TLR Games’ IDEA is a puzzle game based on a short film by Finnish director Olli Huttunen – and at first glance it seems like an unlikely (but therefore highly original) candidate for a videogame adaptation. The game’s unique proposition is to transport your thoughts through beautiful aerial photos and videos of a city in Finland, represented by a lamp, through 114 areas in search of seven possible endings. The scenes consist of urban and rural zones interconnected by roads and sidewalks, where you need to guide your lamp to reach your goals before the time runs out.
The hook here is that levels aren’t made up of traditional building blocks, but use the real-life scenery to create paths and obstacles. See that bend on the road? You’ll have to navigate your way through it. That moving car? Either stay out of its way, or bounce off it to your advantage. The lamp that represents your idea (and protagonist, in a way) has to navigate simple but intuitive gravity-based physics, where the challenge is to leave the screen before time runs out. You have to do this while avoiding getting stuck in holes, trash cans, or fences. You can interact with cars, houses, and curbs by bouncing the lamp in different directions and experiment with various possible outcomes.
IDEA looks great because the source material was all shot in 4K, though of course this has been scaled down for the Switch version we tested. There’s a social element as well, because an interesting feature of the game is the fact that Spirits are scattered throughout the scenarios, which are messages left by other players who could not reach their objectives. These interactions can be inspiring, reflective, or even left there out of frustration. When you cannot leave a screen and complete a level yourself, you can also leave such a message for others.
Seen from that angle, the game’s success as a social experience relies on an engaged community that shares inspiring and meaningful messages. However, some Spirits may contain meaningless text made of random characters or messages that aren’t all that inspiring to you, which can negatively impact the experience.
Even without the social aspect, IDEA is a relaxing journey that encourages you to share your thoughts and experiences with others but also lets you get lost in the game’s gorgeous scenery. The game’s simple gameplay is fairly casual in most places but can occasionally be challenging, and is enriched in places where the community has left other players their insights. As a very original crossover product and new take on video game design, IDEA is recommended as a nice casual way to spend your time.