Closure

words manifested by: AJ Johnson

A game by Eyebrow Interactive for PC, Mac, Linux, and PS3, originally released in 2012.
Closure is a puzzle platformer about light and darkness. However, the light does more than merely reveal your surroundings; it affects what exists in the world and what does not. Each level in Closure is built around the manipulation of light sources to reveal pathways that eventually lead to an exit door, but when the light is removed from a solid object, it disappears entirely, allowing the player character to pass right through it… and potentially fall to his death if he isn’t careful.


As the game begins, your character is revealed to be some sort of multi-legged creature with horns and a hollow face. This creature is able to pass through doorways that lead to different realms where it puts on masks to take on human form. After completing an introductory training area, three doorways become available, each leading to a different themed area.


In the first area, the creature dons a mask with a hardhat and turns into a construction worker to explore an industrial environment. In the second, the creature wears the mask of a woman and interacts with a more organic environment, and the third world allows the creature to wear the mask of a little girl and explore a creepy carnival. Completing these three areas opens up another door that leads to an even tougher set of challenges where the creature retains its native form.


While the game does seem to carry some sort of underlying narrative, its message is unclear. There is no overt storytelling to be found in Closure, but there are a number of setpieces that stick out and appear to have a meaning of their own. For instance, in the second world, the woman appears to emerge from a fiery car accident and wanders into a creepy forest. This realm’s final levels take place in a hospital, and the woman is seen in a hospital bed hooked up to a heart monitor that’s pulsing away with each beat. The woman appears to still be alive and thus her journey doesn’t seem to be one of passing into another world, so it’s not clear what sort of “closure” was attained by her actions. The level merely ends with a regular exit door and the player is left to move forward to explore a new scenario.


The creature has a 1.5x nonvariable jump and the ability to push physics-based boxes and barrels, as well as pick up orbs that act as the game’s primary light sources. By picking up an orb and walking through the environment, the ground and walls around you are revealed, but the orb’s luminescence doesn’t extend very far, and much of the world outside of the orb is shrouded in complete darkness. Dropping the orb and taking a few steps in either direction will often cause you to fall to your death.


The game’s puzzles are built around moving orbs through the environment and manipulating light sources to illuminate your path or affect other objects. For instance, the player may need to push a box to use it as a stepping stone to reach a higher platform, but removing the light source from the floor beneath the box will cause it to fall through and be lost. On the other hand, you may need to roll a barrel along the floor, but you find your path blocked by an impassible solid object. In this case, you can remove the light source from the object and push the barrel through. If you manage to lose a box or key that’s required to complete the level, a “restart” icon will appear over the creature’s head to let you know that you will need to manually restart the level and try again.


In addition to carrying orbs through the environment, there are a number of sconces placed around the levels that allow you to make use of additional abilities. The most basic of these allows you to place an orb in one sconce, which will then copy the orb to another sconce, thus adding light to a new area. Another variety of sconce acts as a slingshot that will fire the orb off to a distant location. Lastly, there is the moving sconce, which is the source of some of the game’s more challenging sequences.


Placing an orb into a moving sconce will briefly reveal the sconce’s path of travel through the environment. Once the light source starts moving, you need to keep up with it, lest you find yourself falling into the void, and there are several things that make these challenges more difficult than the other light manipulation puzzles…


First off, these challenges are time-based and require you to react quickly, whereas other puzzle solutions generally allow you to take as much time as you like to figure them out. Secondly, the light often moves into uncharted territory, so you will have no way of knowing what to expect. Sometimes you just follow along and jump over gaps, sometimes you ride up an illuminated pillar like an elevator, and sometimes you find yourself crushed between two solid objects when the elevator reaches the top because you had no idea that there was a ceiling there. In more challenging variations of this puzzle, the player may be required to jump away from the moving light to grab an orb and then get back quickly before the light moves out of reach.


Moving sconce challenges highlight the one of the key frustrations with the puzzle design in Closure. In most puzzle platformers, the player is able to study the environment and make decisions about what to do next, and failing a (well-designed) puzzle reveals information to the player that will help him to be successful in future attempts.


In Closure, on the other hand, it’s impossible to see most of the level at any point, so there is rarely the opportunity to lean back and examine the elements needed for success. As such, the only way to solve a puzzle is through experimentation, but failing an experiment usually means failing the level as well, as losing a needed key or box renders the puzzle unsolvable, thus requiring a manual restart.


You may fail a puzzle by performing the required actions in the wrong order because the correct course of action was literally invisible at the time. Some puzzles add frustration by focusing on small repeated movements, due to the fact that you can only carry one object at a time. So, getting a key to a distant door may require picking up the key, walking a few steps and dropping it, and then picking up the orb to walk a few more steps before dropping it, repeating this process over and over again to leapfrog the key to the locked exit door.


Some of the game’s more clever puzzles include interacting with orbs in and around bodies of water. Orbs typically fall when they are dropped, but when they are dropped underwater, they float to the surface. This leads to some inversions in thinking as orbs must be placed under platforms to keep them within the light, but dropped keys will still sink to the bottom. The player must also be careful, because removing a light source from the water makes it disappear as well, which means that dropping an orb may cause the player to fall out of the bottom of the pool and die.


As the player moves forward, new puzzle elements are introduced that add extra layers of complexity. For instance, the first world features blocked zones that prevent the player from dropping what he is carrying, forcing him to consider how to manipulate light sources without being able to walk in and drop an orb. The second world introduces several organic elements, such as light sources that shutter themselves when you get near them, orbs that are connected to hanging vines, and orbs that are imbedded inside of crates or barrels that must be pushed rather than carried.


The second world also introduces bulbs that must be activated by a light source, and each activated bulb sends a signal to the exit door. All of these bulbs must be illuminated simultaneously in order for the exit to open, so the player is often tasked with fully exploring the environment in order to reposition orbs and lamps to activate these bulbs, while remembering to leave himself a lighted path to the exit.


The third world introduces targets that must be shot in order to open doors, and the ability to shoot orbs to destroy them. In addition, this world introduces large lamps that are activated by other light sources, and which can send out a wide beam of illumination in a straight line. Often, the player must line up several lamps so that they activate each other.


The player is free to enter any of the first three worlds at will, but the levels within each world must be completed in order. There is a separate difficulty curve for each new world, so players who get stuck in one world are free to move over to the other two and have a go at some of the puzzles on the easier end of the spectrum.


Players who have the muster to complete the 24 levels in each world (72 total) will unlock a door with a set of 10 extremely challenging levels that incorporate puzzle elements from all of the previous areas, many of which focus on making very precise movements under strict guidelines. Expert light manipulators may also seek out swarms of moths that appear in certain levels – and these are usually in tough-to-reach places that are off the beaten path – to open up one final secret.



2D CRED
Closure was developed by Eyebrow Interactive, a studio founded in 2009. Design and programming were performed by Tyler Glaiel who has a great deal of experience in developing Flash titles, and he also worked on The Basement Collection. Art and animation were provided by Jon Schubbe, and the music and sound were created by Chris Rhyne.


Closure was originally developed as a Flash prototype and released in 2009. Based on positive feedback, the developers spent the next couple of years building it out into a full game, which was released in 2012. Along the way, the game won several awards, including Indiecade 2009's Gameplay Innovation award, the 2010 IGF Excellence in Audio award, and the 2012 Indie Game Challenge Grand Prize.

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