I'm always interested in a bit of wholesome zen comforting puzzles. Additionally, something about putting things in order just feels right. So I was intrigued when I first heard of A Little to the Left, a puzzle game where you would have to fix and rearrange household items in an orderly fashion. Is this a puzzle game worth moving, or should you put everything into a box on the right?
The game is broken into five chapters, each of which has quite a few puzzles to solve. You'll be organizing items in the living room, kitchen, garden, and more. The basic controls are simple: you use your mouse to move things around and that's it. You don't have to worry about anything other than that.
The first puzzle in the game? Straightening a picture frame. Easy. Following that, I would be putting stamps on letters, peeling stickers off fruits, organizing a dinner table, putting books on a shelf, and more. As I expected, it's simple zen tasks. Is organizing books from tallest to smallest really a super engaging gameplay feature? Not really. Did I have a good time and get a burst of joy when it was successfully accomplished? Totally.
A Little to the Left really hit its stride in the third chapter. Mostly based on organizing things in a garage/shed, a lot of it was just putting tools away. During one level I had to hang a bunch of tools on pegs so they all fit without overlapping. Another had me putting a bunch of tools into the correct spots in a toolbox. Puzzles like this are really what I came here for, and I loved every second of them. Some puzzles could even be solved in multiple ways. For example, you can organize books on a shelf from the thickest to the thinnest book. Or you can organize the books by color. You have to find every way to solve a puzzle if you want to get all the stars.
Unfortunately, a good chunk of A Little to the Left's puzzles don't feel that zen. The solutions seem to require a lot of guesswork with little in the way of hints. A great example of this is the first level of the third chapter. Instead of just describing it, I'm going to give a picture. How do you think these items, knowing all of them only slide left and right, are supposed to be organized?
If you haven't figured it out, the answer is that the bucket with the glove goes on the far right, and you're supposed to figure out the locations of the rest of the bottles by comparing their curves so that each item doesn't overlap with the others. There's just one problem: the sponge. Unlike every other item in the puzzle, the sponge can be dragged and dropped anywhere, however, whenever you let go it'll fall to the ground. You see, once you have a very specific correct lineup of bottles, the sponge can be dropped into a specific spot on the bottles, and only then will the puzzle be solved. How are you supposed to figure that out? To be totally honest, I'm pretty sure the solution is "hit the hint button and have the answer told to you."
This is a running problem with several levels in the game. It feels less like you're organizing items in any way that makes sense, and more like you're just trying to figure out what the developers want the solution to be. There are two separate levels where you're organizing papers. In one of them, you have to put the biggest piece of paper in the middle of the screen and then stack the rest of them on it from largest to smallest, but there's no indication that anything goes in the middle of the screen and you'll only find out by constantly picking up and dropping papers until the biggest one magnetically snaps into the center of the screen and you get the "you did good" sound bite. In another, you have to organize the papers all over the screen so they don't touch, but also they have to be in very specific spots that, again, you will only discover by picking up and dropping them randomly until you hear that sound. There are a few levels, such as one involving flies and a spider web or another involving organizing milk and mayo, that I simply had no clue at all how to solve even after pulling up the hints.
Thankfully, if you're ever stuck in a level, you can bring up the menu and click the "Let It Be" button. This just moves you on to the next level with no penalty. Combine this with a hint system that basically just gives you the answer, and it's hard to be that mad at the game when you hit a roadblock puzzle. That said, it does also give the feeling that even the developers realized several of their puzzles were running off of moon logic and included the ability to skip them so you couldn't get stuck for too long.
There is one major threat too. No, there's no combat in A Little to the Left or anything like that. Just the one thing people who put things on tables fear the most: a pet cat. Sometimes the cat's paw will creep into sight and move something around, usually just enough to be funny without being annoying. It's a clever idea, and I kind of wish the game made use of it a few more times than it actually does.
Once you've solved all the puzzles, something that took me about 3 hours, there's some replay value in the Daily Tidy. This is a new puzzle that shows up every day, usually offering a slight variation on the puzzles you've seen in the game. What "slight variation" means is that I got the exact same bread bag clip organization puzzle but the bread bag clips were different colors. This feature feels absolutely perfect for a mobile game, but since A Little to the Left is currently on PC only (a Switch and Mobile version are in the works) it doesn't really get the use it should.
A Little to the Left Review | Final Thoughts
A Little to the Left captivated me when I was organizing toolboxes and drawers with clearly defined areas where stuff can be placed. I had a weirdly great time trying to match up these locations with objects and trying to get everything to fit. Once these clearly defined areas are gone, the puzzles usually become confusing messes of randomly trying things until you hear the sound that confirms something is in the right spot. It's certainly not bad, and overall I enjoyed my time with the game. I just wish this experience was a little better organized.
TechRaptor reviewed A Little to the Left on PC using a copy provided by the publisher.
- Extremely zen gameplay
- Some super chill puzzles
- Cat is a fun agent of chaos
- Several puzzles make little sense
- Occasional moon logic solutions
- Daily Tidy doesn't work great on PC