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I kept poking the screen while playing Weaving Tides, a game out today on Mac, PC, and Switch in which players take on the role of a dragon-like creature who carries a ribbon up and down through woven cloth like a sewing needle. It’s essentially a series of puzzles that you solve by weaving threads together, tying down obstacles, and embroidering designs into your surroundings — a nifty idea that seems like it ought to be far more tactile than it winds up being.

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As it happens, I’ve recently taken on a real-life textile project that may be my undoing, a complex rabbit-knitting pattern that requires holding three different yarns at the same time and performing various complicated increases, decreases, binding-offs and backstitches that I was not prepared for.

For the last few weeks, I’ve been struggling in frustration with this pattern, and I welcomed the opportunity to try a sort of digital weaving experience that promised to be cozy and soothing without the headache of getting tangled in actual strings.

There is indeed a certain satisfaction in solving Weaving Tides’ puzzles. It feels gratifying to close the rips in the fabric of your environment, sealing up torn materials with a fresh patch of thread. The crafty metaphor extends to your character’s special unlockable abilities, giving you the power to tear out mistakes faster, or to make more intricate designs with your threads.

But other aspects of the game fall short of being satisfying, and I think it comes down to a lack of precision. As the player, you hover just over or just under a plane of fabric, but it’s difficult to tell exactly where your stitch will land. I frequently found myself over-shooting and under-shooting, flying past targets or failing to reach them because I misunderstood just where I’d lined myself up. As a result, I felt like a rather clumsy crafter, creating janky lopsided patterns with unpleasant angles that resembled one of those “spiders on LSD” experiments.

I also found myself missing the textural satisfaction of an actual knitting experience. When operating a sewing machine or stitching by hand, there’s a pleasant little “plunk” every time a needle plunges through threads, and the haptic feedback of a Switch controller would certainly be capable of producing such a sensation. That, combined with more predictable aiming, would go a long way towards eliciting the serotonin hit normally produced by hand-crafting. (And while we’re on the subject: A world map wouldn’t go amiss.)

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When I was learning to knit, I once complained to my teacher that my stitches looked uneven and that I’d left a few lumps and holes here and there. “That’s how you can tell it’s handmade,” she said, and since then, when I notice a mistake in my work, I try to take a deep breath and remind myself that the occasional wonky-looking work has a value of its own.

But perhaps I’m being too pedantic a gamer/knitter here. Players seeking a casual mind-occupying diversion will still find plenty to keep their fingers busy, and the game’s designers have found clever ways to incorporate threads into combat encounters. Though the game’s path is linear, it feels not unlike a Zelda dungeon populated by monsters and obstacles that can only be passed through a clever application of a limited set of available tools. Ultimately, I suppose, Zelda games dangle the possibility of mastering the grappling hook or boomerang. Weaving Tides seems to have unpredictability baked in.

Rating: 🧵🧵🧵 (3/5)

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