Imagine block-sliding classic Soko-Ban smashed into Groundhog Day. Only instead of Bill Murray getting to take on the same 24 hours afresh each day, he sees a world littered with his own corpses to use as stepping stones and shields. That’s Persephone. (And also an excellent Groundhog Day sequel pitch. How about it, Hollywood?)
This is a game that gives you the simple task of reaching an exit. But in order to do so, you often find yourself trampling across corpses of your fallen self, or rather coldly shoving them about Persephone’s painterly worlds, to trigger distant switches you otherwise wouldn’t be able to reach.
The nonchalant manner in which the protagonist – queen of the underworld – goes about her business is darkly comic, and at odds with her slightly goofy appearance. It’s quite the thing to screw up several times in a row, and shove a couple of dead bodies along, while another unceremoniously lurks lifeless elsewhere, having earlier been impaled on some spikes.
But this isn’t a game that’s morbid for the sake of it. Instead, death not being the end forces you to make odd leaps of logic, wrenching you out of the framework of conventional puzzle solving. For example, you might leap to your death in a river, purely because you’ll subsequently be reincarnated closer to a box-like ‘bridge’ that’s moving too quickly on the current to otherwise reach.
Keep it simple, stupid
It’s interesting during play how you hit upon such oddball solutions; and it’s an indication of how clever many of the puzzles are in construction. Quite a few that initially appear bewilderingly complex are in fact solvable with only a relatively small number of moves.
Over time, you’ll really come to appreciate the positioning of reincarnation points and objects. You’ll realise how clever it is that you’re allowed precisely three dead versions of yourself to work with, and the juggling act (keeping switches active; dodging projectiles; inching your way to the exit) this can cause during tougher challenges.
The quick and the dead
There is perhaps a question of brevity. Persephone’s 60 levels are ultimately quite linear and clockwork in nature, with some merely existing to teach you new mechanics. It’s admirable to see a game do ‘show not tell’, but it does mean you can conceivably blaze through the entire thing in an afternoon.
Even so, the journey is rich and rewarding. Persephone feels like a finely crafted game of details, rather than shoving several hundred identikit puzzles your way to trudge through. It’s a premium puzzler with a one-shot price-tag, and another great opportunity for any mobile gamer that detests freemium mechanics to put their money where their mouth is.