Area 86 Review

Area 86 is a rather cute looking room-escape puzzler that utilises physics for much of the solutions in various forms. It combines two game elements I enjoy – the physics and puzzle parts – yet I sit here underwhelmed by the overall experience.

This is mainly due to the elevated, side-on camera angle we play from. It’s not especially egregious per se, but it can make lining up some of the elements far too fiddly and tricky, leading to getting frustrated more often than I’d like. One such puzzle required me to throw three objects (a ball, cube and ridiculously bouncy cone) into very small boxes raised up off of the floor. While we get a guiding line to give us a rough idea of the power and elevation of the throw, it’s doesn’t extend far enough to gives us total accuracy. This is where, combined with the viewpoint, I started to pull my hair out.

Of course, these aren’t the only solutions, but this particular scenario best encapsulated my time playing Area 86. Elsewhere there are items to pick up and move or throw to break glass, pipes to redirect lasers, switches to hit and more, but our little robot avatar feels too loose under our thumb. The skit around the place as if on ice, and trying to jump up onto of a bookshelf for example is an exercise in tedium.

It’s not all bad, as the physicality of the levels mean that it can be just plain fun to wreck shop, but even this can hinder at times. That puzzle I mentioned above? Well there also happens to be a pane of glass behind the boxes; break it with an over-zealous throw and the glass fills the boxes and the ground around them, stopping the ball from rolling to us, further delaying us and adding just that bit extra to the tedium. Naturally these same foibles can be used to our advantage mind, and it’s this aspect I quite like about the game. Needing to get up high means w can be creative with stacking items, or precariously balancing on something before it topples over. When Area 86 hit these moments it can be really quite fun.

Each stage features a handful of required goals as well as a few optional ones for 100% completion. Some of these are genuinely entertaining and reward exploring the environment, while the vague descriptions and single image clue lead to me simply skipping others as I just wanted to move on and not try to decipher the solution.

All in though, there are only six stages to clear, with no multiplayer or level creation tools to extend out time with it. We can customise our robot with various accessories, but the options are limited and serve no purpose outside of cosmetic appearance.

Conclusion

Area 86 has some neat ideas and puzzle layouts, and its escape room premise is a good one. The awkward camera placement and sometimes finicky nature of the physics though mean that what should be a simple solution can end up frustratingly failing through no fault of our own. It’s worth a look, but don’t expect it to last you more than an evening’s play.

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This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by the publisher.
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Good
  • Always fun to play with physics in a game
  • Some good level design, with hidden extras for those willing to look that bit harder
  • Charming, if uninspiring, visuals
Bad
  • The physics can all to easily work against us
  • The camera angle and placement feels off for some of the tasks
  • Only a handful of levels, with no extra modes to bolster the pacakge
5.4
Average
Gameplay - 5.5
Graphics - 6
Audio - 5
Longevity - 5
Written by
I've been gaming since Spy vs Spy on the Master System, growing up as a Sega kid before realising the joy of multi-platform gaming. These days I can mostly be found on smaller indie titles, the occasional big RPG and doing poorly at Rainbow Six: Siege. Gamertag: Enaksan

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