Review – Mystic Pillars (PC)
They say video games can’t teach you anything. They say it’s not an art form and it can’t offer you a single drop of culture. Whoever said that really needs to give Mystic Pillars a shot. Not only did I feel smart tackling its math-based puzzles like a smug scholar, but also made me want to dive into Indian culture. Especially after being bombarded with a story so interesting that I initially thought it was an actual ancient legend told throughout the country.
Mystic Pillars is a little math-based puzzle game with a simple gameplay loop. You will always be presented with a number of pillars and a set number of jewels in each pillar. You will also be given a small chart telling how many jewels each pillar should actually have, and it’s up to you to arrange them in the limited amount of moves you’re given.
Things are a bit trickier than that, though. The amount of jewels moved from one pillar to the other depends on the number of spaces between said pillars. If one pillar is directly next to the other, you move a jewel. If you want to move jewels to a pillar two spaces away, then two jewels will be moved, and so on. It sounds confusing when I write it down in an article, but trust me, the game is not complex at all.
I don’t see myself as a puzzle genius, unless it’s something in the Tetris family, but I didn’t find Mystic Pillars to be that difficult. Other than maybe one or two puzzles that made me swallow my pride and check an online walkthrough, I breezed through most levels on either my first or second attempts. I’m not trying to brag, because honestly, I don’t think the developers intended to make a challenging experience to begin with. This is a game originally released on mobile phones, so I’m pretty sure the intention was to provide short bursts of mental practice while players were on their way to their jobs. Plus providing a good story in the middle of all those puzzles.
The storytelling is Mystic Pillars‘ main selling point. Simplifying it, as this is a deep story, this is all about a wandering traveler solving the aforementioned puzzles in order to bring a dried river “back to life”. All while a spirit (who looks way too similar to that Austrian Eurovision winner) tells you a story about the Kingdom of Zampi and why its river got cursed.
Everything is presented with beautiful hand drawn visuals, as well as excellent music and a lot of voice acting. I can only assume it’s good as turns out I’m not exactly fluent in Kannada, the local language in Bangalore, where the folks who developed this game came from. The story was so interesting and well articulated that I actually thought it was based on some local legend instead of being original. Yes, blame the dumb and uncultured Westerner. I deserve it.
I do have to point out a somewhat big issue with this game, though. Weirdly enough, it’s not a technical issue, nor something about its gameplay loop. What bothered me the most about Mystic Pillars is that, due to being originally released on mobile phones, its entire gameplay and interface were initially developed with touchscreens in mind. This is not exactly a game that thrives on being played with a mouse and keyboard. That’s the weird thing about my gripes with it: it’s fun, functional, and has a lot of artistic qualities, but it just doesn’t feel right when played on a PC.
Mystic Pillars is a fun ride, even though it’s a bit too easy. It has a neat concept, beautiful visuals, and a nice background story. While I had fun with it, I don’t think playing it on a PC is the right choice. Its gameplay was designed with touchscreens in mind and its puzzles are best experienced in short bursts. If you really want to experience this game as it was meant to be, there are two options. You can either get it on your phone, or you could wait for the more than inevitable Switch port. In this particular case, this is more of a question of “when”, not “if”.
Everything is static, with the exception of a few moving pillars, but everything is also beautifully hand drawn. The imagery presented when the story is being unfolded is a highlight.
While the gameplay loop is simple and very intuitive, it’s clear that this game was created with touchscreen controls in mind, not a mouse. It doesn’t feel as fluid as it should.
A beautiful collection of tunes with heavy Indian influences that perfectly fit the game’s tone. There’s also a lot of voice acting. Whether that is well-acted or not, I can’t tell, as I don’t understand a word that’s being said.
Fun Factor: 6.0
Mystic Pillars is a fun and somewhat easy ride, with a neat concept and a nice background story. That being said, this game does not feel at home on a computer, being best suited for phones or an eventual Switch port.
Final Verdict: 7.0
Mystic Pillars is available now on PC and mobile.
Reviewed on PC.
A copy of Mystic Pillars was provided by the publisher.