Here’s our review of Waking Violet, a new puzzle game to play on the Playstation Vita. It also comes with cross-buy functionality that gives you access to the PS4 version, and if you’re not a Playstation gamer you have a Nintendo Switch option as well – or you can play it on PC through Steam.
I noticed that when Waking Violet was announced, it received a lot of traction within the Switch community – so much so that I had overlooked the fact that it was also coming to the Playstation Vita, still my handheld platform of choice. Powered by the Unity engine, it’s a game that took me back to how I grew up playing games like Sokoban and Chip’s Challenge.
Like those games from the eighties and early nineties, Waking Violet is a tile-based puzzler where pushing blocks (in the right direction and order) plays a large role. Sokoban introduced me to the concept, and Chip’s Challenge (a launch title for my first handheld, the Atari Lynx) expanded on the idea by making the environment around you more and more complex with tiles that acted in unique ways – such as keys, switches and conveyor belts.
In a way, Waking Violet is an evolution of that concept in that it doesn’t just keep the central premise the same while making the environment more complex. Playing as Violet, you slowly gain new abilities/spells yourself as well – so there’s a nice mix of levels becoming more complex while introducing new mechanics at the same time as well. The objective is always the same though – wake up young Violet by reaching the alarm clock and head through the exit portal.
Waking Violet isn’t the biggest game in terms of content, as there are 42 levels to play whereas a game like Chip’s Challenge had close to 150 of them – although quite a few of those were much shorter than the average Waking Violet level. The game is quite challenging as well, partly due to the fact that new game dynamics are introduced regularly and you’ll need some time to reach that “I know what to do!” moment whenever something new is introduced.
What Waking Violet does better than Sokoban and Chip’s Challenge is remove some of the frustration that those games had in them. I would be halfway done completing a level (or worse… pretty much all done) and a little mistake would cause my character to turn one tile too early or late – causing instant death or a situation that demanded a reset. In Waking Violet this can still happen, but you have the option of rewinding time to undo your mistake. It’s not useful when you get completely stuck with no idea of what to do, but it’s great for fixing that little unwanted move you never wanted to make in the first place.
Adding to the challenge in Waking Violet are the abilities you can use, which come in the shape of spells for which you need mana – a limited commodity. With your spells, you can pull blocks out of place (instead of pushing them), freeze stuff, or create clones of yourself, just to name a few examples. To help you when you get stuck, there is also a hint system – though the hints are often presented in a cryptic way rather than showing you the exact moves required. You also only get three hints per saved game, so I could see people reaching for walkthroughs if they’re stuck after using them up. My advice: only use hints as a last resort to avoid having to resort to walkthroughs too quickly.
Waking Violet looks and sounds like a typical indie puzzler, so it’s fairly unremarkable in that regard – but many of my favorite puzzle games (that aren’t puzzle platformers like Trine or Braid) fit that description. It is, however, a very well designed game at a budget price points. Since we’re not spoilt for choice on the Vita, it’s definitely a welcome new entry to my library.