All good puzzle games are built upon a simple, singular idea, and A Monster's Expedition is a perfect example of that philosophy. This game is all about pushing down trees and moving the logs in order to cross to the next island. However, doing so can be much tougher than that sounds, as developer Draknek & Friends gradually, and cleverly, explores the idea to its fullest.
The game is set across hundreds of small islands, and the only way across the water is by making bridges and rafts from logs. These logs can only be manoeuvred in certain ways, though; the game is grid-based, and so you'll first need to wrap your head around what movements are possible and how obstacles like tree stumps, rocks, water, and indeed other logs affect the puzzle. Paired with the smooth visuals and beautifully gentle soundtrack, the puzzle design feels logical, elegant, and rewarding, even if your character's movement is a little stiff.
Things get more interesting when branching pathways are introduced. With no time limits, penalties for failure, or overt guidance on where to go, it quickly becomes a sort-of open world experience — there's even fast travel. Once you get into the thick of it, the game will often have multiple avenues to explore, and they're all worth delving into. The main reward for progressing involves hundreds of exhibits showcasing man-made objects. The titular monster's expedition becomes an educational adventure, learning about humanity and its eccentricities with humorously misunderstood assessments. These objects are scattered everywhere, giving you something to look forward to down each path you travel.
The overarching feeling while playing this game is that it's wonderfully relaxing. Save for a handful of tough difficulty spikes or moments where you lose your way on the sprawling map, A Monster's Expedition provides a genuinely pleasant puzzle experience you can enjoy at your own pace. A few options for tips mean you have some help if you want it, and no loading means it's a doddle to get into. If you're after something chilled out to wind down with, it's certainly worth taking this journey.