Pavilion is a puzzle adventure game á la point-and-click that leads the player through a series of challenges toward its enigmatic goal. It isn’t clear at first what you are trying to accomplish, but instead of being off-putting, it enhances Pavilion's inscrutable charm.
At a glance, comparing Pavilion to the widely popular mobile game, Monument Valley, was unavoidable. The stacked, Escher-style stairs give the impression that this might be another game where perspective overrules physics when traversing pathways. Thankfully, it's not. Pavilion is not the new face of Monument Valley. Instead of simple, flat graphics, Pavilion slips the player into a fantastic, surreal landscape of beauty, complexity, and depth. Each level is a stunning work of art, with as many subtle mysteries as the game itself. I found myself at the start of each admiring dreamlike scenes, and its delicious incongruities: cloth that flows like waterfalls over a stony landscape; a verdant, underground oasis with ominous, disembodied hands looming over the scene; sweeping Roman arches blended with modern architecture. It built a sense of ethereal yet peaceful moodiness into the world.
Then is Pavilion's music. As enchanting as its artwork.
It is a soothing fusion of piano, flute, and stringed instruments that tiptoe through peaceful, but haunting pieces in Asian-style minor tones. The music changes to match the scene but maintains its tranquil theme. It would be an excellent soundtrack to aid meditation, and encapsulates the quiet essence of Pavilion’s melancholy atmosphere.
In the game, both the player and the character interact with objects. The character may warm his hands over a low fire while avoiding the gentle rainfall just outside his current shelter, or the player may need to ring a bell to prompt the man to run to his next task. The bells, rain, and fire don’t intrude on the dreamy music but seem instead to enhance it, as if it should have been there the whole time.
The main character is a man who seems to know where he’s supposed to go, but can only do so if the path is clear. You, control a golden streak of light that can interact with objects in a specific scene. That's how you move him.
The goal of each level is to get the man through the door that exits the scene. Sometimes the door is open, and the challenge is finding the correct path. Other times the door must be unlocked, which requires a series of tasks performed in the right order with the right timing. Although many puzzles are timed, it doesn’t evoke a rushed, frantic need to click and move before the timer runs out. They're set up so that the timing isn’t difficult to master if everything else is in place as it should be.
Non-lateral thinking is often required to solve Pavilion's puzzles.
While some solutions are obvious, others require searching for oblique clues that don’t directly relate to the problem. Everything you need to solve in a level is provided in the scene, so there is no need to go back to search for clues or assistance in other areas. Although it can be frustrating to have the solution just out of reach, it’s helpful to know that you already have everything you need, even if you can’t see it yet.
Although not a technical issue, the game is limited to a single control input for PC players: the keyboard. Pavilion has a point-and-click style gameplay, so it doesn’t make sense that mouse controls would be locked out. Games should provide options for control input, not only to cater to player preference but physical ability as well.
My wishlist isn’t a suggestion to improve playability or to resolve issues. The artwork is wonderful. I want to spend time pouring over the little details, like the scene where you can see a distant misty landscape over the crumbling marble walls of a building. I would be thrilled if the game included downloadable wallpapers, even if they had to be unlocked through in-game achievements.
If you’re ready to let go of the hustle and hurry of the week, sink into the beguiling mystery of Pavilion. There are so many questions when you start the game. Is this all a dream? Why are we here? Who is the woman in white? The only way to discover the answer is to play. I found Pavilion to be more than a puzzle game, it was an interactive art piece, where I was allowed to participate.