A ‘real’ platformer
The traditional 2D platformer genre accounts for some of my favorite games ever. That being said, it’s always awesome to see a game try and change the genre in new and exciting ways. Semblance does just that, in a way I’m surprised I haven’t seen before.
Semblance takes place in a fully malleable world. You can shape everything in order to suit the needs of whatever situation you find yourself in. You can reshape platforms to reach objectives or even alter your own squishy body.
Semblance (PC [reviewed], Mac, Nintendo Switch)
Publisher: Good Shepherd Entertainment
Released: July 24, 2018
Semblance does a good job of setting up its minimalist story without any dialogue. You play as a playdough-like blob in a world of similar materials and creatures. Your goal is simple. Your world is being overtaken by some crystalline creatures that look suspiciously similar to you. In order to drive out this non-malleable menace, you’ll need to gather glowing red orbs from all the areas in the world and purify the trees that have become infected with the aforementioned crystals.
Reaching these orbs is easier said than done. You’ll need to solve puzzles to reach them. You can get underneath platforms and bash them with your head to shape them into inclines, or bend them to redirect or block hazards like deadly laser beams. Thankfully wiping just brings you back a screen and doesn’t undo any of the changes you’ve made to the environment. Likewise, you can change the world back to its original state with one button press if you need a hard reset.
The game takes place across four hub worlds with the goal of each being to grab every orb from the smaller areas throughout the hub and move on to the next one. This setup makes it easy to tackle each world’s many puzzles in any order you choose, which is pretty handy if you’re feeling frustrated with a certain area and want to clear your head by playing something simpler.
You might even find that another section of the world introduces you to a mechanic that makes that particular puzzle a breeze. Semblance‘s minimalist but beautiful backdrops make for some stunning images. Each of the hub worlds changes the game’s color palette a bit, keeping things visually fresh. The minimalist soundtrack might be enough to soothe me to sleep, and it makes for a sharp contrast against the sounds of platform bashing.
In a year with more than a few solid platformers, Semblance still manages to stand out. I love the design, the puzzles are challenging but not mind-breaking, and the controls are tight and easy to pick up. I only wish there was a bit more content here, but I may double dip on the Switch version once I’m far enough removed to forget some of these puzzles.
[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]