I hadn't really heard of it until Friday, when Digital Foundry put up a review stating it was Game of the Year material...and then I watched the first hour or so streamed on the Eurogamer channel. It was enough to convince me to pick it up, as I'd just finished Rogue Legacy and fancied something a little less frenetic.
It's really well done. Just a very high level of polish, great design and pacing. Despite the graphic style, it's not Minecraft, closer in play to a Zelda-lite. There is no combat, it's all exploration and puzzle solving, with a series of maps that are just the right size to explore without getting tedious. There are a number of dungeons and mini-games which are not over-used. A typical problem in this style of game is that a mini-game is force-fed you...not here, you encounter a mini-game once or twice at most, and it always keeps you moving. There are collectables, but rather than hundreds there are 4-7 of them at most...enough that each one feels like a notable landmark (rather than a tedious grind towards a far goal). There is no combat as such, and "boss battles" are more akin to real-time puzzle sections.
The game is not long (I completed it at 97% after about 5-6 hours of play), but it's the right length for itself. The design is very clever in that you're never rail-roaded towards a certain area or objective, but instead you naturally move the story along. There were a couple of times where I thought I'd come up with a clever or novel solution to a puzzle, only to realise at the end of the dungeon/section that I'd done exactly what the game-designer wanted all along. The final 3% I haven't done is a mining platformer mini-game (it might be endless, I've reached level 6 of the mines) and 3 retro arcade games where you have to beat the high score. Both are side-quests, so I'm happy to re-visit them at a later date.
A quick list of things that irked me;
1) There is a rhythym mini-game where a single button press was sometimes triggering 2 "beats", and that caused 2 out of the 3 errors you were allowed.
2) There were a couple of 3D jumping puzzles where (even with free camera rotation) getting the distance and direction was a bit of a leap of faith
Neither of these got me to the point of "this is bullshit" (and the rhythym game was a side-quest of sorts), but the game immediately restarts (like, immediately...the game is very fast to load), so re-trying is never too tedious. There were a couple of puzzles that I nearly got frustrated with, before something suddenly "clicked" (normally I was missing an obvious clue...such as invisible platforms reflected in water, or some really clever use of haptic feedback), and suddenly the game made me feel smart (when actually I was just doing exactly what they wanted me to all along).
What I really liked;
1) It's beautiful, and exceptionally smooth to play. Watching Digital Foundry videos has made me understnad more how much technical design really can impact gameplay enjoyment. I would never have called out "ohh...60fps etc", but I would call the game smooth and clean.
2) It's genuinely fun to play, and fits the Switch perfectly with it's explorable map sizes.
3) Everything you do feels like a landmark in your progression
4) No pointless mechanics (you unlock 3 "abilities"...Double Jump, Sprint and Climb pretty early on...that's it. You can pick large objects up from the start). All puzzles and dungeons are solved with just these abilities.
5) Never feel "lost", with no idea what to do next, but also never feel railroaded into a direction or action.
I'd definitely recommend it for an enjoyable weekend or for a trip. Very much on par with a good book in terms of time commitments.