One of my pet peeves is a game that has a ledge that is just ever so slightly out of my jumps reach. No matter how hard you slam that button, you just can’t get to it, and that’s that. Playing Semblance at PAX East, I had yet to encounter that problem because of the ability to bend the world to my needs. You’re free to punch the ground, walls, and ledges to reach your objectives!
Semblance is a puzzle platformer where you play as a cute little blob that wants to collect little orbs in very creative ways. The puzzles can get very tricky at times, but players will be able to conjure up very intricate solutions to collect all the orbs on a level. Players are able to smack into parts of platforms, shifting them into other spots or positions with brute force. This allows players to alter the environment, creating new routes to wherever they want to go. Also, there are lights around the area that, when in contact with the world, hold it in its original position. Using these lights a player can punch down a ledge and, when the light hits it, launch themselves into the air with the force created by the level returning to normal. Players can manipulate the world around these lights to make sure they are pointed in the way they need to solve the puzzle.
The first few puzzles available at PAX were fairly simple, making sure players got used to the idea of the manipulation with a steady incline in difficulty which culminated with a very tricky puzzle at the end. One of the more difficult puzzles involved molding a ledge in such a way that they could avoid spikes that were spaced out along it. Players had to mold an M sort of shape while being mindful to keep one side low so that they could jump up to it. They then had to form a make-shift slingshot to launch themselves up to that platform and climb their creation to get the orb.
Semblance allows players to mess with the world as much as they please, but it may not be the best way to solve the puzzle and you might have to rethink your approach a few times. The most obvious looking solution might not work out. You might not get enough air from a launch, or you might get too much and land on a spike patch. The developers don’t want you to get stuck in one tactic and use it too much, so they make sure to keep the wheels in players’ brains turning to solve the trickier puzzles. It has to be said though that the satisfaction you get from launching a blob into the air and catching just enough height to grab the last orb you need is very pleasing, and will keep you coming back for more.
Another big draw to Semblance (apart from the mighty morphing world) is the visuals. The levels, smooth animations, and rubbery characters you encounter throughout the game contribute to its overall charm. My personal favorite was the bunny-blob and I asked the developer if maybe there could be some interaction with the character. While he couldn’t say much (so it wouldn’t be spoiled), he hinted there may be some interaction with the other animal like creatures.
I’m excited to collect orbs and tear my hair out while trying to map trajectories for my little play-dough friend.
Semblance is aiming to release in 2017 for Windows and Mac.