Having been out of the Steam/indie game loop for a while, The Pedestrian‘s recent arrival on Xbox Game Pass was new news to me. While it may seem like I’m all-RPG all-the-time, I like to keep a stock of puzzle games in reserve for those times when I need a break from all the hefty nonsense of role playing. The Pedestrian was among a handful that I recently garnered (thanks to Game Pass), and I must say, it’s quite good.
Released in 2020 by Skookum Arts, The Pedestrian tells a very simple tale. You are the aforementioned pedestrian – a stick figure that’s usually associated with restroom and street signs – and you must make your way through puzzles that exist on various 2D signs. Your character can walk, jump, and pick up and move objects. A level’s end is denoted by a ride on the subway to the next area, and the goal of any given puzzle or set of puzzles is usually to retrieve a particular object that’s needed to progress; though in some puzzles, all you need do is go from point A to point B.
The game appears quite straightforward, at first, but it grows more challenging (as puzzle games usually do) the farther in you get. At the start of the game, the puzzles take place on single signs. They become more complicated as more signs are added to each puzzle; and you must subsequently figure out how to move your character between signs into order to reach your goal. Signs can be connected through doorways and ladders, and in most multi-sign puzzles (after the first few tutorial ones), you can move the signs in order to make those connections. In some levels, the signs can be moved freely within the limits of the play area. In others, barriers are put in place so that signs can be moved only so far in one direction or the other. Different and more challenging mechanics are also put in place in later stages of the game, such as the ability to move signs between planes (placing signs on top of one another) or color-coding signs with paint to restrict or allow movement between them.
In a word, the world of The Pedestrian is beautiful. It’s not mythical or magical (unless you consider a walking restroom symbol “magical,” which it could be), rather, it’s grounded in reality. I already mentioned the subway rides, and the levels themselves take place in a variety of venues, from parks and street corners to offices and warehouses. The signs vary greatly, too, from the those resembling the green and white metal placards that line highways to yellow-lined paper, chalkboards, and cardboard. The game is gorgeously and brightly rendered, and the small environmental “cut scenes” that ensue as you move between levels within parts of the world show off well the developer’s attention to detail.
As much as I love puzzle games, I’m also not that great at them, and The Pedestrian is no exception to that. I’ve called it “challenging” multiple times in the post, but your mileage may vary. I have a difficult time with spatial, design-oriented thinking, but I like that the The Pedestrian really made me stretch my brain cells in ways that I didn’t expect. It’s also a short and very forgiving game. There are no time limits, restrictions on lives, or countdowns to “bad things happening.” I probably spent more time staring at any given level trying to picture its resolution than actually solving them, but the game didn’t mind. I still received that happy rush of positive vibes upon reaching my goals and progressing. The Pedestrian is perfect for a weekend jaunt away from the heavy lifting that comes with some games. It’s a solid, good, puzzling time.
All images, including lede, were taken by author during Xbox One gameplay of The Pedestrian (© Skookum Arts.)