Gaming

A Snug Fit: A Review of A Little to the Left by OnSpec Electronic, Inc.

As I meticulously arranged my virtual shelves in A Little to the Left, an unexpected interruption occurred. My cat, taking advantage of the momentary distraction, leaped onto my entertainment center and began toppling the neatly lined-up amiibo figures that I had placed in front of my TV as decorations. Reluctantly, I set the game aside and painstakingly restored the figures to their perfect order, fully aware that she would repeat the mischief as soon as I resumed playing.

A Little to the Left understands my plight. The debut game from Max Inferno cleverly combines puzzle-solving with the stress of bringing order to chaos, particularly when a mischievous feline is involved. It transforms mundane household organization into a video game objective that is both immensely satisfying and frustrating in equal measure. If your idea of a power fantasy involves impeccably arranging cutlery in a drawer, this is the video game you’ve been waiting for.

Rules of the House

In this game, players tackle five chapters filled with micro-puzzles of varying complexity. Initially, the challenges are as simple as adjusting a picture frame to perfect alignment. Later on, players are tasked with arranging crystals in a box based on their patterns. A Little to the Left draws its strength from real-life scenarios and common sense housekeeping instincts. Consequently, many of the puzzles are incredibly intuitive. For example, when faced with three stacks of cat food tins, it’s only natural to want to sort them by color.

One aspect I particularly appreciate is that there isn’t a single correct answer for each puzzle. Multiple solutions are typically available, eliminating the risk of someone’s preferred organization method being deemed incorrect. For instance, in one puzzle, I was presented with spoons of varying sizes, from a large wooden one to a teaspoon. I successfully solved the puzzle by lining them up in ascending order of size. Alternatively, I could have stacked them all with the largest spoon at the bottom and the smallest at the top.

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Cat food cans are stacked on top of one another in A Little to the Left.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

The game’s key strength lies in its ever-changing rules. Typically, puzzle games have a set of fixed laws that players learn and apply as they progress. For example, Freshly Frosted requires players to create a donut and guide it to an endpoint by constructing a conveyor belt. While new elements are introduced to complicate the gameplay, the core objective remains consistent. A Little to the Left defies this trend by introducing fresh rules for almost every puzzle. Deciphering these rules proves to be the challenging part, but once understood, executing the solutions becomes straightforward—even when a stray cat paw disrupts your efforts.

A few obstacles can hinder the otherwise enjoyable experience. Some objects are incredibly small, leading to frustrations when trying to pick them up and move them using a mouse or touch controls. Additionally, a few puzzles require players to place objects in specific areas of the screen, which occasionally left me scratching my head as I searched for the game’s designated drop zones in otherwise simple puzzles.

Fortunately, A Little to the Left includes an excellent hint system that prevents things from becoming overly perplexing. Each puzzle’s solution is concealed by a scribbled piece of paper. Players can use an eraser to gradually uncover the solution, deciding how much assistance they want. For instance, in a puzzle where I had to hang tools on hooks, I erased just enough to reveal a starting hint. In other cases, where the puzzle’s logic eluded me, I erased the entire image and attempted to reverse-engineer the solution.

I appreciate the notion of a puzzle game where every answer feels within reach. I never encountered a complete roadblock where I couldn’t figure out how to progress. Instead, I could focus on the tactile satisfaction of placing objects in their rightful spots.

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Chilled Out

The game’s presentation plays a significant role in creating a relaxed experience, even when faced with its messiest challenges that might make your eye twitch. Its pleasing visual style gives the impression that the entire game was hand-drawn with colored pencils. You can almost imagine someone nestled in a corner of their home, doodling various items in a sketchbook, lending the game a warm and inviting ambiance.

The music perfectly complements the visuals, featuring gentle melodies backed by piano and woodwind instruments reminiscent of the soothing nighttime tunes in Animal Crossing: New Leaf. I found myself curled up on my couch, with the lights off, fully immersed in a serene state of mind throughout most of my playthrough.

With over 75 puzzles spread across five chapters, A Little to the Left can be completed in just a few hours. To extend the experience, Max Inferno has included a Daily Tide mode, which presents players with a new puzzle every 24 hours. This charming feature provides dedicated players with a quick daily ritual to look forward to. Prior to 2022, one might argue that the challenges aren’t substantial enough to merit launching the game every day. However, in a post-Wordle world, I find myself more inclined to appreciate the appeal of a bite-sized daily gaming task like this.

Stationary sits on a table in A Little to the Left.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

From start to finish, A Little to the Left is an incredibly pleasant experience. It offers an intuitive approach to the puzzle genre, tapping into our innate desire to keep our surroundings neat and tidy—and the feline instinct to disrupt it all. The frustrations encountered in the game impart valuable wisdom, teaching us to adapt and maintain our composure in the face of the little annoyances beyond our control.

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A Little to the Left was reviewed on PC.

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