Synesthesia, the perception of a particular sense triggering a different sense (like seeing color while listening to music) is a phenomenon that inspires an almost magical understanding of the world around us. Resynth, a puzzler from Polyphonic LP, interprets the experience of synesthesia and designs around it a compelling set of challenges through which a player must navigate. The goal of the game is to resolve the musical mix by moving through a path and triggering drums, bass, and synth while bypassing obstacles.
Swipe to guide a light cube over a series of tiles laid out much like a maze with specific directions, obstacles and idiosyncracies. Some tiles have a dot on them, which you must circle around from behind to bump into an outlined block, changing its color and triggering a sound. Other tiles have an X on them which must be lit up by moving a lever. In many ways, the interface actually reminded me of Max MSP, a visual programming language that can utilize levers, switches, and dials to create algorithmic musical compositions just like Resyth’s own soundtrack.
As elements are triggered, adding new tones and beats to the soundscapes, certain paths are blocked off, making it impossible to go back and access any missed elements. Herein lies the strategy of the game- choosing which combination of paths to take to trigger all of the sound components and clear the level. There are also bonuses offered for completing a level quickly or with a minimal number of moves. Very early on in the level progression, the boards are extremely intricate and almost overwhelming; but a slow piece-by-piece strategy helps you learn how to navigate more effectively.
There is certainly a learning curve to the gameplay and ultimately, the strategy, which will require a little time commitment; this isn’t one of those “pick up and go” tapping games. There is very little by way of instruction or explanation, and I even got stuck for a moment in the tutorial which was a bit discouraging. An unfortunate byproduct of the learning curve is that the mellow synth tones, when repeated over and over and over start to grind away at your sanity as you work on particularly difficult challenges. There were actually a few times when I had to turn the music off, just to make some progress because the siren-like repetition was too distracting.
I tended to swipe in the empty black areas to make my moves but many of the puzzles were so big that I consistently hit the large, blinking rewind button. This accidental trigger would undo my progress in fits and starts which also negatively impacted my orientation for what my next moves should be. Once we know where and how to find the rewind button, it doesn’t need so much real estate that it interferes with gameplay.
Completing a level is remarkably satisfying, particularly for the type of person who needs to hear the hook of a song all the way through before they turn off their radio. Anyone who can appreciate the process of creating music, especially the complexity of layered loops found in electronic music, will enjoy Resynth. Puzzle lovers in general can also indulge in a fresh perspective on problem solving that offers some hearty challenges. Ultimately, this conceptual representation of synesthesia makes for an artful gameplay experience.