A Little to the Left review - cozy puzzling hits the limits of its form
The act of organising is a powerful one. It allows us to make sense of chaos, to put order to the objects around us and focus our mind. A Little to the Left, a puzzle game and first effort from Max Inferno, sets out to capture this, asking you to organise household items whilst dealing with the occasional disruption from a cat. The problem is, the fact A Little to the Left is a puzzle game is the thing that's holding it back.
Let me explain. Imagine there's a random set of books in front of us. You might choose to order them in alphabetical order by author. I could choose to order them by title instead. I could go for something less practical like the colour of the covers, which wouldn't be of much help if I needed to find a particular book, but it'd be aesthetically pleasing. Part of the power of organising comes from creativity and control. There is no "correct" answer in tidying, but A Little to the Left asks you to find it.
At its worst, I felt like I was on the world's most frustrating episode of Only Connect, without a Victoria Coren-Mitchell to debate my answers with. And this is where A Little To The Left struggles where others, such as Unpacking, succeed. I can choose how to categorise things, and someone else might see a different way to categorise them but they'd both be equally as valid. There's creativity to tidying, but as soon as you frame it as a puzzle to be solved it's no longer an exercise for your own mind. Some puzzles in A Little To The Left do have multiple solutions, but too often I found myself asking "how do you want me to arrange these items?" rather than "how do I want to arrange these items?". Sometimes, I found myself so stumped on how to place everything, despite understanding the general pattern of what the game wanted me to do, that it all felt terribly annoying.