Panmorphia opens with your character stumbling across an amulet and being whisked away to a magical land. This land, called Panmorphia, is governed by the four elements and it would seem that your character is a sentinel. Since sentinels are bound to this land and only called upon in times of need, it would seem that your help is required. Seeing as the portal that brought you to Panmorphia closed behind you, you have no choice but to figure out what is wrong and fix it before you can return to your own world.
Panmorphia is a point & click style puzzle adventure which is played from a first person perspective, similar to genre classics such as Myst. Your purpose is to explore the scenes, solve the puzzles barring your way and figure out why your help is needed. Like Myst, you don’t have free movement in Panmorphia and instead each scene is a static image with various hotspots. Scenes are filled with objects that you can pick up, spots that you can examine closer for clues or puzzles that need solving. Navigating the scenes are a bit tricky as you have to tap the corners of the screen to switch to a new area and there are no visual indicators. Some scenes use a “back” button to return you to the previous screen as they don’t have any navigation points and these often tripped me up. I would tap the four corners of the screen trying to figure out where the navigation points are and then only notice the back button. It is a minor complaint, but happened to me often enough that it is worth mentioning. I did appreciate the map, which makes it easy to keep track of your location, although sadly you cannot use it to fast travel between scenes.
The game is quite relaxing as you cannot get hurt or killed and can’t misuse items. It is also fairly non-linear, so if you get stuck with a certain puzzle there are usually other avenues to explore first while you mull things over. The puzzles are for the most part fairly logical and most of the time you’ll find the answers carefully hidden away in the scenery. Players who are really stuck can even make use of the built-in hint system, although it does take a few minutes to recharge to prevent it from being abused. Finally, there is an “easy” mode which highlights all hotspots on the screen for you to ensure that you won’t overlook anything.
As part of your sentinel powers your character can also transform into an animal representation of each element. Although you can’t see your character you’ll get to swap your human form for that of a cat, bird and fish during the course of the game. Each transformation changes your perspective, so the cat scenes are lower to the ground and take place during the night while the bird gives you an aerial perspective of things and the fish is obviously confined to water. These changes all come with their own unique puzzles and the shift in perspective helps to keep things interesting.
The visuals in Panmorphia is an interesting blend of real photos along with some rendered elements. The result is quite beautiful, and while the scenes are all static, particle effects are used to add a bit of life to them. I really liked the vivid colors and the amount of detail that is packed into each scene. The game also features a rather nice soundtrack with some laid back tunes that never become obtrusive. You never encounter any other people in the game, so there is no speech, but overall the audio is quite good. The touch interface works well and apart from some issues finding the right navigation spots to transition between scenes I didn’t have any trouble with the controls. There’s some nice variety to the puzzles too with scenes where you have to slide items into place, navigate a maze from a top down perspective, assemble pictures that are scrambled and much more.
Panmorphia is definitely a good choice for players who want a more cerebral challenge instead of the typical mobile arcade titles. The game is long enough to provide good value for money and kept me busy for a couple of evenings as I explored all it had to offer. Perhaps the most impressive thing about Panmorphia is that almost everything, from the programming to the art was done by just a single developer.
Anyone who fondly remembers titles like Myst and Riven will appreciate the gameplay of Panmorphia. It is a very slow paced and relaxing experience with unique elements such as the animal morphing. I would definitely love to see more titles set in the world of Panmorphia which fleshes out its story and setting further.