A Tale of Synapse: The Chaos Theories asks players to mind its gaps
Editor’s Note: The publisher has reached out to HeyPoorPlayer.com to advise readers that the team is currently revising their English translation.
A puzzle platformer that promises math-based obstacles instead of the standard environmental brain teasers? Now THAT’S an interesting premise. Fascinating, even. Platformers are known for not shying away from gameplay that incorporates word puzzles (Lost Words: Beyond the Page comes to mind), but math puzzles seem to be few and far between in comparison. Perhaps A Tale of Synapse: The Chaos Theories would fill a math-sized hole that a niche crowd noticed needed filling?
Developed by Souris-Lab and published by Tesura Games, A Tale of Synapse: The Chaos Theories is a puzzle platformer that boasts logic-based gameplay. On its Steam page, it asks players to “use the universe rules and all the element that compose it to help Synapsians to openminded.” Available for $17.99 on both the Switch and PC, A Tale of Synapse: The Chaos Theories features 48 different levels that can take approximately 10 hours to complete — if you have the patience for it.
A Tale of Synapse: The Chaos Theories has a simple premise: Nero, a more cerebrally-inclined Synapsian, spends every possible moment in the library. Unfortunately, few other Synapsians seem to care about the vast amount of tomes in such a wonderful building, so he’s often the only one there. This has allowed him to foster a sort of parent-child relationship with the librarian, however, so it’s not a total loss.
One day, the librarian asks Nero to clean up the basement; wanting to appease his newfound parental unit, he descends to the lowest floor and begins sweeping away. While cleaning up the place, he accidentally lets loose an evil force; in an unintentional balancing act, he also accidentally frees a more benevolent one. The creature introduces itself as Sci, but before they can make more pleasantries, the floor crumbles, and the duo suddenly find themselves in a cavernous dungeon filled with platforms, enemies, and math-based puzzles. Unable to take the path they came, the pair must continue onwards, facing any obstacle they come across.
A Tale of Synapse: The Chaos Theories features nice aesthetics in the sense that the backgrounds are beautiful. I found the painted effects to be fairly unique and in many cases a joy to look at, and the mathematical characters strewn about the place gave off lovely Donald in Mathemagic Land vibes. They were, however, juxtaposed with flatly drawn characters and platforms that missed the dimension the background art provided. It felt like the art direction was given all the love and attention to detail in terms of backgrounds, but everything else felt rushed in comparison.
The puzzles in A Tale of Synapse: The Chaos Theories live up to their hype to an extent — simple equations, matching numbers to shapes, etc. all dot the early game, with the puzzles getting increasingly more complex as time goes on. Had the game focused more intensely on these puzzles, I think it would have benefitted greatly from it, as the developers clearly understood the difficulty curve quite well. Unfortunately, puzzles were again oddly placed against random, easily defeatable enemies that sadly hindered the selling point of the game — logic puzzles. I would be interested to see a different version of the game where combat doesn’t exist, as I think this largely forgettable aspect does A Tale of Synapse: The Chaos Theories a distracting disservice.
I think the most distracting thing about A Tale of Synapse: The Chaos Theories was the English translation. Now, don’t get me wrong, I applaud anyone who can speak multiple languages, but when selling a product to people in an advertised language, it should ideally be readily understandable. Some of the featured translations were just clunky in the way that stubborn gorilla was translated to donkey kong — it felt like the developers picked up a thesaurus and just picked words that were listed instead of checking to see if they actually worked (i.e., enigma instead of puzzle). Others were just flat out hard to understand to the point where puzzle instructions were unclear and confusing; as a free game? Not a big deal. Paying $17.99 for it? This is the kind of thing that’d make me ask for a refund, as I wouldn’t feel confident in it getting much better as the game progresses.
Lastly, the controls: make sure you have a controller. Keyboard controls are tricky at best and confusing at worst, especially when it comes to handling both Sci and Neon at the same time. A Tale of Synapse: The Chaos Theories handles as if it was made with controller input in mind, and trying to play without one was an exercise in frustration for the first few areas. Things do go a bit smoother with a controller, so definitely keep one handy if you’re picking up this logic puzzler.
The ideal player for A Tale of Synapse: The Chaos Theories is one with a controller, a fervent love of niche concepts, and a godly amount of patience. I’d even go as far as to say being fluent in French would likely benefit the player as well, so they may enjoy the title in its original language in an effort to bypass the clunky English translation. The background art is surely beautiful, the puzzles themselves are decent, and the idea is certainly interesting, but, as the adage goes, it’s not about the idea but the execution of the idea. That $17.99 can be better spent elsewhere.
Final Verdict: 2.5/5
Available on: Switch, PC (reviewed); Publisher: Tesura Games; Developer: Souris-Lab; Players: 1; Released: June 30, 2021; MSRP: $17.99
Editor’s note: This review is based on a retail copy of A Tale of Synapse: The Chaos Theories provided by the publisher.