Mindset Review: Handily Geared Puzzles

Some of the best VR puzzle games are the simplest ones. Titles like Cubism and Puzzling Places demonstrate perfectly that a good, well-crafted puzzle is all you need. No fluff, just you and your problem-solving skills. If you love this style of game then Carbon Studio’s latest, Mindset, has likely caught your eye. Littered with cube-based head-scratchers, as we find in our Mindset review, the studio has bravely paired the gameplay with a somewhat bizarre narrative and hand tracking for a mixed result.

Mindset features a Story Mode as well as a Challenge Mode, the former providing the introduction to the game’s mechanics. Every single puzzle involves a cube and a selection of gears that you need to correctly place around its surface. The idea is to unlock the cube by joining one green moving gear with another located on another side. Simple enough, with different-sized gears their placement can be chopped and changed until the right configuration is found.

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Gearing Up

Early puzzles tend to have one solution, but as they get more difficult they offer multiple routes to experiment with. This is further complicated by various additions, such as slidable pegs – where the gears attach to – or pegs that respond to gravity. The cubes can be twisted and spun around however you please but their core central point stays fixed. This is a bit of a shame because you can’t sit back and explore the puzzle as if it were a Rubix Cube.

On that note, Mindset can be played seated or standing and will adjust accordingly. Yet it was far easier and intuitive to play sat down. Especially when using the main control scheme, Meta Quest 2’s hand tracking. It’s easy to tell that Mindset has been built specifically for hand tracking. Use the touch controllers and their implementation feels tacked on and clunky. Spinning the cubes around using the control sticks was the only benefit. Whereas, grabbing gears or operating the menu buttons lacked finesse, making the return to hand tracking a welcome one.

Right from the start Mindset’s hand tracking has been very well executed. There’s a satisfying amount of travel finished with a click when pressing the menu buttons. It might seem silly, but where hand tracking is concerned, these little details all add up. For the rest of the game, it’s a combination of picking gears and popping them on the pegs. Most of the time this works as you’d expect, yet there are the odd moments when a gear wants to glue itself to your hand rather than detach. Meta’s hand-tracking tech has improved greatly over the years, solving issues like occlusion. However, sometimes it can struggle with simply opening your hand.

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Puzzling, very puzzling

For the most part Mindset’s puzzles are enjoyable and fun to complete. The difficulty curve during the Story Mode ramps up nicely plus once you’re finished the Challenge Mode dispenses with the theatrics, serving up the most difficult puzzles. It was this section that reminded me most of Cubism, just me and a real challenge, no-nonsense story to deal with.

Normally, having some sort of narrative in a game like this gives it some character. Delivering atmosphere and intrigue in between each puzzle. But I don’t think Mindset needed it. In fact, the story is more of a hindrance than a benefit. You play Jack, a medical researcher involved in a plane crash. Now in a coma, a doctor by the name of Tara Moreau is able to communicate with you, helping make sense of where you are and what you need to do. The puzzles form a route through your subconscious, and solving each one gets you closer to reality.

Unfortunately, while Jack has some emotion and personality to his voice, Tara’s is an insufferable AI-style drone. All you’ll want to do is get to the next puzzle rather than having to listen to them. Alas, there’s no option to skip. There aren’t any options in Mindset to be fair, so you’re stuck with Jack and Tara doing their best Inception renditions.

Mindset Review Summary

Considering Carbon Studio is better known for its VR action games like Warhammer Age of Sigmar: Tempestfall, Mindset is a very different ball game. The concept, with its hand-tracked-focused puzzles, is equally addictive and entertaining. It could’ve easily gone without the narrative, needs to unlock the cube from its fixed point and improve the controller interface for those who want it. Other than that, for the super cheap price Mindset is a steal for all you puzzle fans out there.