Puzzle games are an odd facet of the gaming landscape. Other games are subject to the ebb and flow of market trends in the industry. Genres reinvent themselves over and over again, until it becomes difficult to chart the changes, even within a franchise. Take Final Fantasy XV, the most recent in a long line of Japanese style role playing games, and put it next to its progenitor. The two games are vastly different in terms of style, mechanics, and even tone. One could be forgiven for doubting that they belong in the same genre, or even the same franchise. The same could be said for Resident Evil titles, or even Mario, to a lesser extent. Puzzle games, though, don’t stray so far from their roots.
It may be because puzzles cast a pretty wide net and often lack the unifying features that are common, if not necessary, in other playsets. There isn’t even recurring shorthand in most puzzles, no exploding red barrels, no life-giving wall chickens. Sure there are a few subgenres, match three games or escape the room affairs, but puzzles are a wide and diverse field of innovation and fascination.
Incidentally, I can think of no better way to describe She Remembered Caterpillars than as a wide and diverse field of innovation and fascination. The premise is simple enough: navigate your fungal minions to specific points on the small map by simply pointing and clicking. Only certain coloured friends can navigate bridges matching their own colour while being barred from moving matching blockades. Like any good brain buster, the objective is clear from the very beginning, but new variables and mechanics are constantly thrown into the mix to frustrate your day.
First, you have your red and your blue little buddies, and they go where you ask and act as described above. Then you learn that you can combine a red little guy and a blue little guy to make a purple little guy, who can traverse all bridges of either of his component colours while being blocked by obstacles that would block either as well. Then you add in an additional colour, then pressure plates for bridges, colour swapping, and the whole thing gets pretty confounding. In fact, my biggest complaint with She Remembered Caterpillars is how quickly the difficulty gets ramped up. Don’t get me wrong, the nature of the game always makes it feel like a solution is in sight, but the realization that you have literally been moving around in circles for the past 10 minutes and accomplished nothing is both sudden and frustrating.
Mechanics aside, She Remembered Caterpillars is gorgeous, something not always necessary in the puzzle genre. The handcrafted art ranges from awesome to charming with smooth animation to help soothe those frustrations away. Even the music is a joy. The soundtrack is full of soft, somber melodies that feel conducive to deep, meditative thought—just what I want in a game like this. It complements the playstyle and the somewhat cryptic, understated story perfectly as well.
She Remembered Caterpillars is an outstanding example of a timeless genre. It is a puzzle game through and through. Best of all, there is a free demo up one Steam for the curious, though not quite committed of us. If fast paced excitement is what you want out of your gaming experience, then there are plenty of other options out there that will serve you better than this gem. If you want to stare at a level for several minutes as you chart the prospective courses of your colourful pawns set to meditative melodies and inspiring art, then She Remembered Caterpillars might be the perfect fit for you. Do be prepared for a minor oversight to reduce all of your planning to nought and having to start again, though. It happens to us all.