A lot of the games that I loved at Summer Game Fest are slowly starting to make their way into the wider world beyond previews and demos. A Little to the Left is one of those games — and I could not be more jazzed to tell you about it.
A Little to the Left — ALTTL for short — is one of those quiet and peaceful indie games that conceal complex design behind a deceptively simple premise. In it, you’re tasked with setting right your home after the entropy of life (and a very mischievous cat) have mucked it up. To do that, you repair, replace, and reorder household objects in a series of bite-sized puzzles.
In one puzzle, you might have a scattered array of broken pottery pieces that you must order correctly to repair a broken vase. In another, you might have to arrange a table setting while dodging swipes from your cat’s curious claws.
Puzzle games have been my jam, jelly, and preserves of late. And one thing that separates A Little to the Left from other puzzle games is that it offers the same kind of brain engagement without being too mentally taxing. Sometimes puzzle games can be overstimulating — my play-through of Oddworld: Soulstorm comes to mind. I enjoyed that game, but it burned me up like a fever, and right now, with everything going on, I’ve had my fill of fire, but I still want the same kind of mental massage puzzle games provide. A Little to the Left gives me the kind of mental brain scratch that I love about puzzle games without gouging out bits of grey matter.
The game is designed such that it’s easy to pick up and put down at my leisure. It’s also not too easy. I dinged Sonic Frontiers for challenges that didn’t amount to more than “step on this” or “circle this.” ALTTL seems simple, and some puzzles are, but a lot can be as complex as you want to make them since many have more than one solution.
In one puzzle, you can put a shelf of books back in order either by size or make a complete picture with the decorations on the books’ spines. The game rewards unconventional thinking, which is great for me as a person who has a tendency to see a more complicated solution before the simple one.
But there are times when I can’t see any solution, and rather than be stuck, ALTTL includes the ability to skip a puzzle that’s giving you grief. I’m loath to ascribe motive to the developers or their thoughts about mental illness in making this game, but the fact that ALTTL frames skipping a puzzle not as “skipping” or “passing,” thereby potentially creating a feeling of incompleteness, but as “letting it be,” speaks to me as a thoughtful little nod to folks with attention disorders. I’m one of those people who get annoyed with seeing 99/100, and even though there’s no screen I’ve found in ALTTL that displays your stats, I’m comforted in knowing that, like that pile of clean clothes on my chair, I will get to those peskier puzzles when I can.
ALTTL also features a neat “Daily Tidy” puzzle whereby you can do a daily puzzle, earning rewards the more often you complete them. It’s kinda like Duolingo’s streak feature without the menace of that green bird breathing down your neck. The daily tidy puzzles seem harder to me than the main game, and there is no hint option, so for folks really looking for a challenge, daily tidy puzzles are for you.
One of my favorite things to do, especially as the weather gets colder, is to just sit on my couch with my animals and my human in silence. My husband is looking up sports scores, my cat is begging for food, and my dog is sleeping and farting himself awake while I play something simple just to wind down from the day. A Little to the Left is the perfect little puzzle game for those quiet, peaceful hours between dinner and bedtime.
A Little to the Left is out now on PC, Mac, and Nintendo Switch.