Some of the most well-designed puzzle games are also some of the easiest to understand at a glance. Portal, for all its devious experiment rooms and conundrums within, is simple to break down and explain to new players, letting its depth reveal itself as you use its mechanics in increasingly complex ways. Baba is You is equally straightforward but can get wildly chaotic when you start truly experimenting with how far you can stretch its word-based combinations. Viewfinder neatly fits into their company. It’s a short but engrossing puzzle game with a distinct and captivating central mechanic that is satisfyingly explored across a range of challenging puzzles, each of which left a grin on my face upon arriving at a solution.
Viewfinder’s core concept lets you take static, 2D images and project them into 3D space in the world around you. For example, a Polaroid shot of an otherwise unassuming staircase can be used to construct a new path to a higher platform once projected into the world, carving out space for itself and destroying anything that might have been there beforehand. The more you play around with it, the more you start understanding different facets of how this power can be used to manipulate the serene and delightfully colorful environments around you. For example, while a picture of a plain wall might only show you what was captured in two dimensions, the effect it has once you apply it to the world is much more, sometimes throwing out whole rooms and important objects from behind it. By the same token, where you place your projections is equally important, too, as large structures that you conjure ahead of you can inadvertently shear the environment in such a way that makes reaching your objective more challenging.
Viewfinder starts slowly by only offering you predefined photos that you can find around stages, easing you into the mindset that will be required by later challenges. However, it’s not long before it truly lets loose by giving you a camera of your own, letting you capture stills from any angle in a stage and use them to devise your own solutions. This moment feels empowering and liberating, akin to finally being able to fire both portal types in Portal after being forced to solve puzzles with only one. It also comes at just the right time, where the complexity presented by puzzles that give you the exact tools you need to solve them is beginning to wear thin. Without the safety net of being given the pieces you need for a solution and challenging you to find them yourself, Viewfinder entrusts you to create your own solutions that can be as straightforward or wholly unique to the way you deconstruct a problem.
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