Game Over – Palindrome Syndrome (#PuzzleGameMonth)

For someone who has literally thousands of unplayed games in her library, I find I still am concerned about the longevity and/or the replay value of games when I’m shopping. So although I enjoy escape-room style puzzle games, I rarely buy them outside of bundles because I feel like more than most genres, these are one-and-done kind of games, and they’re usually fairly short as well. When a triple pack of escape room games from mc2games showed up in Fantatical’s Holiday Diamond pick-your-own bundle alongside a couple of other titles I’d been meaning to pick up, I figured getting three of these games for roughly $5 seemed like a good deal.

I’ve now played one of the three – Palindrome Syndrome – to completion, and although I enjoyed the game for what it was, I would have felt 100% ripped off if I’d bought it at its retail price of $10. I played on the Steam Deck over two sessions, and it took me just under two hours to complete the game. Calling the story of the game mediocre is probably a bit generous, but if you’re playing an escape room style puzzle game, you’re probably not in it for the story.

Full disclosure: I needed to look up hints twice during the game. Once to figure out what the puzzle was asking me to do, and the other because I was totally flummoxed. Both of these were in the last of the six game areas. Up until that point, I made steady, non-frustrating progress through the variety of puzzle types (although most are recycled a time or two throughout the game). The game does give you all the information you need to solve every puzzle it puts in front of you, however, sometimes, doing things out of order will leave you feeling like something was left out – just keep looking. It’s all there.

Instead, any frustration the game might have earned comes from design and user interface decisions. This was maybe made a little worse by playing on the Steam Deck, but it felt like the interactable areas were very small, and oddly placed. More than once, I only discovered something was interactable on my third or fourth lap around the room. I wouldn’t quite call it pixel-hunting, but the experience definitely could have been improved by increasing the size of the interactable areas. There are also a couple places where color is integral to solving a puzzle, and the color choices definitely could have been handled better – in one memorable place, there’s a purple and blue that look very similar, and in another, the clue is yellow, but the choice in the solution is much nearer to a green.

The other gripe I had was with the way notes were handled. Several times, you’ll pick up bits of written information that go into a notebook you can open to refer to them. However, you cannot open the notebook while actively attempting to solve a puzzle, so if you need to refer back to the information that the game has given you, you have to close out of the puzzle, open the notebook, find the correct document, and hope you remember everything when you get back to the solving part.

While I wouldn’t call Palindrome Syndrome a good adventure game, as a pure puzzler with some set decoration, it’s worth a playthrough, but certainly not at full price.

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