Since Portal hit the scene and revolutionized the way we play puzzlers, there have been a lot of imitators. Thankfully, unlike the first-person shooter genre post Modern Warfare, most of the knock-offs have been pretty enjoyable. That’s pretty much Bandai Namco’s Attractio, swapping portals with gravity, solving puzzles with boxes has never been so okay! And I mean that in the nicest way possible. While it isn’t perfect by any means, and the character build is weird at best, the puzzles are creative, and the world is imaginative, making for a fun experience that doesn’t leave a lasting impression. This game feels like it’s the first step in the right direction for an interesting premise, just not everything hits the mark as well as it should.
Taking place in the distant future, humans have colonized other planets, and space isn’t the final frontier anymore. Amongst the technological advancements, a game show emerges, and it’s actually the worst thing ever. Real living people go on a space station and there they have to solve puzzles that could kill them if they slip up. This episode features a convict looking for freedom, a nationalistic Martian looking for technology for her planet, and a fan of the show who wants to donate the prize money. Each is given their own part of the ship and gets different upgrades at different times, eventually getting all of them. This creates a problem where there’s not a lot to separate each character’s stages after a while. They start to bleed into each other, and each contestant is so generic that it’s hard to really like any of them. I could hardly care for what they had to say, or their personal backstories. Let’s not even get into how horrible the audio is for the host. The concept is that he’s in a space vacuum or something, so he doesn’t sound completely clear. However, the entire premise is it’s a television show with a huge wallet (big enough to make its own space station) but they can’t get their host a microphone that doesn’t sound like it’s covered in a damp towel while he screams into an echo chamber.
Characterization aside, the game is full of awesome mazes that legitimately took me a few tries to figure out. I have a great respect for creators of puzzle games, as they’re usually creative, and I couldn’t imagine thinking of most of these ideas myself. Mind you, I’m not as spatially aware as I should be for a game like this, but I still recognize and respect the talent that goes into building a labyrinth of a room to solve. Which makes it hard for me to criticize any of the game’s levels. At its most basic level, you push boxes into buttons to open doors. It sounds simple, but once you start messing around with gravity, it becomes more challenging. You do this with gadgets throughout the stages that affect the way you fall or how other objects stick to walls and such. I was constantly reminded by it’s inspiration from Portal, but it manages to stay just different enough to make it’s own impression on me separate from Valve’s classic.
The one issue I had with the gameplay is sometimes objects don’t react the way you intend for them to, even if that’s the way the puzzle should be solved. For example, in one room, I was supposed to ride a cube across an area that I would fall through because the cube can float across. The object needed a push from a gravity item. So, I stood on top of the cube and brought the gravity device with me and placed it down, the cube fired across the level, while I dropped. This took me multiple tries before I was finally able to ride the cube across, and I didn’t really do anything different. Things like that make the entire process more frustrating than fun. It felt like some things only worked by chance and luck, but when everything clicks properly there is a real sense of reward. That reward made me want to do one more level, one more puzzle, one more hour. Those hours kept adding up, and I found myself having fun, and wanting to continue. I wanted to learn more about the galaxy, about this new civilization that doesn’t just span countries, but across planets.
Despite all that, once I put my controller down, I couldn’t find a reason to come back. Yes it was fun on a surface level, and yes each stage was creative in its own way, but it lacks any sort of lasting impact. None of the rooms were good enough that I remember them vividly, and the whole concept of a game show where people willingly go in knowing they will probably die is a little too farfetched to get invested in. For all it does right, it missed the mark in being memorable in any way.
And that’s the game’s biggest flaw. Each puzzle is so gratifying that I have no choice but to challenge myself again, but at the same time, nothing stands out. Some technical issues and dry characters cloud every moment of satisfaction, to the point where I’m not sure exactly why I trudged through the game. That isn’t to say this isn’t worth your time though. Bandai Namco stumbled upon a good formula that I’d love to see expanded and fully realized. This is a step in the right direction for a new idea, and hopefully the game does well enough to warrant a more polished sequel with a better story and more interesting personalities. In the meantime, this is a decent game with a lot of really good ideas made for fans of the puzzler genre that want something not Portal. While it’s creative, for all the good Atrractico does, it fails to make a lasting impression, and I doubt I’ll pick it up again.