Getting stuff done is rewarding, and getting stuff done the right way just feels… right. Game developers know this and you’ll see it reflected in a variety of indie games that are inherently task focused. Stardew Valley, Unpacking, even Overcooked all capitalize on this aspect of human nature by having players work piece by piece toward an objective in what is essentially performing chores. That’s right! The very thing you grew up dreading having to do has now become a source of joy, at least in this context. Whether it’s the small blip of serotonin from checking off that task or a full-fledged escape of feeling like you’ve finally accomplished something in contrast to your bleak, stagnating home/school/work life… *ahem* Anyway, I digress!
A Little to the Left (by Max Inferno) is not much different. The player is set up to complete various levels that consist of a puzzle with an organizational or tidying element. Each of the 5 sections and its tasks is themed around a different space in your “home”. You’ll start off leveling a picture and tidying up some cat toys, then the game may have you arranging books, sorting things in your pantry, or organizing the clutter of a desk, eventually rearranging the very fabric of time and space itself.
Most of the puzzles are still fairly simple, at least in what is intended for the player to do. Meanwhile others lend themselves more to just dragging objects around until they “stick” to something. Some puzzles even add in a layer of complexity via how the player goes about attempting to organize the puzzle itself.
While it may be pretty clear what the game wants you to do, the challenge lies in how exactly you are able to execute it. A handful of levels have multiple solutions, some in the sense of there are multiple ways to achieve the one star to complete the level, and some where there are different patterns that can be used to solve the level in strikingly different ways, requiring two or three completions of that level to get 100%.
Puzzles definitely develop and increase in difficulty as the game progress, but outside of the occasional gem, it’s not until much later in the game that the really creative levels come out. At this point, however, you’re most of the way through the game and that idea won’t get expanded upon or used again.
But chores are only one part of the game. The immediate hook and what will catch most gamers’ (including my) eye is the cat. This frisky feline makes an appearance in a few levels, swiping away all the work you just did or posing a persistent nuisance while you clean up. However, for that to be such a large aspect of the marketing of the game, the appearances it makes are relatively few and it feels a lot more like “a cat themed puzzle game” than “a puzzle game with cats”. You can definitely tell that the player exists in a world where cats are the star, but that doesn’t feel very true in the game. The most notable use of the cat is in the final level, where at one point you are building a tower out of plastic storage containers for them to climb.
Add to this the fact that this last level keeps dragging on in what is essentially a memory lap of lackluster puzzles vaguely heralding back to various objects and themes used in the earlier stages, and it definitely will leave the player wanting more in both the cat and puzzle area.
The developers do add in a “daily tidy” game mode, where the player can tackle a randomly generated puzzle based on one of the levels in the main game, but you only get one a day, and it unfortunately feels like a freemium mobile game gimmick. There is a tracker for these, counting up to 365 non-consecutive daily tidies complete with stickers at various completion milestones, but honestly these don’t feel substantive enough to really warrant completing, let alone attempting. I didn’t test, but would guess that it might be possible to adjust the time on your machine to be able to play multiple daily tidies in one sitting, if you really wanted to go through that trouble for a short puzzle.
So overall, “A Little to the Left” is a cute, charming little puzzle game about chores and cats that has some glimpses of great potential, but could definitely use just a wee bit of tidying up on some of the puzzles and a looot more cat.