An Interesting Concept Fails To Deliver A Compelling Game

Pillar
certainly has indie bonafides. Developed by a lone auteur (Michael Hicks),
filled with vague and nonlinear storytelling, and based on the Myers Briggs
personality assessment test, it’s clearly in the lineage of critical darlings
like Braid. However, nailing the aesthetics of an arthouse indie game and
making a well-crafted one aren’t the same thing.

It’s one of
those games I almost feel bad for not enjoying. It’s a labor of love, so why
don’t I love it? As usual, it comes down to the gameplay. While Pillar has a
variety of unique mechanics (each divided up by personality type – “distant,”
“focused,” etc.) they are all based on elements of game design that I’m happy
to leave in the past. Whether using a laborious trial-and-error method to study
the sentry patterns of guards or plotting out the best path to collect a series
of orbs to open the gate to the next level, Pillar’s core gameplay is more
tiresome than enjoyable. For a time, I found the switch puzzles intriguing, but
they overstayed their welcome. Pillar doesn’t offer much in the way of explicit
tutorials, so there are fun moments of discovery; unfortunately, what’s left
after you figure out what you’re expected to do is less than meets the eye.

As for the
plot, I’m sure one exists, though I was not able to divine what it was. At some
point, “enigmatic” and “nonlinear” become plain “confusing,” and most of Pillar
takes places past that threshold. I found an interview in which Hicks cited the
film Magnolia as inspiration,
specifically its weaving together of seemingly disconnected characters’
storylines into a whole.

After playing
the game, I can see what was attempted here, but the dots are not sufficiently connected
to convey anything meaningful. It has allusions to aging, regret, and – in some
interesting post-death sequences – the suggestion of an afterlife. I like to
consider myself an intelligent person. I graduated from college.


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