Spate

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Developer: Ayyo Games | Released: 2014 | Genre: Platform, Adventure

Another Saturday, another shorty. This one lasted barely two hours and turned out to be one of those art games with more mood and style than gameplay. It was constantly raining hard, the grass was waving, and the 3D engine added multiple layers of surrealistic shapes. I was controlling an alcoholic detective yearning for his lost daughter, and he was narrating both this story as well as various findings on my way.

There are several good things to be said about balancing tough challenges with streaks of nothing to gear down, but this game felt like it was overdoing it a lot. The game was for the most part easy and only offered more or less dexterous jump puzzles. Sometimes a cannon had to shoot a seesaw to get it in position or I could fly a small airship for a while, pressing one button to thrust it upwards past the saw blades.

But then as a sequence of this was done, our hero was merely wandering along for minutes and minutes, no jumps, no nothing. Maybe a very long bridge or past a small town. This is typically where he started narrating a lot about his miserable past and how he deserved his fate. These passages were so long that it made the game feel like part platformer, part walking simulator. It was too much of a good thing.

The Cave

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Developer: Double Fine Productions | Released: 2013 | Genre: Platform, Adventure

This was much more of a platform game than I thought it would be. Descriptions of it led me to believe it was very much an adventure game with just a tiny bit of rare platform action required, kind of like some of the first polygon versions in the Broken Sword series. But platform action turned out to not only be quite prevalent, it also made the levels feel bigger than they really needed to be. The platform action was very light, as in definitely not difficult, but there was a lot of walking up and down ladders, jumping ropes, and pushing objects. It often felt a little overwhelming.

Three switchable characters had to be navigated independently, adding a lot of backtracking. Sometimes the two others automatically joined across certain level thresholds, but most of the time I was yearning for some kind of “recall party” or “follow me” function. The collaboration between them was quite good, though. There were lots of puzzles where two or three characters were required in different locations to make it work. Because of the big levels and the abundance of ladders and corridors, there was a long stretch between the few NPC that lined up what needed to be done in that particular area.

Monochroma

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Developer: Nowhere Studios | Released: 2014 | Genre: Platform, Puzzle

This was one of those artsy platform puzzle games with a very distinct style and music. LIMBO was clearly the main inspiration, maybe too much so (it even started immediately too without a title screen) but it didn’t really bother me since it had its own industrial foundation and additional gameplay elements carrying a little brother. The little brother, who broke a leg early, added another layer of complexity to some of the puzzles and also tasted a little bit like the fantastic old PlayStation 2 platform game ICO. The side-scrolling graphics was mostly black and white with a hint of red here and there. Sometimes another color could be seen, like yellow for fire or hot metal.

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The gameplay had surprisingly long stretches of barely running and climbing, then a room with a puzzle to break it up. Typically of the sort with platforms to raise or slide along with switches. Darkness and rain was prevalent, and it added another gameplay element regarding the little brother. He was afraid of the dark and could only be parked temporarily below a strong ray of light from a lamp. Trying to drop him in the dark just made him shake his head. The big brother could run and jump higher without carrying him, so that could make a big difference in puzzles. There were also ladders to climb, ropes to swing or shimmy along, boxes and small wagons to push or pull, and buoyancy puzzles.

The Deer God

Developer: Crescent Moon Games | Released: 2014 | Genre: Platform, Adventure

This was one of those I pledged to on Kickstarter. I played about an hour of this game before I had seen enough. The retro pixel graphics had a wonderful depth of 3D parallax and the atmosphere was generally excellent, held up by weather effects and some nice music. It reminded me a little bit of Forbidden Forest on Commodore 64, and quite a lot of Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP.

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I was surprised about the level of complexity. Although the deer was mostly running and double-jumping, there were blocks to push, skills to put on an invisible action bar, even a quest about finding a monocle for an old man. I had to speed into bushes to see if it popped out of one. Speeding head on into things was also how most animals were killed. Hedgehogs, foxes, pigs, even human hunters – same attack. Or I could just jump over and outrun them. The deer grew older, the longer I went along without dying.

But dying is exactly where the game went wrong and I eventually didn’t bother to complete it. Although it did autosave here and there (mostly at the old mans huts) the distance back was way too long. At the end of the hour I continuously retried the same long trip half a dozen times, and I don’t consider myself all that much of a slouch when it comes to platform jumping. Okay, maybe sometimes, but not enough to warrant being punished by sending me that far back each time.

TitleLengthDatesDiff / ChtSaveScore
The Deer God
2014 Crescent Moon Games(0h 49m) 1
2015-10-04
2015-10-04
6

To see a page with all the PC games I have played – along with an explanation of the abbreviations – click here.

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Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light

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Developer: Crystal Dynamics | Released: 2010 | Genre: Platform, Isometric

Again I’m changing the format a bit since last time. There are now five specific sections, each with a spoiler tag if necessary. Let’s see if this one works.

It’s been a while since I’ve played a game with the kind of puzzles usually found in Tomb Raider games, and The Guardian of Light not only scratched that itch, it also offered challenging enemy fights. Sometimes it felt like an isometric action RPG when the going got tough, but to be fair many of the levels focused mostly on puzzles often based on pushing stone balls or avoiding spear and fire traps. The level design felt very professional and also had a tangible vertical feel to it. It was not uncommon to see several layers of stone bridges below each other, knowing well enough that I would eventually have to go there too.

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I only completed the game in single player mode, and as always I only used the keyboard and mouse controls. No doubt the game really wanted a gamepad. I don’t think I’ve played a game that made me reconsider my choice of controls as much as this one, but I made it through so it can certainly be done without. That being said, the isometric nature of the level design often required using two directional keys pressed down while jumping, shooting or rappelling. Death was common – there were set pieces where I died more than five times in a row – but the autosaving was quite fair and I never had to redo much.