Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Review: forma.8


Early on in the Nintendo Switch lifecycle there has been quite a lot of variety in its library, but there are certainly some gaps. One crucial flavor pretty well currently missing from the Switch mix is what’s called the “Metroidvania” genre, something blending action, exploration, and upgrades in a spirit similar to the iconic games used to create the name. Depending on what you’re looking for forma.8 will scratch most of the itches for that genre, and it throws in a pretty fabulous minimalist art style and soundscape to boot. However, it is best to understand that slow and thoughtful exploration will rule the day here and while the other elements of the genre are present they definitely take a back seat.


Boiling it all down to the essence of things you’ll be controlling a small craft that starts with only the ability to move around in a somewhat floaty way via propulsion. Very quickly you’ll acquire a simple Energy Burst and a sort of Bomb skill, which you’ll need in order to survive against the inhabitants of this strange world you’ve landed on. The combat action is present in the game, and can be challenging, but for the most part you’ll be able to avoid enemies if you’d like to unless you think you can kill a few to pick up energy to recharge your battery or they’re directly tied to your progression. Once you lose all of your energy you’ll “die” but thankfully you’ll simply return either to the entrance of the area you’re in or to a checkpoint when things get a little more expansive.

Truly the greatest quality to be found here is a ton of spaces to explore, keep in mind for later, and work to find every nook and cranny in. Almost everywhere you go there are alternative paths and hidden or blocked entrances that you’ll have to either work to find or sometimes just stumble into. In the tradition of many games don’t be surprised if you see locations you’re unable to unlock or get to just yet, just make a mental note of where you are and what your obstacle seemed to be so you can return to it later. In order to help you out, at least a little bit, there is a very general map you can refer to, though it will only show a general square for each space. Thankfully it will give you an idea of how many exits there are, and where they’re positioned on a very crude level, but without anything more detailed or methods for marking certain areas for later this can make some backtracking in the game a bit aimless at times.


That sentiment leads into the double-edged sword that will probably define whether or not you’ll enjoy the game or not the most. To be clear, there’s little to no direction or guidance in forma.8. While, for the most part, you’ll find the things you need along the way to progress that can also vary a bit with the decisions and paths you may take. In some areas it can be easy to lose track of the primary path as you try to explore and, depending on the order you do things in, it can be possible to get to points where you’re uncertain of what you need to do or where you need to go next. This issue can also arise as you work to defeat some of the bosses in the game. Ultimately the method to defeat them is available to you, but there are no training wheels or highlighted body parts to help guide the way. On a general level the answer almost always involves damage inflicted in a less direct manner. If what you’re doing just doesn’t seem to be working you’ll need to assume it isn’t and try something else. For people seeking a challenge to their skills and, to some degree, puzzle-solving abilities, this is no doubt great news. To people who are seeking something more straight-forward perhaps less so.

In summary, I’ve really been enchanted by forma.8 and the slow-paced tranquility it has offered me. In particular with craziness of a variety of types everywhere the ability to zone out, listen to the soothing ambient sounds and music, and progress through the gorgeous alien landscapes has been welcome. For me the need to keep track of everything I’ve seen and then try to recall where they were to backtrack to them later, leading to some aimless wandering at times, got a bit trying at times but it’s not much different than many other games of this type either. If you’re looking for something to enjoy at a slow and deliberate pace, while providing you periodic bursts of challenges for both your mind and your action reflexes, forma.8 is a perfect fit.

Score: 8

Pro:
  • Helps fill the Metroidvania void in the Switch library
  • A mix of soothing environments and sounds with periodic challenging action
  • Requires you to explore, observe, and think to conquer its obstacles and enemies


Cons:
  • A lot of backtracking is required
  • Indications of what is working and what isn’t against some bosses can waste time
  • The action, while sometimes intense, is overall light for people seeking thrills


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