One of my favorite video game genres is the puzzle game. While I enjoy many other genres, there is something satisfying about solving a good puzzle. As a fan of the genre I have played a lot of different types of puzzle games. When I see a new type of puzzle game though I am always intrigued. That is what initially interested me about Mystic Pillars. The developers were inspired to create a puzzle game based on the classic board game Mancala. This seemed like a really interesting idea and unlike any other puzzle games that I had played. Mystic Pillars is a fun and unique puzzle game that should delight fans of puzzle games even if it can be a little easy at times.
We at Geeky Hobbies would like to thank Holy Cow Productions for the review copy of Mystic Pillars used for this review. Other than receiving a free copy of the game to review, we at Geeky Hobbies received no other compensation for this review. Receiving the review copy for free had no impact on the content of this review or the final score.
In Mystic Pillars you play as a mysterious traveler. In your journey through ancient India you come upon the kingdom of Zampi. The kingdom of Zampi was once prosperous until magical pillars rose from the ground. These pillars blocked all of the kingdom’s sources of water plunging the land into a drought. When you arrive in the kingdom you find an ancient book that has a magical control over the pillars. Can you use the power of the book to lower the pillars and return water to the kingdom of Zampi restoring it to its former glory?
Mystic Pillars’ gameplay is broken down into a number of levels. In each level there are a number of pillars that are connected to one another. Each level begins with a number of gems on each pillar. You are presented with a diagram of how the gems are supposed to be spread among all of the pillars. Your objective is to move the gems between the pillars in order to get the right number of gems in each pillar within a certain number of moves.
This seems simple enough. The catch comes from the fact that the game is inspired by the classic board game Mancala. To move gems you first choose the pillar you want to take gems from and then the pillar you want to move them to. The number of gems that are moved from one pillar to the other depends on the number of spaces between the two chosen pillars. For example if you are moving gems to a pillar three spaces away three gems will be moved to the new pillar. You must use this mechanic in order to manipulate the positions of the gems so they eventually get to the right pillars. This must be accomplished within a certain number of moves. If you get all of the gems into the right positions in time you will unlock the next level in the game.
As an avid fan of puzzle games I am not exactly sure what I would compare Mystic Pillars to. The game is not really like any other puzzle games that I have played. Mystic Pillars shares things in common with Mancala and yet it feels different as well. Ultimately I found the game to feel kind of like a math puzzle. I found the best way to approach the puzzles is to figure out where I needed to take gems from and where they had to go. Then you need to figure out how to move those gems in the least number of moves. This usually involves creating a pool of gems equal to the number needed for a pillar and trying to place it on a pillar the corresponding number of spaces away from the target pillar. This minimizes the number of moves you have to make as you can move quite a few gems quite a few spaces with just one move. Figuring out how to move the gems around in this way kind of feels like a math puzzle.
I don’t see Mystic Pillars being for everyone, but I had fun with the game. The game’s mechanics are pretty basic for the most part. It is still fun though figuring out how you need to move the gems around. The puzzles are easier than I expected (more on this later), but you usually need to think outside of the box in order to solve them in the designated number of moves. You would think that moving gems directly to their destination would always be best. You are usually better off moving them around to other pillars though so you can move more gems at a time. Moving gems between the pillars is the only gameplay in Mystic Pillars, but it works because it is quite relaxing as you can take your time to figure each puzzle out. When you solve the puzzles it is quite satisfying. If the gameplay doesn’t really interest you I can’t see you enjoying Mystic Pillars. Fans of puzzle games, especially math puzzles, should really enjoy Mystic Pillars though.
Every so often the gameplay will be interrupted by the game’s story. Basically you travel through different villages that were impacted by the pillars and you try to save them. Along the way you are also told the story of the old ruling family of the kingdom and what lead to the rise of the pillars. I have played a lot of video games with different stories and yet I can’t remember playing one set in India. This is not that surprising as the game was developed by a company located in India. I like when games utilize different settings as it is boring visiting the same locales over and over again. In general I enjoyed Mystic Pillars’ story. It only tangentially connects to the gameplay, but it is interesting enough that I wanted to see how it would turn out. The story is mostly told through your discussions with a spirit you meet when you first enter the region. This is mostly static dialogue screens, but every so often there is an animated sequence which tells more about the world’s background. I also thought the game’s art style was quite good even if you spend most of the game just looking at different pillars.
Other than the gameplay not being for everyone, I think the biggest issue with Mystic Pillars is with the game’s difficulty. Maybe I am just surprisingly good at these type of puzzles, but I found the puzzles to be pretty easy for the most part. I was able to finish most of the puzzles in just a couple of minutes. This is not surprising as the puzzles usually only give you three to eight moves to finish them. This limits the possibilities considerably as even if you can’t figure out the puzzle quickly you should eventually figure them out as there are only so many options. I was still able to solve most of the puzzles on either my first attempt or after a couple attempts of trial and error. I have made it through around 80% of the levels and have only encountered a couple levels that were kind of difficult. I can see the game being more difficult for some players if they aren’t great at visualizing how to move the gems. I think most people will find the game to be on the easy to moderately difficult side. This is not necessarily a bad thing as it avoids being frustratingly difficult. At the same time though if you are looking for a real challenge you may be a little disappointed.
Due to the puzzles being on the easy side Mystic Pillars is also on the shorter side. The game includes 100 puzzles. Most of these puzzles can be solved within just a couple minutes. The amount of time you get out of the game is going to depend on how good you are at these type of puzzles. I have played the game for around three and a half hours and are through 80% or so of the levels. Unless the last levels are considerably more difficult than the rest of the levels I think I will be able to complete the game within four to five hours. I could see some people taking a little less time and some taking a little more time. I would guess most people could finish the game in 4-6 hours though. That is not a terrible length, but I wish it was a little longer.
My final issue with Mystic Pillars is really minor. Mystic Pillars is not a particularly demanding game with regards to computer hardware. The computer I played the game on was way above the recommended specifications. Mystic Pillars ran really well on my computer, but it may have ran a little too well. I was regularly getting 200+ frames per second while playing the game. This taxed my computer considerably more than it should have. I wish the game had some way of capping the framerate as there is really no reason for the game to run at 200+ frames per second. At that speed it is barely noticeable especially for a puzzle game. There are ways to cap the framerate yourself, but I kind of wish the game would have automatically did it. As I mentioned earlier this is not a big issue as it doesn’t really impact the gameplay experience in a meaningful way.
I found Mystic Pillars to be an interesting little puzzle game. I have played a lot of different puzzle games and yet I haven’t played one quite like Mystic Pillars. It kind of feels like a mixture of the board game Mancala and a math puzzle. Basically the gameplay revolves around figuring out how to move the gems between the pillars to their right destination within a number of moves. Solving the puzzles requires you to figure out how to move large groups of gems together to their final destination so you can complete the task in time. This is an interesting mechanic that makes you really think. I enjoyed the puzzles as they make you think outside the box. I know the game won’t be for everyone though as if the concept doesn’t interest you I would be surprised if you enjoyed Mystic Pillars. The game is also kind of on the easy side as most of the puzzles were pretty easy to solve.
Basically my recommendation comes down to whether you think the gameplay sounds interesting. If you aren’t really into this type of puzzle game, Mystic Pillars probably won’t be for you. Fans of puzzle games that think the game sounds interesting though should enjoy their time with Mystic Pillars and should consider picking it up.