Buried in the mundanity of housework, there’s an understated joy. The therapeutic meander of a de-cluttering session, the satisfaction of neatness that you know won’t last a week. A Little to the Left, the debut puzzle game of two-person developer Max Inferno, solves the biggest problem with these therapy sessions: they’re only ever appealing when you should be doing absolutely anything else – like hitting a deadline, or going to bed.
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A Little to the Left embraces the act of tidying up, which depending on your mood, can be a productive procrastinator or miserable chore. Each puzzle begins as a clutter of household items – a shelf of books, or pile of pencils – and your task is to find a way to organise them.
Sometimes, that’s as simple as straightening up picture frames, or colour-coordinating stacks of cat food. But as you progress through A Little to the Left‘s puzzles, the solutions become more abstract: you’ll arrange random fridge magnets in a way that lines up the rivers pictured in them, or rotate pint glasses so that their illustrations line up on both sides. Occasionally – and admittedly, hilariously – Max Inferno’s mischievous cat Rookie may turn up to pull your perfectly-stacked letters off a table, or take a swipe at the puzzle you’ve spent five minutes solving. Catfights aside, there’s a simple pleasure to be found in solving A Little to the Left‘s simpler tasks, and that’s enrichened by the game’s cosy foley – pencils will rattle dryly as you organise them by length, and keys being moved will produce a satisfying jingle.
But as A Little to the Left moves toward more abstract solutions, most of your pleasure will be found in actually solving the puzzles. There were plenty of times where I was genuinely stumped by certain tasks, and while the first chapter can be flown through by spending seconds on each puzzle, later challenges can easily eat up ten minutes of your time. The difficulty is welcome, and the solutions always feel fair when you eventually clock onto what’s being asked of you – though it’s not the end of the world if you can’t find an answer. A Little to the Left has a hint system, which just about hands you the solution if you use an eraser to clean up its scribbled-over spoilers, and there’s an option to ‘let it be’ if you’d rather come back to it at a later date.
Even with the hints system, A Little to the Left can be challenging to a fault. You might find the solution to a puzzle, only to be met with cold silence because your correctly-stacked papers aren’t placed on the exact right spot on the screen, or two objects haven’t quite snapped together. It’s a frustrating bit of guesswork for a game that’s all about finding the right order in things, but it’s not the end of the world, and there’s a chime sound effect that lets you know when something’s been slotted into the right spot.
In an autumn dominated by blockbuster action games, A Little to the Left feels like 2022’s version of Unpacking: an island of tidying tranquility, in a sea of God of War and Call of Duty. For anyone looking for a calming way to spend their free time, A Little to the Left comes highly recommended – and hey, it’s better than doing the real thing.
A Little to the Left manages to offer genuine challenge, without losing its relaxing, no-pressure atmosphere. Despite being a little too demanding with the nitty-gritty of some solutions, Max Inferno’s debut is a warm, charming triumph.
- Satisfying solutions to challenging puzzles
- Lovely, lo-fi art style
- Great writing
- Some puzzles can require unnecessarily specific input to complete
- The game’s Daily Tidy puzzles could be more unique day-by-day