I imagine that if other lifeforms examined the human race, they'd be pretty stumped by the way we do things. It's these observations that form the heart of A Monster's Expedition, a puzzle adventure that shows us what humanities little quirks look like from the perspective of curious monsters.
In A Monster's Expedition (Through Human Exhibitions) you play as a faceless monster sporting a cute backpack who traverses different sets of archipelagoes. Figuring out how to cross the water to get to each island is the core of the puzzle solving, and involves pushing objects around a small space. Each individual island has several different exits, and solving a puzzle in different ways lets you explore and wander the rest of the game's peaceful world.
The little dude you play as has a lot of similarities to humans, two arms, two legs, a likeness for adorable rucksacks, but A Monster's Expedition makes it comically obvious that we are indeed very different. These islands are not just brain teasers but double as an exhibition for monsters who want to learn about the strange habits and behaviour of humans. The islands are sprinkled with plinths which display a variety of human artefacts complete with descriptions musing about what the objects could be.
These little observations about human culture are very wholesome. A description for a sign muses about why those from Englandland love queuing so much, and a lighthouse entry suggests that the towering structures are actually lures of a giant anglerfish preying on passing ships. A favourite of mine is the description for the Kraken that says the terrifying sea monster is actually quite the opposite and has been "described by several narwhals as 'embarrassingly clingy'". Reading these descriptions is a short relief from puzzle-solving, and adds to the game's overall charm.
Bouncing from one island to the next means solving block-pushing puzzles. There are a number of trees on each island that can be pushed over and used as logs—bridging together two islands. If you push a log sideways it will keep rolling until it hits something, meaning that many of your logs might accidentally roll into the ocean if you're not careful. Pushing a log lengthwise will let you flip it one tile at a time, making it stand upright or lie down. These petite puzzles are all about moving your log in the right direction so, when you give it that final push, it rolls neatly into the right position.
Different islands mix this structure with different tree types and new techniques as you move throughout the many biomes of the world. If you get stuck on a particular set of puzzles, you can just go down a different pathway to a whole other set, returning when you want to have another crack. There are a number of teleportation post boxes around the islands so you can zip from one area to another with ease.
A Monster's Expedition has a breezy approach when it comes to its puzzles. It has a calming atmosphere that will cool any hot-headedness when you get stuck. The gentle plucking of guitar strings matches your movements, and the little jingle when you complete a puzzle is lovely. There's a button that undoes your previous move and a button that resets the islands, undoing mistakes as quickly and gently as possible. When you reach the edge of an island, your little monster friend sits down, its legs paddling in the ocean.
A Monster's Expedition (Through Human Exhibitions) takes you on a lovely jaunt. I found that if I found a puzzle particularly tricky, the best solution would be to go away and return later, relaxed and refreshed, like returning to a clean slate. It's a warm and cosy puzzle game with puzzles that will soothe your synapses rather than fry them.
Disclaimer: Former PC Gamer deputy editor Philippa Warr is the writer for A Monster's Expedition.