Persephone Review (Switch)
Available on: Switch/XboxOne/Steam/Mobile
Dying in video games usually means a game over, or a level restart in puzzle games, requiring you to reload a checkpoint or save that was hopefully not hours ago. Well, what if I told you that a game has turned dying into it’s own mechanic to help solve the various puzzles? In Persephone, you take control of Persephone as she arrives to her destination to meet her love, Hades, only for him to quickly be taken by a thorny vine before they can embrace. Not wanting to leave Hades or let her mother win, she must travel down into the Underworld.
Each level you’ll be going through will challenge you to figure out how to get to the portal that will transport you to the next one. Except, you may notice that many deadly hazards in your path and you don’t really have another way to avoid death. Well, death is the key here. Failing into a bunch of spikes or being shot by a couple arrows easily kills Persephone, but while she does come back to life quickly, her body will linger. In fact up to 3 of her bodies will stay, with the older the bodies are, the darker they’ll get before they disappear to make room for another body. This both gives you enough wiggle room while also requiring you to think 3 bodies ahead. There are also spawn points which do play a part in the puzzles as multiple can appear in a level so you can respawn past certain hazards. Though, you have to make sure you walk over them to switch to the spawn point you want before dying.
As you continue on, and arrive at the different worlds, more are introduced to you. You start at making makeshift bridges with your own body to cross over spike pits, but soon you’ll be pushing boxes into the water (as your drowned body doesn’t make a great platform there), letting arrows (or weirdly a spiked ball) hit you so your body will keep the pressure plate down, and slipping on ice. Later on, there are even a couple of different orb stations that will affect your body once you die if you walk by it. For example, walking by a stone orb will cause your body to turn into stone, which is valuable as your body will still turn to stone if you die in water and is indestructible against arrows and spiked balls.
If you have a keen eye, each world also has a secret level. These secret levels are accessible through one of the regular levels and will suspiciously have an area that looks like Persephone could walk in as the isometric view you have coincidentally hides the portal. In fact, I found my first one on complete accident. In these secret levels, your goal isn’t to get to the portal as it’s used to bring you back to the main level (you can go back into it through the level menu if done by accident), but to destroy the thorny vines that burst through the floor by figuring out a way to unblock the flying hazards aimed towards them. If you don’t happen to find one of the secret levels during your first run-through of the world, the game does help you. The triangle, which is the secret level, is placed on the row of levels that it appears in. So all you have to do is go through only 3 levels to spot the entrance.
For those that happen to get stuck on a puzzle and can’t figure out what they could be doing wrong, there is a hint system available. After a certain amount of deaths or resets, you’ll get an option to see a hint which is a speed up footage of the solution (okay, it gives you a lot more than a hint) and you can stop watching it anytime. It is nice that you won’t get useless hints that you already figured out, but this does just give you the solution. Though, to be fair, later levels do get complicated to where you most likely won’t be able to remember every move that you just watched being played quickly.
Once you finish the last level, and get both possible endings, there is more for you to play through. Taking place before the events of the main game, Tale of Demeter has you play as, well, Demeter after she sends off her daughter Persephone. You’ll be going through puzzles with the same mechanics that you encountered in Persephone’s levels, but they’re not slowly introduced to you again and the levels are harder than before. Though, it still does introduce a new obstacle for you to deal with. Demeter’s levels also has some secret levels where you’ll be planting those thorny vines.
Lastly, you’ll also have access to Hades: The Aftermess to play through. Taking control of Hades this time, this seems to take place shortly after the ending. While Hades and Persephone are hanging out in the throne room, a dead Persephone falls down. I guess there really was consequences to having a couple of your bodies linger about. This gives Persephone quite a scare, but Hades obviously has dealt with this before. I honestly found Hades’ levels a bit funny and it’s a nice change from the others. Here, you’ll be going back to previous levels and cleaning up the leftover bodies of Persephone and Demeter into this teethy disposal hole. Hades floats above the floor and any obstacles, so the challenge comes with the bodies and figuring out how to get them to the disposal hole. Simply pushing them off the edge of the level or letting them fall into any deadly obstacles will fail the level.
There isn’t really that much going against Persephone as it’s a solid puzzle game. The only thing that you’d probably struggle with, and I found myself struggling with, is that it’s quite difficult to wrap your head around movement due to the isometric view (which is helped a bit by using the stick rather than the directional buttons) and that having a undo button for your last action would have been able to save players from having to restart the whole level over a mistake of going in the wrong direction.
While Persephone is an easy puzzle game during the majority of Persephone’s levels, I really do recommend picking up this hidden gem. Sometimes you just want to play something easy after being burnt out on a particular difficult game, and this particular game even comes with the added bonus of having an interesting dying mechanic that helps in solutions while also including difficult levels in the Demeter’s and Hades’ levels once you get back into the groove. It also does a good job at teaching you when something new comes along, it has a cute art style, and some delightful music to listen to.