You're at a friends' house having dinner and they need another fork, and they ask you to get it. So you get up, go to the cutlery drawer and open it - and you freeze. Look at the state of that! It's like the knives and forks and spoons have had a rave in there. Is it even safe to put your hand inside it? Maybe you're not hungry any more. Oh you should have known! You saw their bookcase when you came in, you saw their shoe rack. Chaos! Utter chaos. Why can't they just tidy it up!
This - this urge to tidy things up, to neaten things - is A Little to the Left, a game about restoring order to the world one small mess at a time. A game about straightening pictures and sorting out drawers (and many other things) and the joy that can bring.
It begins with a wonky picture. There's no explanation because no explanation is needed - there's just the offender on the wall, screaming silently at you to sort it out. So you do - you use the mouse cursor to nudge the edge of the frame and restore peace and harmony to the wall. Dingaling! A tinkling bell informs you you're right. Then, you're onto the next small mess, and that is how it goes.
The joyful part comes in how it is all realised. A Little to the Left has a fuzzy crayoned warmth to it, a jaunty uplifting tone. And the objects you interact with have been carefully recreated to sound exactly right - sound better, even, than in real-life. Christian Donlan likened it to ASMR and he's right - it's strangely peaceful, strangely compelling.
And there's a sense of humour there too, not only in obvious examples I don't want to spoil, but also in the way the game seems to have fun with the situations it presents you - as if it's giggling at, but not patronising, our urge to neaten these things in real life. There's a kind of lighthearted delight to it all, and it's nice to be around.
It can be annoying sometimes. One puzzle in particular in the demo held me up for a relative age compared to the others. And not because it was particularly complex but because I apparently had it back to front, which made no appreciable difference - it still looked ordered. It's a kind of fastidiousness the game begins to lean on as it tries to find ways to deepen puzzles and give you more to mentally chew on.
It's a slight dampener in an otherwise very enjoyable demo, but once you understand the way the game works and what it wants, it's no big deal - you settle into it. And when you do, you're freer to giggle along with it, at the relatable messes the game presents you with, and think about where you've seen them in your life and who you know that likes to tidy them up. There's a lot of Unpacking about it in that regard, actually, that relatability, and I can't think of a higher compliment. I can't wait to play the whole thing.