By: Jeff Cater
What do you get when you want to develop a game based entirely around the Myers-Briggs personality test? You wind up with Pillar, a puzzle game devoid of any clear objectives and a truly sluggish pace. Developer MichaelArts has created a game about social anxieties and personality disorders, but in the process has created a bit of an identity crisis of its own.
Depending on the personality you pick, you may have a hidden skill that can be triggered using the triangle button. The left stick will move your chosen lunatic about the level, and things don’t really get much more complicated than that. Once you activate your character’s ability you may have to determine the placement of the power, which is also done via the left stick.
While Pillar isn’t pushing the technical boundaries of the PlayStation 4, the 2D world encapsulating the varied protagonists are delicately colored to resemble an oil painting. The inhabitants of these pretty worlds are unfortunately stiff and feel more like cardboard cut outs rather than the menacing foes of society (or foes of social behavior, actually; come to think of it that would make a great punk band name).
The sound design is also very minimalistic, and was composed alongside development of the game rather than a post-design, so the music is tailored to fit the situation and mood of any given character’s exploits. If you manage to hear any of the music over the sound of you scratching your head in confusion, then you’ll find it highly enjoyable — it’s just difficult to pay any mind to.
As noted, Pillar was designed with the Myers-Briggs personality disorder test in mind, and it tries to illustrate the pains and anxieties of those individuals who are socially troubled. Most of the time you will be in a position where you have to guide your character from point A to B while avoiding contact with anyone, illustrating the introverted, shy character archetype. Some characters do not have to avoid other people, but instead they have to work together with someone.
The method in which you solve the various puzzles is never explained, only demonstrated through trial and error, which can be taxing on your patience. There’s absolutely no hand holding or tutorials of any sort contained within Pillar, which is a grave mistake because of how hollow the game initially looks and feels.
For example, take the “Distant” character: presumably an artist, his activated ability summons an easel where you may paint a speaker somewhere on the ground, as well as a pressure plate to activate that speaker. If “Distant” is caught by an NPC, he blacks out and has to chase a woman through a dark dream. Visually interesting? Yes. But it’s very jarring and confusing to watch play out.
In another personality, you’re actually switching between two characters that are working together (unknowingly) fixing broken lamps and putting power to them to light up the streets. This section of the game makes for probably the most entertaining portion, but again the incentive to progress just wasn’t there for me.
Pillar is not for everyone; that much is clear by how badly it pushes players away. Just as the characters within the title, Pillar has its own issues to work out. Not once did I have a clear understanding of what the game expected from me, leaving me more puzzled by the development decisions than the actual puzzles.