Sunny side up
I was drawn to Glare because of its colorful art style. Stylistic pomegranate space-scapes span the horizon, like our artists’ rendition of the Horsehead Nebula. Of course, I’m always down for platformers with a twist, and the repelling glare mechanic was an interesting one.
What I didn’t expect was that Glare has some teeth to it. Yes, it’s pretty, and yes, it comes from a studio that made cash barrels on mobile titles, but this is a labor of love with a surprise difficulty curve as things expand from a basic jumpy game to a cross between Mega Man and a bullet-hell shooter.
With a twist.
Glare is weird. It stars some sort of son god savior with solar hair like a super saiyan. He has to restore worlds overcome by darkness, traveling into their cores, causing dank tendrils to recoil. That’s not why it’s weird, though.
The titular glare mechanic is integral to the game, which otherwise plays a lot like a Mega Mman game, replete with wall sliding and little potshots from the main character’s gun. You don’t start with the gun, however. You do start with glare, which can be used in conjunction with the environment — shine it on a plants to make it grow, yielding access to further areas — and against enemies. Glare will completely repel enemies in its Madden-styled vision cone.
Dissonance stems from Glare being very much a typical platormer, but one that encourages much more stationary combat. You can stand your ground, shooing away carnivorous, violent, violet fugu. You’re asked to relearn platformer combat. To keep grounded. Don’t jump over enemies and cross them up. Just stand, shoo, and shoot.
The gun, even in its upgraded forms, it quite weak. It feels weak, doing nothing to keep enemies from careening into you. Blasting them into environmental hazards is more satisfying than shooting, but it’s not always an option. Enemies aren’t excessive, but they get to be a nuisance at times, especially when they respawn in nearby areas. Given that they tend to slow down what is a surprisingly tight and punishing platformer, I remain mixed on the combat. If you’re competent, you can use the glare satisfyingly, but sometimes, it feels like enemies populate for population’s sake.
Glare is a tightly-paced affair, too, which is why finding the combat a bit tiresome surprised me. The whole thing sits at a comfortable three to five hours. Less if you’re skilled. I like that it doesn’t overstay its welcome, though, starting pleasant and accessible, ending challengingly. It’s a steady difficulty curve.
Even that, though, feels a little marred by the need to keep adding elements as you clear worlds. A bomb is added, but mostly serves as a means of clearing obstacles, slowing things down. It is also mapped by default to the ‘e’ key, which is weird because it can actually take your finger off the key meant to keep you moving forward, though all button mapping can be changed. Weirdly, I felt more comfortable playing on PC because of the glare mechanic, which works well with its aiming mapped to the mouse. However, I also am not crazy about platformers on keyboards, causing a preferred control method clash.
As you get deeper and deeper into a planet’s core, the world becomes more and more tightly spiraled, as if you’re on the small world of The Little Prince. It’s a cool effect, culminating in end-of-level boss fights that operate more as a twin-stick shooter as you fight a corrupted core, circling it in a zero-gravity space.
The entire trek ends on a challenging sequence of precision-platforming while you’re being accosted by constant bullet hell-like projectiles and all the previous enemy types. Trying to glare everything away, use the glare on the requisite traversal elements, and manage the platforming isn’t easy. It’s borderline frustrating, but ultimately satisfying, especially as the sojourning through the game’s lengthier, palette-swapped worlds began to drag a bit.
Glare confidently puts something notably different within the confines of a strict, conventional genre. Though it lacks any glaring faults, I’m not sure it always works. It it interesting, though, and doesn’t overstay its welcome.