An aesthetically driven puzzle-based platformer
Game Details and Transcript of Review
What first attracted me to Ta’aroa was not the gameplay but rather the aesthetics. The game’s no-frills design and simple black-and-white color scheme at first struck me as a photograph and its negative, but the more I considered the game, the more it reminds me of a mirror.
I think this analogy is particularly apt given the game’s mechanics. At its core, Ta’aroa is a puzzle game. Your objective is to get from point A to point B by moving between light and dark versions of the stage. As you do, objects reposition themselves for you to move, enemies come alive to hinder your progress, and environmental hazards appear where none were before. While there are certainly platforming elements to the game, reaching the end of the stage successfully depends primarily on abstract thinking rather than reaction time.
Having two worlds that reflect each other is not, of course, a particularly novel idea. Zelda: A Link to the Past did it, and the entire Soul Reaver series is based on this premise, to name a few. But what sets Ta’aroa apart is its sheer simplicity. Apart from its spartan aesthetics, stage design itself is relatively straightforward: each stage is divided into a series of smaller, self-contained puzzle sections. Completing one section spits you out into the beginning of the next, and completing that one lands you at the start of another one, and so on until you’ve incrementally reached the goal. Unlike some puzzle games in this vein with platforming elements, there didn’t seem to be the possibility of missing a jump and falling back down to a section you’ve previously passed.
Overall, the game isn’t itself too difficult once you figure out what you need to do. There’s no time limit pressuring you to advance, so you can take your time if need be, and each stage is liberally peppered with checkpoints that save your progress after navigating past each puzzle section in the stage.
My only major complaint is that the game is too short. Given the packaging, this isn’t a demo. But the game clocks in around 15 minutes, and without a timer or difficulty modes to push players to challenge themselves after completing a stage, there isn’t much reason to pick it up again after the first runthrough.