If you were to ask me what the hardest type of game to review is, I would instantly reply with the answer of puzzle games. Sure, you may initially believe that it would be some sort of massive open world game like The Witcher III or Grand Theft Auto V, and while having to review games like those is still a challenge, there’s always plenty of material to work with. But trying to get a particularly lengthy article out of something like Lyne, Hexcells, or Tetris, which tend to emphasize simple, basic, and addictive gameplay above anything else is always tricky. That said, developers Jumpsuit Entertainment are clearly aiming to create a puzzle game that excels in all possible areas with their new title She Remembered Caterpillars, but is the end result truly a high water mark for the genre that warrants a particularly deep review? Let’s find out…
She Remembered Caterpillars sees you guiding a bunch of “Gammies,” little big-headed, primary-colored creatures, to their own end goals across several “fungipunk” landscapes. Of course, it naturally isn’t as easy as it sounds. Several routes are only accessible to certain Gammies due to an array of various obstacles, and it’s up to you to figure out how to get them all across or around each one, up to and including having them merge with one another or repaint themselves. And as with the best puzzles games, what initially sounds like a simple concept with simple gameplay gradually builds up the challenge to lovingly hair-pulling levels, odd as that sounds.
So what kind of obstacles are we talking about? Well, there are bridges that can only be crossed by Gammies of certain colors, gates that block ones out, passages solely for primary colors that change what direction you can cross them on each time you go over them, standard switches to hold down to create platforms…a particularly nice variety. And as mentioned before, you have to merge Gammies together into order to help certain critters pass through. For example, you may need to merge a red and a blue Gammie together to help the blue one cross a red bridge, except now they can’t pass through a red gate, so you have to figure exactly what areas to merge and split on, as well as when and how to head back to pick up other friends if needed.
It sounds a bit odd, but try to imagine a game based around the types of puzzles such as the classic fox/chicken/seed puzzle or the one about having to fill up water pitchers (as seen in Die Hard With a Vengeance), but with the complexity cranked up a bit, and you may have a grasp of what She Remembered Caterpillars has to offer. Sure, it sounds a bit silly when described like that, but you would be surprised how brain-busting some of these puzzles can be. At its core, this is a game all about properly matching up primary colors and shapes in order to create various paths to the end, but you would be surprised just how much these color-based challenges can stump you. And it’s thankfully always in the fair way, one where success comes through analyzing everything around you and working things out, and the odds are never fully against you. The point-and-click controls are also well-executed, though there are times when you may click on an area and your select Gammie may head down the other area with the obvious bridge they can’t cross instead.
As you can tell from the screenshots as well, She Remembered Caterpillars is unbelievably gorgeous, with its hand-drawn levels and backdrops, and adorable animation on each of the characters and obstacles (though it can’t help but feel like the slightly elaborate animation slows the gameplay down at times, if only by mre seconds). The “fungipunk” theme is played up to its fullest here, with organic landscapes blending with various mechanisms and man-made structures, creating a truly unique and eye-catching visual style. The ambient music also works in its favor as well, perfectly setting the mood for a round of peaceful puzzles.
So She Remembered Caterpillars has the potential to definitely be a puzzle classic, but unfortunately it ends up trying a bit too hard when it comes to its presentation. That may sound like an odd complaint, but you’ll notice that I haven’t actually mentioned anything about the game’s story yet. Well, supposedly it’s all about a scientist’s quest to save her father…I think? Or maybe it’s about the Gammies, and something involving their mother…or maybe the ruined setting is a metaphor for dementia. Or maybe there is no scientist, and this is some sort of post-apocalyptic world. Possibly?
The point is that in an attempt to create a moving, meaningful story, She Remembered Caterpillars sort of stumbles over everything else its created. The problem isn’t necessarily that it’s a bad idea for a story, but rather that the story is only conveyed through little snippets of text at the beginning of each puzzle, and you’re given so little to work with at a time that it’s hard to figure out how it all relates to the challenges you face and the landscapes you see. There just seems to be a huge disconnect between the narrative and the actual gameplay, so they don’t really click together. It’s like a game of Dr. Mario where you get shown clips from Outbreak in between levels, in that you can only make out the most basic of connections between the two.
Despite some issues in blending its story together with the rest of the experience, She Remembered Caterpillars is still a highly enjoyable puzzle game, one that clearly had a lot of hard work put into every area possible in order to create something so simple yet elegant and challenging. It’s a tough but fun romp through a striking, eerie and cute world that is worth checking out, especially for fans of puzzle games. And hey, it was able to score a relatively lengthy review as well, so kudos for this charming little fungi-fest for being deeper than expected!