A 2D platformer game must offer something unique; otherwise you might as well fall back upon decades of Italian plumbing pedigree. The genre is saturated, absolutely drenched, with independent and small studio ventures trying to shake up the formula. These games are forced to appeal to players through unique mechanics in order to compete in a market brimming with shlock. The cream often rises to the top. Jonathan Blow’s Braid, Polytron’s Fez, and Team Meat’s Super Meat Boy rest atop a mountain of lessers. Still, there are hundreds of platformers out there. Therefore, there are bound to be diamonds in the rough. Context Insensitive is one such gem, and it is worth the free download.
Context Insensitive is Damian Sommer’s independent venture into the realm of 2D platforming. The mechanic that shakes the formula is simple, sharp, and insidious. The game is elemental, using only the raw elements of the genre. You have your jump-man, you have your level, and you have your end goal. Get your jump-man across the obstacle course.
What would be the first course of action? To move right, obviously, but you can’t. Before every level the game demands you assign a key to an action. This is the mechanic, this is the curl in the eyebrow. Your character cannot do a single thing without it being bound first. Before you can move right you must first bind “move right”. Before binding the next action, you must reach the next level. Look at the level above, you've got to move right. The obvious choice is the right arrow key, eh?
Such naiveté will doom you.
As levels progress the game begins to challenge more than just your reflexes, it challenges your mind. Remember, every level you assign a new action. There are more levels than right, left, up, down, and jump. Within the void's shifting neon arena you'll find no logic puzzles to mull through. Nor are the levels themselves your conquest. Context Insensitive's challenge emerges from the self, from your brain’s capacity for parallel thought.
Working (short-term) memory can only maintain 7 (+/-2) thoughts actively.
You’re on level 9 now.
Push it to the limit.
Damian Sommer’s platforming games have thus far blown me away. Besides Context Insensitive, Damian created Game About Game Literacy. The simple game boils away everything but the atomics of any given metroidvania to a fascinating effect. Try both of these games, they’re free and will not consume more than an hour of your time combined. I hope they’ll impress upon you Sommer’s platforming wit, because I would like to not be alone in slavering for The Clown Who Wanted Everything.