Box stacking, by nature, is pretty commonplace in puzzlers.
Put one down and stack it so you can use it like a staircase to then climb up to higher heights. Or perhaps it’s there to protect you from fiery floors so you can find safe passage to the other side.
That’s not the part of Bonfire Peaks that’s most interesting. Rather, it’s the game’s rather beautiful aesthetic, the silly puns attached to level names, the sharp, shrill symphonies wallowing in the background, and our protagonist’s obsession with burning his possessions.
It’s a truly fascinating premise. And I guess it speaks to all of us in some way as I’m sure there are parts of our lives we’re not proud of or things we own that we wish we didn’t. Though I probably wouldn’t go to quite these limits just to burn stuff I didn’t want anymore.
There’s no obvious reason why he does these things. No one outlines those reasons or explains anything to you in particular. I guess you just have to accept the fact that you’re not particularly nostalgic, enjoy setting things on fire, and get on with it.
Then there’s the game’s overworld which brings all of these puzzles together. It’s essentially an island full of unlit bonfires and memories of possessions, like an old CRT TV and a car. Each clearly has a meaning to the player but what it is and how it got there, who’s to say.
It’s a game that’s laser-focused on memories and their significance and importance. In that regard, you get what you want from the game through playing it, choosing what to believe and how to interpret it. I guess the point is to take your own meaning from it all.
The game’s pretty unselfish in that way. But that doesn’t mean to say it won’t make your brain work hard to clamber through each of its unique challenges. Upon lighting each bonfire, the player must then figure out how to take their box of stuff up to the lit pyre and chuck it in.
Sometimes that might mean moving small square boxes, other times you might have a couple together or need to place a box so it moves elsewhere on the grid. You might even need to protect yourself from hazards.
Point is, you have to find a way to make a clear path, with the option to retry and undo your moves as many times as you like along the way.
And the game is super tough, no question. I’ve actually checked out other reviewers and their impressions as they played on other formats and saw many say they were stuck for ages. One benefit to playing on PS5 is the game does make use of the Hint System and it offers a full walkthrough for all puzzles should you get really stuck. I can neither confirm nor deny that I used it once or twice.
Ok, fine, I was just testing it. For review purposes…
What is pretty clear is how smooth the game moves, from its camera to character animations, even the fires on top of torches. For a Voxel Art style, everything is super clean and sparkly, and the game’s use of distance as you rotate each puzzle is actually sublime.
For the most part, you’ll get the measure of Bonfire Peaks pretty early on, understanding how it works and what it requires of you. One really neat aspect of it, however, is that you don’t actually have to beat all the puzzles in the overworld if you don’t want to.
Essentially, for every box of possessions you burn, you’ll earn a crate in the overworld and sometimes all you might need is 1 or 2 to climb up a ledge when you’re faced with 5 bonfires. It’s up to you how you progress, which puzzles you choose to beat, but the crux of it is you’ll need to move through to the end of the overworld to ‘finish your journey’.
I appreciate what Bonfire Peaks sets out to do as it does it very well. The puzzles are the right blend of head-scratching, chance, and skill, and for a game that ultimately is about stacking crates, there is a soul and essence here that makes the game feel much more interesting than its premise makes it appear.
No doubt, it won’t be for everyone, and many might even find themselves switching off early on, but if you allow yourself the time to get truly sucked into the world, its varying mechanics really add dynamism to the puzzle-solving and you may come out the other side invested in ways you would never have expected.
+ Really beautiful voxel art style
+ A fascinating journey through the overworld, tailored to your choices
+ Music is wonderfully composed
+ Well paced progression through mechanics and grids
– Can feel a bit repetitive initially
– Some people may find direction aimless
Bonfire Peaks releases September 30 on PC, PlayStation, Xbox and Switch
Played on PS5
Code kindly provided by Draknek & Friends