Considering the ubiquity of mobile puzzle games, finding a fresh approach to puzzle mechanics is no small feat. Causality from Loju makes expert use of a familiar isometric design, cute little bots, and simple swipe-to-move controls. But that familiarity quickly gives way to complicated time manipulation and paradoxes of time travel which will befuddle even the most passionate puzzle fans.
Causality offers four progressively more difficult worlds, with ten levels each and five bonus levels per world that are even more difficult. These 60 levels provide increasingly more complex ways of playing inside and outside of time and space, as you guide little helmeted astronauts through a dangerous path to their goal. Though “time” functions conceptually as the measurement of progress, there aren’t countdown timers you need to beat. Instead, you’ll progress along a timeline with the steps you take and the moves you make. As you advance, you can scrub back through the timeline to undo mistakes by “rewinding” your progress and moving back in time to make a better choice. Console gamers may recognize the influence of the groundbreaking indie game Braid from 2008, which allowed players to “rewind” their gameplay and move backwards in time in order to complete each level. However, Causality also incorporates additional versions of multiple timelines and characters, with all actions tightly bound to one another.
The difficulty ramping is reasonable in the first world, though once you move to the second world, and timelines start shifting, things will get very challenging. If you’re looking for a relaxing, peaceful puzzler, Causality will probably lead to a lot of frustration. However, if you’re a puzzle master constantly searching for mind-melting mechanics, you’ll likely enjoy the challenge. The designers were thoughtful in how they introduced new mechanics, ensuring there is a simplified puzzle to first help you learn how to navigate in each new scenario. Thankfully, if you get stuck you can return to the main menu and skip the level you are currently on and move to the next level. This keeps the game motivating, rather than just frustrating.
The key to progress in the game is learning the idiosyncrasies of negotiating time and space as they come up. For example, if there is more than one astronaut on the screen, their actions are tethered to one another, meaning that they both advance at the same time. If they come into contact, they must change directions because they cannot pass one another. Learning how to direct these two figures in tandem, as they must do different things and reach different goals, is the discovery and fun of the game.
Similarly, learning how to manipulate timelines while warping back and forth between portals and facing multiple versions of yourself requires patience and practice. Where in the timeline you encounter a portal determines how your astronaut will move forward and back. The paradoxes of time travel and orienting yourself and other selves in those timelines can be difficult to navigate.
The graphics are impressive, with beautiful, dimensional environments growing and glowing around our little explorers as they progress toward their goals. The ambient outerspace-cum-underwater soundtrack is pleasant and relaxing, though I do recommending lowering the volume of the sound effects if you’d like a more mellow experience.
With its lovely aesthetics and unique mechanics, Causality is a satisfying challenge that will make you feel pretty darn accomplished for getting through it. If brains need workouts to get stronger, I can guarantee that Causality will have your brain doing some handstand pushups in no time.