The Land of Eyas is an indie puzzle-platformer that relies heavily on your tolerance for pain.
This is not something you’d expect, given the colorful art, world, and lovable main character (a child in a cat costume, a la Where The Wild Things Are). Though this gravity-based title has the dressings of a child-friendly adventure through a mystical land, your wits and reflexes will be tested. I recommend playing this with a gamepad.
The game starts off rather quickly - there is no opening cinematic to introduce you to the character you play as, or the land you will be exploring. The game simply begins. Walk right. Enter the door. Visit the Shrine. It is within these opening moments you might start to question whether or not you accidentally skipped a cutscene - but no, this is it. While disorienting at first, it does nothing to hinder the interesting world Happy Square Games has created and allows you to jump straight into the action. The Shrine is where you interact with a mysterious voice that questions where you came from and how your character arrived in the first place. You are tasked with finding the Seer Stones, which will allow this mysterious being to recall the past and uncover the mysteries of the young cat-suit boy’s origins. I won’t say much else about the protagonist - part of the game’s fun is figuring out this little guy’s story on your own. You do find out his name early on, though it’s a fairly predictable reveal.
The Shrine is one of a few hub worlds that will allow you to jump between levels, and these stages are where the game’s gravity puzzles come into play. The Land of Eyas is one of those rare games that doesn’t underestimate the player’s ability to learn gameplay mechanics without tutorials shoved in their face. Knowing little about the game’s premise, I soon discovered that the mysterious liquid that often filled the bottom half of a level wasn’t simply water to avoid - it was a point in the level where gravity reverses. For example, if your character jumps into the water at a certain height, he will reach that same height on the other side of the gravity shift, and begin falling back upwards (it’s much less confusing when you’re playing). Imagine Super Mario Galaxy’s gravity platforming but in a 2D setting.
Sound enticing? It is, especially before the game starts to ramp up the difficulty.
I had a great time in the game’s opening stages, figuring out how best to launch myself around an obstacle using gravity, and watching your cute little cat-clad character fling back and forth between gravity shifts is one of the game’s most charming draws. Figuring these mechanics out without a tutorial, along with uncovering the game’s world and story with little interruptions from intrusive plot devices, was a refreshing experience from an indie title of this genre. Most indie puzzle-platformers I’ve played feel the need to keep the player invested by shoehorning little plot elements in, just to keep you progressing from stage to stage despite any boredom. The world of the Land of Eyas is fun to explore, and never feels as if it is taking you out of the action. Rather, it builds itself around the gameplay, and this results in some pretty cool level design. Overall, the game is a treat - a seemingly simple romp through a fantastical realm.
That is - until you reach the Steel Forest.
My enjoyment with Eyas began to dwindle in this set of stages, where new mechanics such as moving blocks and spinning gears of death are introduced. It wasn’t a matter of the increased difficulty, but rather the sudden amount of reflex thinking to solve puzzles. The “ah-ha” moments from previous levels are replaced by utter relief that you didn’t drop that block at the wrong time, or rage quit when accidentally jumping when you meant to place a block. A death often means going back to the beginning of the stage, and when some stages require waiting for blocks to stack up and create a ladder, a player’s patience begins to run out rather quickly. At one point I had created a ladder of blocks, only to remove one in the middle and die instantly from what I assume was my character somehow being squashed between the two stacks.
Playing with some of these confusing mechanics upside-down (which is a given considering this game’s premise) can be a recipe for plenty of swearing. Checkpoints do exist but were oddly rare throughout my experience with the game. Fans of this genre beware - this game is certainly not for casual play.
Though the gameplay does grow in frustration as you progress, it is still immensely satisfying to finish a stage. With plenty of secrets to discover (including hidden levels and other collectibles), an adorable protagonist, and a cool world to explore, there’s a lot appreciate in The Land of Eyas - given you have the patience to deal with a few infuriating puzzles here and there. This certainly isn’t Super Meat Boy, but for those looking for their next puzzle-platforming fix, this may be a game worth checking out.