A Little to the Left (2022)
Developer: Max Inferno
Well, this is my last review before Tears of the Kingdom comes out, so please forgive me if things are running a little behind from here on.... Anyway, I definitely waited too long to pick up this little game, despite the attention it received last year. I was unconvinced simply because I thought that I, someone who likes to make messes in games, might not enjoy a game where you organize and clean up messes instead. However, I was happily proved wrong. A Little to the Left is an (mostly) relaxing puzzle game about organizing, tidying, and sorting household items. A Little to the Left is definitely satisfying and cozy with a decent amount challenge, and just a little bit of chaos.
You're introduced to the game with some very simple organization tasks. For example, you'll be given a set of spoons that you can order by size. Or, books that you can organize from thickest to thinnest - but wait - you can also organize them by the colors on their spine? You quickly find that some puzzles have multiple "solutions" to them, allowing you to get a full score on the level if you solve it all of its different ways. You progress through levels that are part of themed chapters that delve into organizing different types of items, such as tools. Everything seems slow-paced and easygoing, until suddenly there's someone undo the tidying you just did: a fluffy white cat who is knocking over cups and leaving dirty footprints everywhere. You'll have to not only organize, but keep up with the cat's messes as well. There's a very subtle story being told about you, the player, and the cat, and the game manages to keep you engaged with this minimal storyline.
A Little to the Left uses a simplistic, hand-drawn style that emphasizes bold colors and shapes. It allows you to focus on those shapes and colors and recognize patterns - which is really what this game is all about. The cat shows up from time to time to make a mess, but it also provides a nice break to all the still life of household objects. The soft, charming piano and strings definitely give the game a feeling of comfort, however, for me that was at the cost of making me sleepy when spending a long time on one puzzle. The game's intensity does grow near the end, and I think the music that brought it all together was really fun. I rarely talk about sound design in games (because I know very little about it), but I can tell you confidently that the sounds in this game were absolutely perfect. The little metallic clang you hear when dropping a spoon, the heavy thud when you move a box, and the little "click" when you slot an item into a perfectly-sized container.... It's really good stuff.
A Little to the Left lets you skip levels as you wish, and even offers hints if you want them. However, to fully complete the game, it's still a decent challenge. It was often easy to find the first solution to a puzzle, but then it had two other possibilities that weren't quite so straightforward. There was also plenty of levels that only had one solution, but I could not figure it out until trying a bunch of different things. I surprised to find that many puzzles involved thinking more about symmetry, and others required me to use my own categorization skills. Sometimes you have to just base the solution on what feels right. I had to ask my partner to look at a puzzle for me that I thought I had solved and tell me what he felt seemed off about it, and that helped me figure out something I was overlooking. You can't solve every puzzle with the same method, so there was a lot of fun in trying out different things or coming back to it later once you understood the game a little better.
A Little to the Left feels like it "scratches" a certain part of your brain in a really satisfying way. It's very interesting to me how some puzzles feel obvious because of the way most people understand patterns similarly, but others are much more challenging because there's many different interpretations of what feels right. It's a game where you should do what feels right to you, but allows you to think in different ways. I recommend this to anyone who likes puzzle games and cozy laid-back games. I'm really into this "genre" of games where you organize objects, much like Unpacking, and I'd definitely like to play more like it.
A Little to the Left is available on PC, Switch, and Mac
Played on: Switch
Playtime: 9 hrs