Thanks to for GRIMTALIN for the review code
Title: Long Ago: A Puzzle Tale
System: Switch (eShop)
Release Date: 05/28/2021
In this puzzler, you take control of a ball that must collect gems in order to reveal more of the story behind the scenes: a story of a princess who seeks her own freedom and desire for adventure, narrated like an old fairy tale!
Playing over an isometric viewpoint, Puzzle Tale looks an awful lot like several similar puzzlers, with the game looking fairly simplistic and very akin to the sort of art style I’ve encountered in other “Ancient Times” casual games, with character designs that oddly enough bring to mind an obscure old Mac game called Rainbow Web I used to watch a relative play. This makes the game look fairly generic and not at all special, but it’s not a bad look either, just something you’ve probably seen tons of times already.
The music is equally as basic, with a lot of forgettable songs and sound effects that scream stock. Again, it’s not bad, but it’s incredible forgettable, with the most memorable part of the audio being how each stage has you piece together a phrase, bit-by-bit, and then after clearing the stage you get to hear it narrated in full, in a pretty impressive way! Props to the narrator and the other voice actors for doing a pretty good job here.
Puzzle Tale is an isometric platformer, where the main goal of the stages is to roll your ball to gather all the collectibles before running out of turns. Each chapter is broken up into both main story and side stages, with the main story ones having quill pens be the major collectible, and the side stages replacing them with coins. It’s a typical puzzler, where you have a limited amount of moves before you need to retry the stage, so if you’ve played any sort of puzzler like this before, then you’ll be able to jump in with little ease.
So for the stages, you’ll be doing a variety of things in order to obtain all the pens, from bumping into statues, going under logs, pushing open gates, all as you find the quickest route. It’s pretty self explanatory, and if you get the gist, then you pretty much understand all you need to do. You have the option to rewind move-by-move, and can get a step-by-step solution after a certain amount of attempted moves, if you’re stuck.
To be blunt, the main story stages are rather dull, and surprisingly tricky. Not that the challenge is a bad thing, as it leads to a surprising change of pace from an otherwise typical puzzler, with the solution system being a great way to help those who get stuck see the end of the game, while letting everyone else solve these brainteasing challenges.
The main fun for me, comes from the side stages, where every collectible is now a coin, and when replaying story stages, they’re all in different locations to boot. This is more frantic, since the fewer moves you solve these in, the more crystals you obtain, and while the solution will help give you a basic victory, they won’t give a perfect run, meaning that you’ll need to use brain power in order to 100% the game. I honestly wished I could just opt out of the main story stages, and just replace them with the coin versions instead, since I much preferred the pacing and design of those variants over the quill collecting originals.
However, there is a bit of a drawback, in the form of the weird progression gating that takes place. A lot of puzzlers do require a certain amount of things like stars or stages cleared to move onto the next world (chapters, in this case), and Puzzle Tale is no different, tasking you with gathering a certain amount of crystals to move onto the next chapter.
Seeing how you cannot earn crystals during the story stages on the first playthrough, this means if you just focus on the story levels, you won’t be able to progress the story to the next world, without backtracking and going after those diamonds. Like in several other games this system pops up in, I don’t like it here either, though it’s not nearly the worst instance of such a mechanic. I do feel that it would have been much more reasonable to just gate worlds by the amount of stages cleared, rather than diamonds obtained, for the sake of casual players just wanting to see the story, as basic as it may be. Nevertheless, Puzzle Tale still leads itself to be a decently fun time, with the coin collecting stages to be the most satisfying of the bunch, so an excuse to play more of them is at least admirable.
In conclusion, Puzzle Tale is a puzzler that you’ve no doubt seen before, and you’ll no doubt see again. While it is fun to replay stages to get coins and unlock the extra levels, it is pretty irritating how a lot of the main story levels are just so tight on moves, to the point that it feels like there’s little room for a-ha moments of your own. While I do enjoy the extra replay value the coins and bonus levels offer, I can’t help but feel the main game just suffers from being a basic brainteaser that has been seen many times before, and the progression gating based off diamonds feels more like padding rather than incentive for replay design.
Puzzle Tale does a great job at being engaging and a perfect handheld pick up and play title, but it doesn’t really offer much else and the narrative isn’t too gripping either, even if the voice work is incredibly solid. Definitely a game worth buying on sale if you like puzzler, but not something I’d say is a must-have over other similar games, especially not for a $10 pricepoint, unless you’re the kind of person that absolutely buys every single game of this kind.
I give Long Ago: A Puzzle Tale a 6 out of 10.