Review for Figment 2: Creed Valley
When first experiencing Figment 2: Creed Valley, it is as advertised: an action-adventure game set within the human mind, fighting bosses in musical battles, and solving puzzles along the way. It executes these elements well and yet, delving deeper into the game and story, there is so much more here that many players will find compelling and fun.
Created and published by Bedtime Digital Games, Figment 2: Creed Valley takes place inside the mind of an average male white-collar worker trying to make ends meet for his young family. Here you take control of Dusty, a personification of courage, along with his companion Piper, representing optimism; their duty is to destroy nightmares, the representations of fear and doubt, so they do not inflict lasting harm on the family man’s psyche. Their latest assignment takes them to Creed Valley, home of the moral compass, which has been shattered by Jester, a two-headed figure who is accompanied by a troop of minions. Dusty and Piper are tasked with repairing the moral compass and stopping Jester before the man’s mind is damaged beyond repair.
Though this is a sequel, the game brings you up to speed early on. There are, in fact, two stories happening: one outside the mind, where we see the family man working late hours to support his wife and daughter and deciding whether to buy them a house so they can move out of their apartment. The other narrative is set within his mind, where Dusty and Piper are traversing the world and healing it. These two events are interlinked, showing cause from the internal and effect on the external. It is a good demonstration of the old adage “Your mind affects your body” taken to more fantastical heights.
These fantastical heights are even more apparent in the presentation. The mind is portrayed as a whole civilization, populated by egg-like physical manifestations of opinions that offer some quirky commentary on the man’s personal beliefs and even ideas he has rejected. The main characters themselves are just as unusual in design, especially Jester and his minions looking as though they came out of a circus that included robots and dreidels. The most bizarre is Dusty since he appears to have been drawn by a five-year-old. The tamest is probably Piper, since she’s a small bird. Their designs add a cartoonish feel to the world they inhabit and also stand out since their 3D models pop out on a 2.5D plain. There are also two conditions of the mind -- open and closed -- which the players shift to-and-from using perspective switches. They alter the mind’s world-state and change how the egg-like creatures speak of their respective topics. The changes are apparent in the color palettes, with “closed-minded” featuring a midday cloudy sky with green or yellow grass covering the landscape, while “open-minded” turns both sky and ground into an autumn orange, stars subtly dotting the dusky sky.
The voice-overs are adequate at best. Surprisingly, all the characters have great singing voices, but their acting is comparable to that of a show like Barney the Dinosaur. This contrast isn’t a major issue, but it is noticeable.
The game presents a tuneful world in both music and sound effects. Some bridges are made of piano keys that play as you step on them. Even regular rickety bridges have that effect when running on the wooden planks. The fauna often emanates a melodic hum when struck and even the environmental sound effects such as rain, sparks of lightbulbs, or rocket fire sync up with the music’s ambiance. The ambiance itself varies from a relaxing cadence while exploring to bombastic jazz in combat. The best music, however, accompanies the boss fights. This is especially true for Jester, whose actions are appropriately expressed by his loud and metal rock-inspired vocals. The melodic elements also intertwine with the story elements, specifically the family man and his passion for musical instruments that he has left behind -- a skillful demonstration of music and world-building seamlessly interconnected.
The story’s strongpoint, however, is how it handles subversion. The prologue sets up expectations for the player, having them fight nightmares, which helps the family man set aside his fears. The story makes you believe that this is how the rest of the game will go, that its themes are about the eradication of anxiety and doubt, setting those aside in order for the mind to function properly. However, once you delve deeper into the tale and see all of its twists and turns, you realize that the story is something more relatable to adult life: rigidity and burdensome expectations. It centers around what happens when the mind gets cluttered with so much responsibility -- feeling the obligations of hard work – so that you forget how to have fun once in a while, to give your mind a break. Subverting expectations is something modern storytelling doesn’t get right a lot of the time, but Figment 2 nails it and keeps the story engaging.
This extends into the character dynamic of Dusty and Piper. Dusty is a more closed-minded individual, only knowing one way to get the job done. Piper is a great contrast to this, always questioning and wanting to accept new possibilities. While their dialogue can sound cheesy at times, the hero’s journey that Dusty undergoes is a compelling one, learning how morality comes down to having both a closed and open mind working in tandem. Simply put, the narrative is one of the best representations of virtue and psychology ever wrapped into one game.
The gameplay, while simple and easy in the beginning, becomes much more challenging and creative. You explore the world through a top-down angle, solving relatively easy puzzles and navigating moving platforms called thought blocks. To keep things from becoming stale, there are unique sections such as navigating a maze with riddles or solving the crime of who knocked out a local sheriff. You will have to change the world state from open to closed with perspective switches in order to travel through certain areas, but all of this is pretty simple in practice. There are also optional collectibles called memory shards which unlock memories of the family man’s past that give great insight as to his present situation and personality.
Combat consists of using the mouse button to swing Dusty’s sword and the spacebar to dodge enemy onslaughts. There is a spin attack that comes after a combo, but it feels like it should have been a separate function, especially since it is the only area-of-effect and crowd control strike in Dusty’s arsenal. You can perform a slamming attack after a dodge which does more damage. There is also a local co-op function that allows another player to play as Piper, pecking at the enemies or at trees containing endurance neurons which heal Dusty. The animations for all of these are quick and responsive and the enemies usually have explicit tells as to when their attacks start and are about to connect. It also helps that the characters are 3D models fighting on a 2D plain, their colors contrasting with whatever surface is under them. It gives visual clarity and prevents confusion in a fight.
The highlight is how you can use enemies against one other. You can redirect a cannon’s rockets to damage foes or even trick a strongman wielding a large pillar into crushing his little robot or dreidel friends. There is so much creativity within these fights that you are free to discover and experiment with as they are drip-fed to you. There are only a few boss fights, but the music, challenge, and the way they fit into the story make them as engaging as the other enemy encounters. Finally, there are times where Dusty’s sword will be removed or he will face cannons that he cannot destroy, where he must rely on enemy attacks to hit perspective switches to change the world state. Sections like these and other unique encounters diversify exploration and keep it from feeling worn-out.
Figment 2: Creed Valley is one of those surprising treats of the action-adventure genre. It starts off simple and maintains some of that simplicity when it comes to gameplay. The story eventually becomes complex and intriguing, the combat experimental and fun; not to mention, the world-building and how it connects to the ambiance -- something rarely seen to this extent in a video game. The first time through took about four-and-a-half hours to complete, though trying to get every collectible will certainly increase playtime. However, this is a game that you will likely want to play again just to experience the fantastic story once more.