Developer: Magiko Gaming Publisher: Bandai Namco
Genre: 2D Rogue-like Action Platformer Platform Played: PC
With the independent developer floodgates breaking open over the past few years, the retro 8 and 16 bit art style has seen a resurgence. Modern games adopting a retro art style offer a nostalgia trip for some gamers while mostly still utilising modern-day game mechanics. However, Platformines takes the homage a step further with gameplay mechanics reminiscent of the 80s and 90s. Unfortunately, the game also proves why control schemes with more than four directional inputs – i.e. the analog stick – were invented.
Platformines is a 2D rogue-like action platformer developed by a small team known as Magiko Gaming. From the character select screen, one would think Platformines is set to be a humorous experience. You can customise the character’s hair, nose, eyes, mouth and clothing – including a female hair style called ‘princess’ which looks just like Princess Leia from Star Wars. It is fun creating crazy looking characters to explore the world of Platformines. Unfortunately, that is as funny as the game gets.
With that said, the game does not know what it wants to be. At times it appears to want to be a run and gun platformer by filling the areas with a plethora of enemies which can easily be gunned down. However, exploring the mine soon saw me in a new, more difficult area. At this point, Platformines appears to want to be a rogue-like shooter. This issue arises from an inconsistent difficulty level throughout the game. One moment I was exploring the world, slaying any enemies I could find. The next, frantically running and jumping away from the harder enemies I had just stumbled upon. A rogue-like game brings with it the assumption of a punishing experience, but I only felt it was true some of the time. This feeling is mutual across all three of the game’s difficulty levels.
Further, the game mechanics make the game feel old, but not in a positive way. As I said earlier, there was a reason why controllers were invented to move in eight directions and with two analog sticks. Platformines only allows the player to aim the way they are facing. That is, up, down, left or right. While some may argue it makes the game more challenging, I offer a counter argument that it just made the game more tedious. I did not find the retro control scheme to be much fun, especially once the action heated up. The mechanics are not broken, they just feel dated and not enjoyable.
What’s more, the health system represents Platformines‘ genre uncertainty. Losing health reduces the visible area around the player. In other words, the more health I lost, the lower my chances of survival were. It felt cruel to limit visibility. As soon as I lost half of my health, I knew I was most likely done for.
It is possible to recover health by using minerals found in the mine, but they suffer from the same inconsistencies as the difficulty. In some parts of the mine, these minerals are easy to find. Yet, when you wander into the harder areas, these minerals are nearly non-existent. It makes death feel cheap. These inconsistencies also prompted me to form an opinion that the developer wanted me to die in certain points, while surviving others.
Rogue-like games are meant to be difficult, but at the same time reward success. Not once throughout my time with Platformines did I feel rewarded for my hard work. Killing enemies is simply a matter of having more fire power than them. Moreover, very few of the enemies showed signs of set attack patterns like in games such as Dark Souls or Rogue Legacy. As a result, killing them felt more about getting lucky than out-smarting the game.
Additionally, the game’s ending is by no means satisfying. This consequence is due to Platformines‘ story – or lack there of. When you first load up a new game you are greeted by a few sentences, supposedly providing a reason for you being trapped in the mine, and are then thrust into the game. The game’s story involves collecting drill pieces scattered around the mine. However, with no explanation, it is unclear why you are collecting them in the first place. Further, there is no real incentive to explore other parts of the mine unless you are a completionist wanting to collect as much loot as possible.
Platformines does have some positives though. The random level generator adds plenty of replayability to the game for those planning on playing for a long time – it only took me two and a half hours to beat my first playthrough. However, after a while, the retro art style leaves everything looking much the same – apart from some palette swaps.
Further, the jumping mechanics are quite original. You can jump five or six times before hitting the ground. This has resulted in the developers being able to create bigger levels to accommodate this mechanic. However, the inclusion of fall damage is annoying and was probably best left out. The ability to jump plenty of times adds some strategy for taking out enemies. Most can only fire left and right, so if you continue jumping you can take them down without taking much damage.
The music is another plus for the game. While exploring the mine, classic tunes converted into the 16 bit chip tune style are played. I often found myself humming along. It makes exploration more bearable, but after you hear the same song a few times it gets old quick.
Nothing about Platformines is broken, everything just feels dated (no auto-save in the year 2014?). The shooting mechanics work fine, but not for modern standards, limiting my experience. Platformines wants to be a nostalgia trip for the 16 bit art style, but it feels like the game should have been made a decade ago rather than it being a 2014 homage to the classics. With the added genre identity crisis and inconsistent difficulty, I cannot see myself recommending this to anyone but die-hard rogue-like fans with a craving for the days of 16 bit art styles and the accompanying mechanics. Even then, I do not think it warrants a $9.99 USD price point.
+ Character creation
– Retro mechanics: there’s a reason controllers no longer have just four directional movements
– Inconsistent difficulty
– Genre identity crisis
– Lack of incentive for player