There’s nothing quite like settling into an atmospheric, relaxing, minimalist puzzler after a long day at work. When visuals, music and gameplay are combined with just the right balance there is no better way to wind down. I personally love the variety of experiences gaming can offer, and this is one of my favourite genres.
Minimalist is the operative word here. From the game’s description, which only reads: “A minimalist puzzle game about life, death, and clones”, right through to the look and feel of the game, Déjà Vu is simple but very playable.
You assume the role of a little blue square, who is forever getting separated from its yellow companion. You’ll be navigating all sorts of different obstacles to become reunited.
The controls are just as stripped back as the rest of the game. You can move with the D-Pad or left thumbstick, and if you get yourself stuck, hit B to restart. A is used to create your clone(s). If you exit, by hitting the menu button, when you head back in to play you’ll be able to choose any level you’ve already beaten to replay. It’s worth doing so, as there are some easy Gamerscore and achievements to be had by ticking off the 11 achievements offered in Déjà Vu. You’ll “earn” a sweet 100G simply by booting up the game, for example.
Things start off pretty straightforward, but soon become more challenging. Your first taste of this is during the level “pushover”, where you need to activate the green switches in a certain way, to manipulate the orange blocks and open the barrier to the yellow square. If that description sounds basic I can only apologise, but it’s pretty darn accurate in terms of explaining what is going on.
Anyway, you’ll then go on to encounter hazards, such as lasers, and you’ll need to manipulate the little orange blocks in all sorts of ways to progress. The puzzling starts to get really interesting when you can create your own clones. They essentially mimic your actions, allowing you to progress – for example, if they mimic you sitting on a pressure switch, you can then move through a previously locked door. A number in the top left corner will indicate how many clones you are able to create. It’s fair to say things start to get a bit mind-bending when you have several clones active at once. It will require a pause for thought, in a similar way to planning out the consequences of a chess move..
What is particularly clever is that you can use a clone who is “killed” by a laser as a shield, meaning planning tactical deaths is essential to beating levels. When the poor little cube gets fried, it turns grey and becomes movable just in the same way the orange blocks are. It’s a realisation that will see you utter “Ahhhh, how clever”, of which Déjà Vu has a few of. Another such light bulb moment is when you realise your clones can finish the level for you – it doesn’t have to be the blue square who meets the yellow after all. It’s these nuances of the game design that elevate Déjà Vu above your average puzzler.
It’s these tricks which Déjà Vu keeps hidden until the right time, which puts an unexpected twist on the puzzling action to keep things fresh and interesting. It feels original, innovative and is well-paced despite there only being a couple of hours gameplay to get your teeth into. That’s the main downside really. For £8.39 you’ll settle in, wind down and then suddenly it’s all over. I was left wanting more, which I guess is a huge compliment.
I find solo projects utterly fascinating to play, and a lot of the time they really impress me. However, despite Eric Freeman being credited as the sole developer and publisher of Déjà Vu, he was supported by his girlfriend Danielle Yoseloff in all sorts of aspects of creating the game, such as the puzzle design, story, and music. It’s certainly a charming little title and a real labour of love. Déjà Vu has its own personality, something that makes it quite unlike anything else on the market.
Déjà Vu on Xbox One offers a charming, if brief, experience that is fun and utterly relaxing to play. Anyone with some cash or credit going spare should give this a look, even if it may initially seem a little pricey.