Amidst the slew of games shown last week at Steam Next Fest and the various conference showcases from the gaming’s biggest names you might have missed a little puzzler from Pandaroo Interactive. Meet Me At NooN is a cozy puzzle game where you control the spirits of day and night, working through a series of mind-bending puzzles to get them each back to where they belong with the sun and the moon, respectively.
For its simplicity Meet Me at Noon’s premise ends up with a unique and surprisingly abundant experience; its time-loop mechanic makes for a rich vein of brain teasing puzzles that will test your comprehension of temporality and have you gleefully puzzling over more than 100 challenges for hours. Your brain might end melting a little as you attempt to continually piece together and reconfigure a set of temporal rules the likes of which Christopher Nolan’s Tenet could even be proud of, but in the end the satisfaction of overcoming each of these delightfully novel puzzles is all the more worth it once the sun and the moon are realigned.
A Simple Mind Bender
Like many puzzle games Meet Me at NooN is concerned with getting an object from one location to another in a set number of moves and with a limiting set of rules. Meet Me at Noon however requires you to get two spirits each to their own goals, and each moves independently of each other with different rules. Actions are taken by simple WASD or arrow keystrokes to either move left or right, jump up one “block”, or down to keep still for a turn. If you ever make a wrong move then it is easy enough to undo your actions one by one by pressing ‘Z’.
Every level is split into day and night periods, your day spirit has a set number of moves during the day and your night spirit, coincidentally, has a set of moves at night. However, to add a unique twist to complicate things, each of the spirits’ moves are recorded and played back during the others turn—creating individual time-loops of a sort for each spirit. So, for example, if your day piece moved right at a turn then on night’s turn the other piece would rewind that last step and move left.
The extra wrinkle (in time) is that each spirit does not loop in time the same way; the day spirit rewinds its steps turn by turn whereas the night replays its steps, returning to where it started and conducting a forward loop of your moves. As confusing as that sounds in text the process is actually fairly straightforward when you see it, but its simplicity allows it to expand to a whole bunch of scenarios to make for some really unique and troubling puzzles.
Because Meet Me at Noon plays in these two phases with different behaviours from each spirit, puzzles then become an exercise in working out how each can interact with the other during their respective turns and time-loops, and how the rules of each spirit’s phase can be exploited to get each piece to its goal. For example, if the day spirit falls off a platform then on its rewind it will suddenly do the reverse motion (i.e. ascending), meaning you could perhaps position your night piece to be carried up with it, or use the night piece to position the day somewhere where its rewind will perhaps land it somewhere more useful.
There are a whole bunch of these combinations and it will take some time to really wrap your head around how they work to be able to use them to your advantage. Plus, as with any good time bending media, just as you think you’re getting to grips with it the complexity will deepe, putting you right back to the blank-stare-mouth-drooling stage of temporal puppeteering. You’ll feel like Einstein cracking special relativity one minute, and the next minute (or was the one before) it’s as if you’ve never even heard of time.
To that end Meet Me at NooN is successful in staying true to its “mind-bending puzzler” tag since you’ll have to reconfigure your thinking of how time can work while playing. The puzzles certainly tease the mind but it never feels like the solution is too far out of reach. For added difficulty each level also has a bonus star to collect, although this isn’t necessary for completing a puzzle but they are used to unlock other stages so you will need some.
Each level is well designed usually with a specific mechanical idea behind it (often hinted at by the name of the level) and there are 105 in total broken into 10 stages named after various constellations. I loved the simple art style with its constellation and sun and moon aesthetic. It has a certain mystique to it that is perfect for a puzzle game like this.
Pandaroo Interactive have previous experience with developing mobile apps (this is the first commercial game for the Belgian indie studio) which is evident by the elegant simplicity of Meet Me at Noon. The controls and game premise are all simple enough for anyone to pick up immediately; I almost wish that Meet Me at NooN wasn’t solely a Steam release because it would be perfect as a mobile puzzler to do on the bus or in between ad breaks, or even for a Nintendo Switch or other portable device since it is perfect for that quick pick-up-and-play in 10-minute bursts approach. If you’re in the mood for quickly teasing your brain, or if your name is Christopher Nolan and you hate the normal running of time, then Meet Me at Noon is a novel little puzzler that will most certainly fill your time well (whether it is moving forward or back or repeating).
Final Score: 7/10