The puzzle game genre may be my favorite video game genre. There is just something really satisfying about solving a clever and sometimes difficult puzzle. I generally like to try out most new puzzle games that I see especially if they try to do something unique. When I first saw Recursive Ruin I was mainly intrigued by two things. The first was the visuals as I have always been intrigued by the style of utilizing repeating patterns. The second was the puzzle design that seemed in tune with the visual style. Recursive Ruin is a clever game with great puzzle design that is let down at times by its story.
For the most part Recursive Ruin is a puzzle game. The game takes place in a world built around recursive fractals. Basically everything you see in the world repeats over and over again. For example if you keep walking in one direction you will keep moving through the same areas over and over. If you look forwards and backwards, you will see the same thing.
The game’s puzzles are designed around this repeating world. The objective of most of the puzzles is to find a way out of the repeating landscapes. This usually involves finding a way to reach a new location or opening up a portal. Sometimes this includes moving an object to a specific area to open up a path forward.
Probably the main reason that I was initially intrigued by Recursive Ruin was the puzzle design. This is only natural as a good puzzle game will always rely on its puzzle design. A game could get everything else right and suffer because the puzzle design is not up to par. The good news is that this is easily the game’s greatest strength.
The idea of repeating landscapes have been utilized by a number of video games in the past. Some utilize it only for the visuals, while others actually utilize it for the gameplay. Recursive Ruin is the later. The idea that the world repeats itself is a critical element in the puzzle design. To solve most of the puzzles you need to figure out how to harness this to find a way forward.
I am not going to get into specific puzzles solutions to avoid spoilers, but the puzzles give you exactly what you want out of a good puzzle game. I would probably classify the game as moderately difficult. There were some puzzles that I solved really quickly, while others took some real thought. Most of the puzzles really require you to think outside of the box. You need to always be aware of your surroundings, and how you can manipulate them to your advantage. Instead of just always moving forward, sometimes it is better to retrace your steps.
A good puzzle game utilizes puzzles that make you figure out new ways to manipulate the mechanics. Recursive Ruin does a great job with this. The puzzles challenge you to think in new ways. There are some truly clever puzzles in the game that utilize the game’s unique mechanics. You may occasionally get stuck, but there is a strong sense of satisfaction when you figure out a puzzle that gave you trouble. All of the puzzles have a logical solution. The key is to figure out what that is.
In addition to being a big element of the puzzle design, I really liked the visual style of the game. The game uses a very stylized look which I think works well for the game. The endless repeating patterns create interesting worlds to explore. The style might not be for everyone, but I really liked it. It can be quite impressive how much repetition you can see at any given time. If you are a fan of this style, I think you will really enjoy this aspect of the game.
Outside of being a puzzle game I would also classify Recursive Ruin as a story driven game. I really haven’t talked about the story at this point. That is mostly because I have some mixed feelings about it.
First of all I want to clarify that some people are going to get considerably more out of the story than others. The overarching story is mostly about overcoming grief and the creative crisis that the main character is dealing with. I would classify the story as having two main parts. One is more grounded in the real world, and the other in the more mysterious Infinite Realms.
I had conflicted feelings about the story as there was some things I liked and others that I think could have been better. For the most part the real world story is relatively easy to follow. It was interesting enough that I wanted to see what would happen. The Infinite Realms story is the opposite. I found this part of the story hard to follow at times. Maybe I missed out on something, but I really didn’t know what was going on where I started to tune out these parts of the story. I would classify these parts of the story as “artsy”. Some people will really like them. I wasn’t a big fan though.
Normally not being a big fan of part of the story wouldn’t be a big problem. The only reason why it hurts the game is that the story actually has a pretty big role in the game at times. For every level focused mostly on the puzzles, the next is more story driven with less emphasis on the puzzles. While I loved the puzzle filled levels, I wasn’t as big of fan of the story focused levels. In a way these story sections detract from what I think the game does best. I think the game would have been better with more puzzle sections and less of these story sections. That might just be my opinion though, as others might feel completely different.
As for Recursive Ruin’s length I would say it is decently long. The game has fourteen chapters. As I just mentioned some of these are story based, while others are focused more on the puzzles. The puzzle sections take considerably longer than the story sections. Due to this, some chapters can take considerably longer than others. A lot of the length will depend on how long it takes you to solve the puzzles. If you figure them out right away, the game will obviously take less time than if you struggle with some of the puzzles. Ultimately I completed the game in around six to seven hours. I would guess that most players could beat the game in 6-8 hours.
That is not bad for a puzzle game. The game has next to no replay value though, as there are no alternative solutions/paths. You will get all of the achievements just by completing the game. The only reason to play the game a second time is to experience the puzzles or story again.
I was initially intrigued by Recursive Ruin as I wanted to see how it would utilize the repeating world setting in a puzzle game. For the most part the game utilizes it really well. The recursive fractal world is more than just a visual style choice, even though the game looks great. It actually plays a crucial role in the gameplay. The game’s puzzles are designed around manipulating the fact that the world repeats over and over again. The premise is used to create some really clever puzzles. You need to really think outside of the box at times to solve the puzzles. When you solve a difficult puzzle, you feel a great sense of accomplishment. The puzzle design is fantastic and is the game’s greatest asset. The story is a little more hit or miss. There are parts of the story that are interesting, but other parts are hard to follow.
Ultimately my recommendation for Recursive Ruin depends on your feelings towards puzzle games in general and the repeating world premise. If you don’t really care for puzzle games or aren’t interested by the premise, it may not be for you. Puzzle fans that are intrigued by the premise though should really consider picking up Recursive Ruin as you likely will really enjoy it.
Release Date: May 18th, 2022 | Systems: PC
Developer: Bit Rot | Publisher: Iceberg Interactive | ESRB Rating: Not Rated
Genres: Indie, Puzzle, Story Driven
Official Website: https://www.recursiveruin.com/
- Fantastic use of the repeating world premise in the puzzle design.
- Clever well thought out puzzles that make you feel a sense of accomplishment when you solve them.
- The story is kind of hard to follow at times.
- I wish more focus was put on the puzzles rather than the story elements.
Recommendation: For fans of puzzle games that find the repeating world premise intriguing.
Where to Purchase: Steam
We at Geeky Hobbies would like to thank Bit Rot and Iceberg Interactive for the review copy of Recursive Ruin 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.