STAFF REVIEW of A Little to the Left (Xbox One)

Friday, March 15, 2024.
by Peggy Doyle

A Little to the Left Box art I feel like a broken record sometimes when writing reviews, but there is nothing I enjoy more than a cozy game. While the definition of cozy can mean different things to different people, and not all cozy games are the same style, I know one when I play one. One thing they all have in common is that they make you feel comfortable. While some can be more complex, some can be remarkably simple, and A Little to the Left: Cupboards and Drawers DLC is a perfect example of the latter. The launch on Xbox included both the base game and the new DLC so I will be covering the game as a whole in my review.

Developed by Max Inferno (what an incredible name) and published by Secret Mode, A Little to the Left tests your brain and rewards you with a feeling of everything being put in its proper place. Do you know the feeling you get when you straighten out a room, bookshelf, kitchen drawers, or fridge? That’s the feeling you’ll get when completing each puzzle. How you end up feeling about A Little to the Left will depend on how you feel about organization, and cats (more on that later).

Over 100 puzzles in the base game progress in difficulty as you work through five chapters, you will start with an easy puzzle and gradually they get more difficult. For example, you may have to put cat toys into a basket for an early level, but later on, you’ll have to separate those toys by colour or style within sections of a basket. Working through cat toys, books, kitchen items, cleaning supplies, and even food items, each puzzle may have only one, or multiple ways of solving them. Books may have to be sorted by height for an easy one-star, but if you go back into the puzzle, you can organize them so that their spines create a pattern when put in order. That will give you a second star/solution. Some puzzles even have three ways to solve them. The Cupboards and Drawers DLC adds another 25+ puzzles focused primarily on things you would find in drawers and cupboards in your home, whereas the base game was more of an overall arching of household items.

While there are no enemies to fight, I’d like to introduce you to the most adorable component of the game, the fluffy white cat. For those of you that have cats, this will come as no surprise. Sometimes they are just jerks. Multiple levels will include the developer's cat in a multitude of ways. Sometimes a paw will reach out and grab something or knock it away, and other times the cat will be the main focus of the puzzle. It was an adorable and hilariously frustrating component of the game.

Where the game fails, is when it branches out to different styles of puzzles. One that I struggled with for a long time was having to prune a tree to make it symmetrical, but you had to clip the leaves in a particular order, and if you make a mistake you have to start from the beginning. I wasn’t a fan of that style, but they were a small selection of the puzzles in the game. These puzzles became a test in trying to see how the developers wanted you to complete them, not in a normal tidy-up way that my brain thinks.

Thankfully, there is a hint system in place for all puzzles. You use an eraser to reveal the final puzzle solution and you just have to duplicate it. Unfortunately, this process is a little more cumbersome than I would like it to be on console, as opening and closing tabs/pages can be slow. It would be nice if there was a way to simply toggle. But with the setup it has, it also requires you to use your memory to finish the puzzle once you’ve seen it. There is also a ‘let it be’ option, which allows you to skip a puzzle and move on to the next one. There are achievements tied to using no hints at all for the entire game, but also for using hints and skips as well. If you want to 100% the game, you will have to play some sections more than once.

The gameplay mechanics are simple, drag and drop items to where you want them to be. It can be a little finicky with trying to get exact placements, and I questioned whether I had items in the wrong place at times, but sometimes you just need to shimmy items a little bit, especially in the Drawers levels. I played almost exclusively on the Xbox Series X but did test it out on PC as it’s a Play Anywhere title. The mouse is superior for the controls, but the console is always my platform of choice when gaming. You can also play on the Cloud with touch controls should you choose.

The soundtrack was cozy. The piano-focused lo-fi soundtrack is chill and laid back music with chimes that play when placement is correct, all blending to create a calm gameplay experience. The satisfying sound effect when you complete a level is also very satisfying and rewarding.

While you can play all the original levels, you can also just play the DLC levels with the Cupboards and Drawers DLC. You also have a daily tidy that you can do. These are smaller puzzles that you can just pop in and do quickly. There are several daily challenges tied to the achievement list as well if that is something you are interested in. The entire game can be finished in about 6-8 hours, depending on how good you are at the puzzles and if you are just aiming to get one star on each in order to move on. The Cupboards and Drawers DLC will add on an extra 1-2 hours. There is also an ‘archive’ section where you will find some limited-time puzzles, including holiday-themed ones.

A Little to the Left is a cozy little game that you can drop in and out of and spend as little or as much time as you feel like. It’s relatively simple in nature, has easy controls, and is good for multiple ages. Because of the ability to play via the cloud, it could be a great game to play on the go too. Despite some finicky controls, it was a great game to decompress in the evenings and I look forward to them hopefully adding more content in the future.

**A Little to the Left – Cupboards and Drawers DLC was provided by the publisher and reviewed on an Xbox Series X**

Overall: 8.0 / 10
Gameplay: 8.0 / 10
Visuals: 8.5 / 10
Sound: 8.0 / 10


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