Knitting With Light
Watch the video review above or read the written review below!
Filament is a sci-fi puzzle game about an engineer who operates a droid that fixes terminals by threading a glowing string around columns. It’s basically like knitting – if knitting was so frustrating it made you want to stick the needles into your ears and garotte yourself with the string.
The protagonist, a mute, anonymous dungaree wearing space engineer, wanders around an abandoned station trying to repair things.
Filament gives a bit of bare-bones narrative to the proceedings with a lady who is trapped on-board the station speaking to you via radio. At first she’s a little sardonic, but soon becomes wistful, reminiscing at length about her life on the station and her various friends and acquaintances.
Combined with the twinkly music, the woman’s long nostalgic diatribes give the game a rather maudlin feel, which really didn’t really help me stay invested. Unlike classic physics puzzlers such as Portal, there’s just not enough excitement to properly buffer the slower, more contemplative parts, which make up almost the entirety of the game.
Filament is about fixing terminals, each of which has about five puzzles of light-threading action. To unlock the exit to each puzzle, your little robot has to wrap the light-thread around every beacon column on the map. At first, this is easy enough, since all you’re doing is wrapping a proverbial piece of string around columns, but it soon gets devilishly difficult as different column types are introduced. Coloured columns turn the string a certain shade, meaning you’ll need to wrap around a spire of the same colour before continuing, complicating the sequence. Black columns turn your string dark, making any further progress impossible, so carefully planning how to avoid them becomes paramount. There were some puzzles that just got confusing because there was no textual or vocal direction provided, and I was left unsure what I was even meant to do, let alone how I was meant to do it. Things get even more devious as it is quite possible to light up every column, open the final door and be a few feet away from exiting only for it to slam shut in your face because of some mistake made right at the beginning.
I can’t deny though, there were some brilliant Eureka moments when I worked out how to weave a successful pattern through a level so intricate and complex it would put even the most expert of sweater-knitting grandmas to shame.
Sadly, some more tricky puzzles I got really stuck on, and I went into this mental loop of zoning out from boredom, causing me to lose attention and repeat the same failed paths, which in turn made me zone out even more. There is thankfully a focus function that lets you observe the lay of the land from a bird’s eye view, giving you a better overview of the terrain. It’s also handy that you can leave puzzles you’re stuck on and come back to them later without losing progress, so you don’t go too insane. Still, I couldn’t help but wish that the lady on the other end of the radio would just give me an occasional hint about the more confusing puzzles to help move things along rather than tell me her life story in laborious detail. Likewise, perhaps giving more of the puzzles some sort of time limit or obstacles to avoid might increase the tension. As it is though, Filament has the languid feeling of doing a bumper book of sudoku puzzles in a retirement home.
I’m sure some sophisticate will be watching/reading this, imperiously twirling their wine glass and tutting derisively as they contemptuously declare “Oh, Jon, you’re just not intellectual enough to fully appreciate a more pure puzzle game”. To this theoretical person, I say: “I can’t hear you over the sound of me loudly slurping Mountain Dew, crunching on nachos and listening to Limp Bizkit with the volume cranked up to the max (they’re rocking the set like Russian Roulette when you’re placing your bet).”
You see, I am a salt-of-the-earth, blue-collar, common-or-garden everyman: friend to the average joe!
Tying Up Loose Ends
Of course, this is why videogames are subjective! If you’re the sort of person who solves Rubix cubes with one hand while finishing crosswords with the other, you may find Filament to be an entertaining diversion, and jolly good for you! Speaking for myself, I tend to like a little bit more sizzle in my steak. Maybe I’m just a twitchy dopamine fiend who needs to blow something up or have sex with an alien every few seconds to hold my interest, but as Popeye would say: “I yam who I yam”.
I will say this for Filament: it’s a complex and evolving puzzler with an innovative concept, and it’s quite satisfying when solving a tough challenge. However, it’s overall not really entertaining enough for me. If it seems like your sort of thing though, by all means, get to knitting!
Final Verdict: 3/5
Available on: PC (reviewed); Publisher: Kasedo Games; Developer: Beard Envy; Players: 1; Released: April 23rd, 2020;
Full Disclosure: This review is based on a copy of Filament given to Hey Poor Player by the publisher