finish, and find the rest of the game to be impactful to the point where it I think I should update this review. But in the meantime, Caterpillars holds its own as a unique, challenging puzzler that stands out from the crowd by incorporating a subtle story that is clearly inspired through emotion. Fans of the genre should consider taking up this challenge, but if you are not big on puzzles the story is not enough to bring you in on its own.
*Note: A copy of the game was provided for the purposes of the review
Final Score: 7.5/10
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