Induction is an abstract puzzle game which utilises a paradoxical time travel mechanic to offer interesting ways to overcome its various challenges. By choreographing your actions across multiple timelines the game aims to change the way you think about cause and effect – forcing you to interact with both past and future iterations of yourself in order to achieve your goals. Despite the spartan aesthetic and simplistic controls Induction offers an engaging and complex experience – sure to sate the desires of any puzzle aficionado.
Induction is structured along a fairly linear path – offering a swathe of single screen levels in which you must guide a small cube from one end to the other. You do this by rolling the cube in the four cardinal directions (forward, back, left, or right), activating switches, pushing objects, crossing bridges, and solving environmental puzzles. Personally I’m a huge fan of puzzle games where levels are displayed on a single screen as your goal is always obvious – even if the means of successfully navigating there is not.
Levels are designed according to a “virtual 3D grid”, each “cell” of which is the same size as your cube. If you move to the right, you move exactly one “cell” to the right, if you climb a step, you climb exactly one “cell” forward and higher. By clearly defining your movement and “snapping everything to a grid” the developers make it easy to calculate your moves – allowing you to concentrate on strategy rather than precise movement or positioning.
At first levels are fairly straightforward – navigate your way to the goal using basic controls while learning the mechanics. While this may seem commonplace Induction uses its introductory periods to great effect – utilising experiential learning to show you how the game works, rather than detailed explanation. This ensures there is no room for misinterpretation and gives players a point of reference for how a mechanic works when they start to employ the skills in more complex solutions later on.
So far what I’ve described fits a myriad of other indie titles, however Induction has one distinguishing feature that raises it above the rest – its time travel mechanic. The time travel mechanic works similar to the recording feature in The Talos Principle. At any time during a level you may press the space bar to travel back in time to the point when you started the level. You will remain at your current location while another cube will appear at the point on which you began. This second cube is the past version of yourself and will travel the exact same path you previously took until it reaches the point where you pressed the space bar. You must use this mechanic well, interacting with your previous iterations while obeying the game’s restrictions in order to succeed.
For example; in the video below you can see the exit is positioned on a platform I am unable to reach. Luckily there is a cylinder present which will give me the height I need however I’m only able to scale flat edges – so I can’t use the cylinder to scale the wall. By first moving the cylinder into position then activating the time travel mechanic I’m able to position myself in such a way that I can reach the goal complete the level.
This mechanic is further expanded upon with a number of elements including objects that permeate the time travel mechanic (allow you to create duplicate objects) or a timeline shift mechanic which allows you to switch between multiple timelines, altering them according to your needs to reach your destination.
Time travel is a feature that’s been tried many times before but, more often than not, results in a convoluted mess leaving players more frustrated and confused than satisfied once they reach a solution. By coupling simplistic controls with clearly defined environmental parameters Induction manages to avoid this – mostly. There were a few occasions where I found myself stumped while I tried to figure out how a particular mechanic worked – however this were very rare and, usually, didn’t take me long to rectify.
Induction offers a very spartan interface, providing the player with minimal controls and offering little in the way of visual special effects. There’s something inherently relaxing about a puzzle game that favours simplicity over a focus on detailed story or graphical fidelity. Induction is one such a game, offering an enjoyable and well-designed experience wrapped inside a pleasant yet simple aesthetic. This atmosphere not only provides a pleasing aesthetic, it enhances the gameplay – allowing players to concentrate on solving the puzzles rather than becoming side-tracked by “fluff”.
Induction offers no driving “danger” to force action and, while puzzles often require precise timing, players are provided with mechanics to control the game’s flow – thus negating any sense of pressure or stress. The simplicity of the design shouldn’t be taken as an indicator of difficulty however – Induction employs some unique and interesting mechanics which make it one of the tougher puzzle games I have played. If you’re a fan of puzzle games and enjoy well explored game mechanics then Induction should be very high on your “to play” list!