Sirens went off in my head as I fired up Closure for the first time. I can only guess that as I took in the game's vague narrative, minimalistic design, and unique art style, I subconsciously pronounced the game to be "artsy." Thanks to many poor experiences I've had with such titles, I tend to associate "artsy" with "pretentious," and by extension with "lacking in engagement and torturous to play." However, I'm not so shortsighted that I will immediately distance myself from art games, and will usually give them the benefit of the doubt before playing them. I therefore decided not to write-off Closure completely, and I'm honestly glad that I didn't!
The narrative is definitely existent, but it's not so in your face that you couldn't ignore it and just play. Mostly, the game tells its story through the use of background images or environments. For instance, one segment of the game involves playing as a young girl who runs away from home and joins a circus. You don't get these details through a long series of cutscenes or written passages, but by simply playing the game. In the character's first stage, you exit her house and take off down the street. Later on, you'll enter levels decked out with circus-like themes. Of course, there's more to the girl's story, seen mostly in the background, but that's for you to puzzle out and piece together.
Beneath Closure's artsy presentation is a very simple 2D platformer--a genre I've been madly in love with since the '80s--that features challenging puzzles involving the use of light. Guiding a strange demonic creature (or one of the hosts it possesses), your task in each stage is to find your way to a door by illuminating any platforms, walls, bodies of water, or ladders leading to it. Depending on the stage and situation, that might involve adjusting lamps or carrying a light-exuding orb. Anything that remains unlit basically doesn't exist and cannot be interacted with. For instance, if you attempt to leap onto a platform that isn't illuminated, you'll fall through it instead of land safely on it. Plummet off the screen and you'll have to restart the puzzle. Thankfully you have infinite lives, so death in Closure is only a minor setback.
Of course, Closure's stages aren't as simple as strolling up to the door or adjusting a few lights and jumping occasionally. Some stages require deep thought and careful examination and experimentation in order to succeed. There are numerous occasions where you need to shine just enough light on a wall to be able to use it as an elevated platform. Light up too much of the wall, though, and it'll be too tall to leap onto. You'll also often find yourself adjusting lamps so that you can illuminate an optimal amount of ground near the lamp (while also keeping the floor beneath it lit, lest you fall to your death). In some cases, there are lengthy stretches of ground you must light up, so positioning each lamp properly can be a nuisance. I also recall a few instances where I had to illuminate multiple platforms, obviously knowing that I would be required to leap from one to another later in the stage. Once again, the challenge was in rotating each lamp into just the right position so that enough of each platform was well enough lit. To make matters worse, platforms sometimes outnumbered lamps, requiring me to scour the stage for another light source or figure out how to shine light on multiple platforms with a single lamp.
Some of the stages are downright nasty. I recall one that consisted of a series of platforms with orbs resting on them. Below the platforms was a hill, which barred my path to the door, and a deep body of water stretching to the bottom of the level. Also under the hill was a submerged room with vertical slots jutting from its ceiling. It took me ages to figure out what to do, but the solution involved taking two orbs into the water, using holders along the way to switch between the two. I had to release one at a certain point underwater, which caused it to float upward into the isolated room, then grab the other orb to return to the surface. I also had to act fast upon releasing the orb, as I would be plunged into darkness after doing so. I repeated this process several times until I had enough orbs contained in the room to release into all of the slots. Doing so caused them to float upward and illuminate a path leading to the door. It was a long, exhausting process that took a lot of trial and error, but in the end it was rewarding to surmount the obstacle. Mostly, it created the illusion that I was smart, which gave me a tingly feeling in my guts.
These puzzles may sound like a giant headache, but I totally dug them. Mainly, I appreciated that they added the challenge necessary to elevate Closure beyond your typical no-challenge artsy game. As I've said before, one of the greatest drawbacks I've found in numerous artsy games is that they aren't very difficult or engaging. They seem to be more intent on dazzling audiences or telling stories through suggestive imagery without much interaction. Closure, thankfully, doesn't have that problem. It actually has both style and substance.
I can't say that Closure is a perfect game, though. One thing that drove me batty about it was that I was required to collect moths throughout the game. At first I thought that collecting them was extracurricular, as platformers are known to include bonus collectibles hidden throughout their campaigns. Eventually I reached the final stage, which cannot be completed unless every moth has been nabbed. This meant having to scour every stage all over again until I found each one. Honestly, why couldn't the game have warned me that the moths were a requirement? That would have saved me the trouble of having to tediously backtrack.
That's just a minor complaint, though. All in all, Closure's challenging puzzles make for a thought-provoking and engaging experience. The addition of a vague narrative is merely a bonus, and I'm glad that it didn't rob the game of its interactive elements. Personally, I'd like to see more from this game's developer Eyebrow Interactive. They turned out a fantastic title here, and it would be interesting to see what else their fertile minds can cook up.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.