Pavillion is a “fourth person” puzzle game that went a bit under the radar last year. The goal of the game is leading the main character through a set of levels that involve certain puzzles that must be overcome. A concept that sounds fairly standard, except, you don’t have direct control over the character. Instead, you must persuade him to follow a given path, or interact with a certain object, through manipulating light sources, sound and blocking, or freeing, paths by moving certain objects around. The game doesn’t do a whole lot of explaining when it comes to how the puzzles work, however, figuring their logic is not overly difficult. The puzzles grow in scope and challenge as the game progresses, introducing new elements or simply growing in size. In some cases, the solution won’t be exactly clear, however, that is mostly due to the puzzle requiring you to do things in a manner you wouldn’t think of right away. Sometimes you have to genuinely push the character around with an object, while in other situations, trial and error will eventually lead to progressing. Pavillion’s lack of mouse control is puzzling, to say the least. While the keyboard controls aren’t extremely difficult to get used to, not having the possibility to use the mouse feels counter-intuitive. Certain puzzles require some timing and you do end up losing seconds moving your cursor around with the keyboard, instead of the mouse.
Regardless of how competent the puzzles were, to me, they felt like a vehicle that took me through the different levels. That happened, because of how much Pavillion shines in its visual and audio departments. Its surreal world is drawn in a unique art style that’s both, cohesive and unmistakably captivating. There’s a decent amount of variety in the levels, as well. From modern apartments to ruins and twisted rooms, all with a strange, surreal touch, the places you go through in Pavilion are part of a world that is, visually at least, unlike any other. Adding to that is the excellent soundtrack composed by Tony Gerber. Easily a soundtrack that’ll be on my playlist for a long while, the mixture of guitars, piano, synths and throat singing are absolutely perfect for the experience. They engulf the player, acting as a companion, amplifying the sense of wonder that accompanies the journey. It’s one of the rare cases where the music isn’t just something that fills the background silence; instead, seeming rather like a part of the very world you’re exploring.
Pavillion’s approach to story involves less telling and more suggesting. There’s no voice, or text, that lists what the character’s motivations are. Instead, you get glimpses of what can be a story through images and certain elements that might explain what’s pushing him on. Recurring figures, revisited places, an aversion towards darkness, all can hold meaning behind them. With just one part of the planned two being released, however, it’s difficult to assess how effective Pavillion’s approach at storytelling is. Certainly, when you leave so much to the player’s interpretation, especially as your game is coated in a hefty layer of surrealism, results may vary. As for me, I can say that I could put together a thread of what might be a potential story and I’m looking forward to follow it through to the end once the second part comes out.
I got over the moments when I couldn’t figure out a solution to a puzzle with considerable ease, as I allowed myself to sink into the meticulously made visuals and music of Pavillion. It may seem like I am completely overlooking the puzzling, the one gameplay element that should be the most important part of a videogame. That’s not the case, though. The puzzles are varied enough. Their complexity grows as the game progresses and, save for a few moments when the solutions bordered on the arcane, they are showcases of competence and understanding of pacing. However, as well done as they are, my attention glided primarily towards the music and the art style. The second part is due to come out this year, however, even now, I’d heartily recommend Pavilion to any gamer that loves puzzle games. More than that, I’d also recommend it to everyone else, for the overall experience of passing through a brilliantly designed world, while having a wonderful soundtrack as faithful companion.