A beautiful, logic-driven puzzle-platformer in a world of wonder.
Sci and Néro take centre stage as the heroes in the puzzle-platformer A Tale of Synapse: The Chaos Theories. With four worlds and 46 levels to explore within the visually delightful world of Hemeide, the duo tackle a variety of puzzles that will test their platforming skills and ability to solve math-based puzzles. This unique adventure is a fun take on the genre and can be enjoyed alone or co-operatively, taking advantage of each character's unique skills.
The plot is a little difficult to follow, due in part to translation issues from French developer Souris-Lab. Grammatical issues, award phrasing and typos are a little too present. The game begins with an interesting set-up but almost instantly fades into the background as the world hopping adventure begins. It's not always clear why Sci and Néro are doing certain things narratively but luckily the gameplay is enjoyable, respectably challenging and the beautiful backdrops the adventure unfolds in are a welcome substitute to narrative substance.
The stunning visual direction is a joyful wonder from start to finish, consistently decorating the screen with striking imagery, vibrant colours and worlds full of wonder. There is a cartoonish charm to the characters and the way they seem to be brought to the foreground is very effective. Each world looks fantastic and distinct, a visual treat throughout the entire adventure.
When it comes to gameplay this title is dominated by platforming, a decision that doesn't work well with the locked camera issues. The inability to control the camera leads to the screen stretching or shrinking, leading to frequent mistakes when platforming and trying to land on specific platforms. This direction doesn't take away from the quality of the experience but rather adds a layer of difficulty and potential frustration.
Solving the game's puzzles requires some logic, especially as it heavily revolves around math based puzzles. There is enough variety and new ideas introduced to prevent A Tale of Synapse feeling like homework. Initially uncertain of how this type of puzzle would impact the experience I ended up pleasantly surprised but it, certainly standing out from the crowd of other puzzle platforms by adopting the mathematical approach.
Basic combat is present though it feels more like an afterthought. It's not deep enough to be particularly enjoyable though it's not too prevalent throughout the adventure to feel tedious. It works and kind of just exists rather than feeling like a meaningful addition to the gameplay offering.
Further gameplay mechanics that don't quite work as well as they could is the dual protagonists each controlled by a thumb-stick. The platforming in particular can feel a little clumsy and frustrating, especially when coupled with the camera issues. Overall it adds a bit of challenge without feeling too difficult or infuriating, it just doesn't quite lend to the most seamless of experiences.
There's no denying the impressive visuals or creative world design in A Tale of Synapse: The Chaos Theories, the worlds which this adventure unfolds within is delightful to look at at all times. Some questionable camera issues and dual control of the protagonists don't hold the experience back, they just don't work as well as they could, a sentiment that is also appropriate for the combat system. Clever and interesting puzzles that require a bit of logic work surprisingly well and keep the experience moving forward at an appropriately rewarding pace.
So, what works?
Beautiful art design
Fun and varied puzzles
And what doesn't?
Lack of camera control
Dual-controlled characters feels clumsy at times
Combat doesn't really fit
A Tale of Synapse: The Chaos Theories was reviewed on Nintendo Switch and is also available now on PC.
Games of DAYNE
Games of DAYNE is a reviewer and Xbox Achievement Hunter based in Wangaratta, Australia. Video games keep him busy whether it’s playing, reviewing or achievement hunting and other than entering "Dad Mode" for two young boys under five and working full time as a cheesemaker, he exists almost exclusively in the world of gaming.