Tag Archive: platformer


inside title

Why are you alone in the dark, little boy? Don’t you know it is dangerous out here? You could be hunted, killed! Those dogs will feel no guilt as they tear your throat to pieces; no remorse will those masked men feel as they gun you down. What is your purpose in this quest? What could possibly be so important that you must risk life and limb? …Do you even know?

A few years back, a young boy went through monochromatic Hell and high water to rescue his sister in 2D puzzle game Limbo; now that very same developer, Playdead, is back with a vengeance making gamers experience a whole new realm of horror in their recently released 2.5D puzzle-platformer Inside.

As a quick side note, this review will have minimal to no spoilers; however, let me say two things before continuing on: One, go and play this game (it is currently available on PS4, XB1, PC and iOS). Two, if you can go into this game with little to no prior knowledge, do so – the experience of discovery amplifies everything this game has to offer and you will not be disappointed.  For those of you still here, let us continue onward ~

For those that experienced Limbo, Inside will welcome you back with its grisly embrace through a basic familiarity in environment and control scheme. A grim, grayscale landscape (save for a few acute splotches of red – one being a piece of the main characters attire) is all that will be in view for the entirety of the game – so let your eyes adjust accordingly. As the title screen barely finishes loading, a boy will emerge from the side to begin the adventure. Aside from that initial intro, there are no loading screens to be found throughout the game, period. Darkened forests, shadow filled cornfields, decayed corpses and a factory of horrors both submerged and otherwise await the player as they traverse inside the 3-4 hour game.

inside bodies

The controls are simple, whether you prefer controller (my recommended) or keyboard input scheme. The character will move to the right and left and occasionally climb up or fall to the depths below (of course, the underwater segments will conveniently provide use of all directions). In addition to basic movement, the character can jump on top of objects or across chasms as well as interact with certain items via activating buttons, pressing switches, and dragging things. It is a simple design that gives the player everything they need to solve all puzzles and survive every encounter…though many times it will not be during the first attempt.

Much akin to Limbo, Inside falls into a style of game play categorized as “trial and death”. You will encounter a challenge, you will likely die, and you will learn how to survive on your next attempt. It is an excellent mannerism for a puzzle game in that it provides a challenge and some amount of brain activity to succeed but it never reaches a level of frustration or getting ultimately stuck at any given point.

Speaking of dying, the wide array of death scenes and possibilities in the game range from shocking to humorous to absolutely horrifying! Walking off a ledge and getting impaled on a spike is probably something you should have seen coming (I know that I grinned after falling into at least one of classic video game’s favorite death traps); however, tripping over a broken limb, getting caught by a masked guard and watching the boy get held under water until he breathed his last was probably more along the lines of something that will hauntingly stay with me for the rest of my days. As mentioned earlier though, the deaths are merely learning utensils. I can almost guarantee that you will never make the same mistake twice and the checkpoints are quite generous so that you will never have to repeat more than you absolutely have to.

inside spotlight

The puzzles themselves also never get repetitive. They always introduce an object that will need to be interacted with and then leave everything to the player to figure out how to use it and accomplish the goal. Although many of the same designs are used throughout, they add their own unique twist in getting things where they need to. Perhaps you once placed a box on a switch to open a door; well, the next time you might just have to utilize reanimated humanoids via a mind control helmet to not only place weight upon a switch but also to carry you over a treacherous chasm. As the game progresses, puzzles will even take on a healthy dose of physics prowess adding gravity, water, and other elements that will challenge what you are actually seeing on screen. You have all the tools at your disposal, how will you use them? Other puzzles may not give as much time for careful thought out planning, though: highly aggressive dogs and other creatures will chase you down (spoiler alert: they are always faster than you) and you will have to outwit them in order to gain the advantage and maneuver to safety.

In addition to the great playstyle, the atmosphere, ambiance and story of Inside is truly astounding unto itself. Small exquisite details can be found in every scene from dust particles glistening around old factory equipment to leaves billowing in the breeze to facility workers going about their jobs. A fully animated background and foreground envelop the player as they move throughout the game and don’t think for a minute that you are safe from what lies within those boundaries. Even the detail of how the boy reacts and moves brings a certain lifelike quality: the slight stumble after running and jumping off of a ledge, heavy breathing after an intense sprint, struggling for air while underwater for too long and it all builds up to the white-knuckled/forget to breathe exhilaration that accompanies so much of the game. It is an overwhelming sense of foreboding and not knowing what lies through the next door and it often takes until that next area is reached to realize just how tight the game’s hold had been on you.

inside witch

The story is dark, confusing, horrifying and simply drenched in the unknown. All the while, not one single line of text, nor word spoken, will you find in this game (save for the end credits and opening Title). Much like their previous work, the story is left up to interpretation – and honestly, it is perfect that way. In the few short weeks it has been released, there are numerous theories abound on what Inside truly means – both in regards to the regular ending and the secret ending. It is a presentation of themes taking cues from a mix of dystopian science fiction and horror that will leave you with far too much to consider long after the credits have finished.

Come experience what lies inside. Are you afraid of what you might find?

Good. You should be.

 

(My review was originally posted on Realm of Gaming…which seems to no longer exist. Here it shall live on!)

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never alone title

When times are at their worst, often that is when evil will choose to strike. Where blizzards never cease to bellow their wintery wilds and frostbitten winds tear and rage at everything in its path, a young girl ventures away from the safety of her starving village to see what could be causing the devastating weather. The path ahead of her is laden with trials and dangers from the deadly jaws of polar bears to strangers ransacking her village to sinking ice caps and tumultuous waters. With naught but her courage and her new found arctic fox companion, they traverse the dangers together with the aid of helpful ancient spirits to see what lies in wait at the end of the blizzards roar.

never aloneNever Alone (Kisima Ingitchuna), developed by Upper One Games, is so much more than just a beautiful puzzle/platformer – it is a collaboration of gaming and Native Alaskan folklore told through an interactive experience. The game, however, was not simply a product of devoted research and interviews; but rather had direct involvement with over 40 Native elders, storytellers and community members of the Iñupiat people creating not only an atmospheric and endearing gameplay experience but also including an informative documentary on the culture.

Never Alone allows players to take control of both the young Iñupiat girl, Nuna, and the arctic fox either by switching between the two in single player mode or allowing (and encouraging) playing with a friend through local co-op. The playstyle of each character is different enough to keep things interesting and add an extra layer to the puzzles as each cannot always reach places via the same methods. Nuna has the ability to push objects, climb ropes and use a bolas weapon to break through certain obstacles; whereas the fox has a much better jumping and climbingnever alone 3 ability, can fit in small tunnels and also communicate with ancient spirits that aid the two in their difficult journey for survival. The controls are smooth and easy to grasp as Nuna and fox jump, climb, shatter ice and branches, and out maneuver creatures that wish for their demise, though that is not to say there aren’t times where what the characters should do and what they actually do differed (usually leading to a swift, and slightly heart-wrenching death on one part or the other). Luckily, check point saves occur fairly often so there is not much backtracking to be done if a more difficult or timing induced area is encountered.

Aesthetically, the game is absolutely gorgeous. From the airbrushed art style of the main game to the simple sketches of the story’s cutscenes, it all comes together fluidly. Faded out and cloudy edges of the screen give sense of the all encompassing blizzard surrounding everything while soft and vivid tones accentuate danger and safety – a subtle hint that speaks volumes. The overlying story itself is narrated in the Native Iñupiat language almost giving a feeling of listening to a folk tale by the light of the fire as the images come to life in front of your very eyes.

never alone 4Never Alone offers players a unique chance to experience a culture so very few know much about and does so in an artistic way that really brings everything to life. Available on PC and next gen consoles, it is certainly worth at least one playthrough to experience the beauty and artistry of the game and story (although perhaps not for its full price tag). The game may take a couple of hours to 100% and finish with about 30 minutes of documentary unlockables to be viewed as well either during the playthrough or afterwards. For those with Playstation Plus, Never Alone is free to download for the month of April; so do yourself a favor and spend a little time with this one. Between the endearing affection and trust between Nuna and the fox and the overall passion the developers imbued within every moment, it truly speaks for itself.

never alone 2

 Always remember that no matter what happens, you are never truly alone.

heart-and-quote

There are times when we would give anything to protect the things that truly matter to us; and then there are times when we must place those very treasures directly into harms way in order to save them.

Something Fragile, by Indie game developer Happy Badger Studio, is a puzzle platformer that challenges you with an experience that goes beyond simply making it to the end of each level. As a creature of uncertain origin, it is your duty to protect and care for a heart that you are given. Although a seemingly simple task, in progressing through each level the player will have to let go of the heart and expose it to environmental hazards and other obstacles in order to reach safety; but be careful not to venture too far away, as both the heart and creature will begin to perish should the time apart or distance become too great.

It is a story that will make you feel fear, loss and love for this precious object in your possession. Promising empathy and emotion over guns and action, Something Fragile not only stands out in concept but also in its unique design. Using stop motion techniques for game play and physical media such as fabric and paper construction for art, the stage is being set to completely draw players in.

Although currently still funding to complete production, the title is estimated to release this summer for PC and Mac. If you are interested in getting more information, seeing what is going on behind the scenes of development or would like to support the project, please check out their Kickstarter website and decide for yourself if Something Fragile is truly something worth fighting for.