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Samsara (Xbox)

Developed by Marker, Samsara is available now on PC (Steam) for £11.99 (currently on sale for £10.79) and Xbox One for £12.49.

Samsara is a puzzle game where you’ll play as a child named “Zee”. The screen is split into two dimensions, depicting the ‘real world’ and the ‘shadow realm’, separated by a reflective pool. You have found yourself trapped after falling through a portal. So now your objective in each of the levels is to guide Zee safely towards the exit portal. To reach the portal, you’ll need to use the blocks given to you at the beginning of each level to construct a suitable route. To add to the complexity, it won't take long until Zee's echo is also part of the equation and you'll have to guide them both to the exit portals!

You will be given a quick tutorial so to speak in order to get you acquainted with the controls and requirements of Samsara. Incidentally, the controls are very simple to learn, and you’ll only need to use four buttons. LS to move around the screen, RS to rotate the block, A to place the block and X to signal Zee to start moving.

There are only three shapes of blocks which I thought was a bit of a let-down as there could have been so much more variety with more choice and it does get a little predictable at times. Having said that, there were also plenty of times where I was completely dumbfounded, even though (with hindsight) the solution was so obvious.

The blocks can be made of varied materials such as stone, metal, gold which will then change the way they can be placed, as they react to gravity differently. I really liked how the block material influenced placement as it is a subtle feature to have to contend with. Dropping the blocks and utilising their reflections in the other realm is the key to success a lot of the time.

One of the best things about Samsara, for me, is that there is the option to ‘inverse’ the level which will essentially flip the screen around so that the shadow realm will be on top. This option is easily accessible in the menu and can be changed back and forth however many times you need. I actually found that inversing the levels helped me significantly when it came to working out block placements. As you progress further into the game there will also be an additional environmental risk factor. Twines will manipulate the level as Zee and his echo moves around, causing blocks to fall down or blocking passage through.

There are over 70 levels split across 9 different chapters so there is plenty for you to get stuck into. Within each chapter, the mechanics and properties of the blocks will change, requiring you to adapt accordingly. Teleportation portals add an extra element to contend with as Zee risks falling off to his death if the blocks haven’t been placed correctly. Each level is stunningly drawn, and I loved the contrasting colours and ambience between the two dimensions. The way that light and dark intertwine as both Zee and his echo traverse is beautifully portrayed. I feel that there was an opportunity missed here for an equally beautiful soundtrack. The sound effects are good but I found myself too often in silence and I was longing for some kind of music to be playing in the background.

It could be argued that Samsara is a relatively short game, but the developers have at least tried to implement a certain degree of replay value as there are achievements for completing the entire game in three hours or less, as well as an achievement for completing the entire game inversed!  

Overall, Samsara is a lovely little puzzle game which kept me entertained and my mind active, without it becoming too tedious. If I had to give it a score it would be 8/10. As far as puzzle games go, Samsara has been well executed so I’d absolutely recommend it.

Samsara has 19 achievements available for a total of 1,000 Gamerscore. For the most part, the achievements are progression based and will unlock through natural gameplay. There are a few more creative achievements though, which I always love to see, such as getting yourself stuck in a level! There are also achievements which encourage extra playthroughs although, if you check out the achievement list prior to the beginning then you may not need more than one playthrough. If you need any help or guidance with any of the achievements, then head over to True Achievements where you will find plenty of useful information.

A game code was provided for the purpose of this review. Thank you!
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