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Game Review

In this day and age of small, independent game companies and easily downloadable content, platform games are on the rise again. And puzzle platformers seem to be everywhere.

Of course, that can be a very good thing. A solid puzzle platformer can toss some great brainteasers your way while giving you some imaginative, compelling worlds to inhabit. And, for the most part, these kinds of games leave the nasty, hyper-violent gaming goo for other titles to wade through.

The new game Semblance, from South African gamemakers Nyamakop, covers all those platformer bases in style. And it adds some very creative and unexpected twists into the mix, too.

Or maybe bends is a better word.

Less "Plat" and More "Form"

Things start out on a distant, colorful world that's populated by curling vines, impressively branchy trees, and all sorts of spongy terrain and critters. Think of it like a malleable, Play-Doh-inspired world with the squishy look and feel of firm Jello.

In fact, Squishy would probably be a good name for the central character. After a spiky green infection begins reshaping his soft-and-curvy purple world, this blobby fellow with bright-white orb eyes rises up to try to restore order to the land.

Doing so will require finding glowing spheres of energy that generally hang in the air somewhere around a particularly dense and hard-to-get-past patch of that crystal-like infection. Release that energy, and the infecting stuff subsides. Hit any of those sharp-'n'-spiky edges, though, and—pop!—ol' Squishy has to reconstitute himself nearby and give it another try.

Here's where the "form" part of this game's platforming action really takes center stage. Squishy not only jumps and darts from any nearby platform; but if that platform (or wall or patch of ground) is a solid color, our blobby pal can move it or bash and thump it into whatever knobbly shape best suits his needs.

Getting under a platform and bending its middle up a step or two, for instance, might just give Squishy the right height to double-jump over a dangerous patch or propel him up to an elevated prize. Or he might thump indentations into a wall so he can climb, or pound down a hole in the ground to get past a moving trap.

The Puzzle Ecstasy Without the Agony

The whole thrust of the game, then, becomes tasking your brain to pay close attention to the sometimes simple, sometimes head-scratching, sometimes seemingly impassable physical obstructions in front of you. Then, you can find a way to bend, thump, climb and leap to your goal. And because of the malleable nature of things here, solutions can come in a number of different forms, too. All it takes is some flexible landscapes and an equally flexible mind.

Another plus is the fact that this game doesn't leave you and Squishy stranded if you find that you're repeatedly thumping his mushy little noggin against a real stumper of a situation. The game allows you to move on to other infection-busting puzzles without restoring a particular tree branch back to its uninfected, healthy shade of purple. Then you can come back later with a fresh set of eyes or a new approach and give it another try. (And here's a hint: Sometimes it's the spiky or laser-zapping traps themselves that can catapult you to victory.)

You could say that Semblance ultimately gives you the best of all gaming worlds: It's completely wordless and mess-free. It's challenging and rewarding. And it's one of those games that can be consumed in small bites—whether you want to unwind your mind from the day or whip your cerebral horsepower into a cantor.

The only real drawback, from a kids' perspective, is that the think-outside-the-box, bend-and-twist-your-world puzzles can get pretty mentally demanding at times. But, hey, that just gives Mom and Dad a chance to step up and prove that they're more than just a pair of pretty faces.

Positive Elements

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Record Label


Nintendo Switch, PC, Mac




July 24, 2018

On Video

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Bob Hoose

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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