Archaica: Path of Light

June 12, 2020
Developer: TwoMammoths, Drageus Games S.A.
Publisher: Drageus Games
Platform: Nintendo Switch

I normally don't play many more serious puzzle games—mostly because I suck at them. I typically sit there scratching my head for about an hour and then give up. I'm a lot better at action-oriented games. I'm aware that the "reflecting beams of light" sub-genre of puzzle games is totally overused, but for some reason, I've been keeping my eye on Archaica: (The) Path of Light for some time. (It seems even the developers couldn't decide if the word "The" was part of the official title). It went on sale recently, so I decided to pick it up. I was pleasantly surprised. Archaica involves moving and rotating various types of mirrors to light up columns. Nothing new there. There are some additional devices involved: for example, repeaters which allow light to travel further; splitters which divide a beam of light into two; and teleporters which will move a beam of light to another location.

What really held my attention until completion was the almost perfectly-tuned difficulty curve of this game. Each level (except for the three bonus levels) has one or more crystals scattered about, which you can find by panning around the play field. If you pick them up, you are granted hints to use. These hints create an overlay on the area you select which shows you where some of the mirrors/devices go. They do not tell you what goes in each spot—only that something goes there. This makes for an interesting and helpful hint system that is not too helpful and still allows the player to feel like they've accomplished something without their hand being held. Additional hints beyond the ones you find are available, but locked behind a timer—so, while you could get up and go make a sandwich, you're encouraged to continue to figure out the puzzle by yourself with the information you are given. If you start getting frustrated, a hint will be there to break your fall.

The art is solid, but there is one little issue: sometimes the colors are a little hard to tell apart. It's nothing that ruined the game for me, but sometimes it's hard to tell just what color a certain beam is. Thankfully, the few times this happens it doesn't really matter, because you'll have an obvious difference in beam colors (e.g. blue and yellow). I don't know how colorblind people would fare, though, since there is no other indication of beam color or type; but I guess it kind of comes with the territory.

The music (what little there is) is fitting, and so are the sound effects, although I never was able to decipher what that weird drumming noise was in the background. I guess it doesn't matter, since I completed the game 100%...which the game also encourages you do to, because only in completing absolutely everything will you unlock the "true ending".

But what's most important is the gameplay, and Archaica delivers. It's simple, but can become complex. It's challenging, but never so difficult that the solution seems totally out of reach, meaning even someone as terrible at puzzle games as I am can handle it; and I like that. Hardcore logic puzzle players may blaze through it, but those less enthused about the genre will find something entertaining here. I love that every few new levels, I'd find myself saying "What the fuck?" only to solve whatever crazy thing I was looking at a little while later. That's a great, satisfying feeling. And it looks like it was primarily developed by only two people, so that makes it even better in my book. Many—dare I say most—AAA studios can't put out something this solid nowadays.

Final Rating