No Mirrors, Lots of Edges: Fotonica

By Alec Meer on January 18th, 2011 at 7:45 pm.

It is important that you play this. It’s free, so you’ve got no excuse. Not even that you’re colourblind or deaf, because it’s designed to be playable regardless of colour or audio cues.

Fotonica is loosely an auto-running game, in the vein of Canabalt or Robot Unicorn Attack, but with tasty dollops of Mirror’s Edge and Rez mixed in to create something hallucinatory, abstract and balletic. And all with one button.

Essentially, it’s a timing-based jumping game. Hold down a button (any button) to run, release it to jump, hit it again to land. Sich a prosaic, mechanical description doesn’t do it justice, however: it’s very much about the fuzzy line-art look and whispered electronic music. These things add a sense of place and imperative that mere button-pushing and score-chasing simply could not.

I am, in time-honoured fashion, rubbish at it. Doesn’t stop me from going back for me.

I will advise that you pop into its settings and turn off ‘arms’ before you play though. The big, dangly wireframe hands rather detracted from the experience for me, but by making it toggleable I suspect Italian devs Santa Ragione were aware that could be the case.

It’s browser-playable, but requires the Unity plugin so someone’s gonna do the usual and become shocked and outraged that this PC gaming site is posting about a Windows game again, like we’ve been doing every day for three years. For those who can’t/won’t play it, here’s what it looks and sounds like. Do play it though – the tension and gravitational panic is a vital part of the experience.

Oh, and I do love Santa Ragione’s solemn pledge: “We like the ugly 3D of the ’90s and will bring you more!” I look forward to it.

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44 Comments »

  1. BAReFOOt says:

    Well, there simply should be a Linux version of Unity. Or a Java version of the game. That’s it.

    Edit: LOOL, they didn’t even write that plug-in in 64-bit code! In 2011! No wonder they don’t have Linux support. They must be from the dark ages!

    • TechRogue says:

      Absolutely agree. I wrote a long post on their feedback page in response to a post that there’s no market for commercial Linux games and it got deleted or wasn’t approved in the first place. But seriously, what happens every time I hear about a new game on RPS is:

      Go to website
      Check for Linux support
      If there’s Linux support, immediately preorder/buy/start waiting for it to come out.
      If there’s Mac (OpenGL) support, email the team and ask after a Linux port.
      If not, and they’re using some non-Linux game engine, stop caring about the game until I hear otherwise.

    • skinlo says:

      Get Windows. Problem solved.

    • Casimir's Blake says:

      Thoroughly agreed, Barefoot. No option to play this on my otherwise fully capable Ubuntu TV PC. (It handles Minecraft just fine, damn it!) Unity is great though, even for a non-programmer like myself, it’s very intuitive. Just gloss over the code…

    • Val says:

      Why would a browser plugin need 64-bit support? Incompatibilities? Only nearly one browser even supports 64-bit plugins and very few game engines support amd64 due to the complexity of needing to maintain multiple codebases per platform.

      And coding a linux port of Unity would be more complex than the Windows or Mac port to warrant the costs. Not everyone uses ALSA, often VGA support is sketchy just on the driver side of things, testing and debugging are nightmares, and there are still numerous possibilities of platform differences between target systems.

      Java simply isn’t suitable for game development at the current time. Minecraft is no exception.

      It’s not simple, and it’s not just “it.” Simple cross-platform game development is still a nightmare for linux, ‘lest you code lots from scratch. And that’s rarely a good practice.

    • Wulf says:

      @Val

      It kind of sounds like you’re from 2006 or something. No offence. Things seem to have stabilised around ALSA & PulseAudio (plugin) and it seems to have been that way for a good while, now. And your comment is incredibly hard to ratify against all the indie games that offer Linux support – of which there are many.

      The only reason that Unity3D isn’t on other platforms is because the developers hate OpenGL. True story. I remember on the Wolfire blog, where the devs were talking up why OpenGL is actually pretty good, some of the Unity people turned up and went kind of ripshit for no valid reason at all. I suppose they’re feeling somewhat persecuted against for their choice to use Direct3D. Then again, OpenGL is catching up when it comes to friendliness, accessibility, and tools these days – and it’s always been more capable of graphical splendiferosity than Direct3D, having known plenty of tricks long before D3D picked up on them.

      Eventually the Unity team will likely convert over to OpenGL and try to hide their past embarrassment, but they seem to be sticking with Direct3D at the moment out of stubbornness for their position, but eventually OpenGL is going to improve to the point where they won’t have any excuses. And again, that so many indie games these days have Linux ports is proof enough that OpenGL is improving.

    • Quxxy says:

      @Wulf: err, what? I was under the impression that Unity was ported to Windows from Mac OSX. Last time I checked, Mac OSX didn’t have Direct3D.

    • Premium User Badge

      mrpier says:

      Wikipedia alleges that unity uses different APIs depending on platform. “Graphics engine uses Direct3D (Windows), OpenGL (Mac, Windows), OpenGL ES (iPhone OS), and proprietary APIs (Wii)”

    • iamseb says:

      I don’t know about their personal feelings towards OpenGL, but Unity3d uses DirectX on Windows, OpenGL on OSX, and OpenGL ES on mobile. Unity3d started as an OSX-only editor with Win and Mac build targets, so claiming they’re exclusive to DirectX seems somewhat uninformed.

      One possible hope for Linux users – Unity are working with Google to get the player to run under the native client support coming in Google Chrome. It’s still a ways off, but that should provide a web player for Linux. http://answers.unity3d.com/questions/13806/what-can-i-do-for-linux-support

  2. harmen says:

    Ugly 3d of the ’90s? Did I miss something?

    • Premium User Badge

      Sagan says:

      You must have. What are you talking about?

    • Wulf says:

      The 90′s, apparently!

      (Yes, I did that on purpose, and probably will continue to, now.)

      (And i just got told to ‘Slow Down’, despite not having posted a comment in a good while. Apparently we shouldn’t be posting comments more than once a day! You really should look into that, chaps. It is not just broken, it is very broken.)

  3. Premium User Badge

    Sagan says:

    If the new Unity plugin crashes while installing for you: Uninstall your old one, then install the new one. That worked for me.

    Regarding the game: I like the aesthetics a lot. Unfortunately the controls didn’t quite work for me. I always mess up the jumps by a bit because apparently I have a different opinion of where a platform ends than the game.

  4. Nidokoenig says:

    Nice game, but even on low settings I get frequent spots of lag that kill me. Maybe it’s just my shitty laptop and intertubes. Also, the complete lack of detail on the walkways makes it hard to make out where they end, unless I strain my eyes to see the little nubs at the end, which is going to get old fast. I know early 3D could be truly horrifying so it’s authentic, but it compromises the gameplay, and making the last plank grey or putting grey stripes on the walkways to help judge distance better, at least on easy, would be great. Even so, I love it.

    You know what the first thing I thought when I watched the video was? “What if this was a music-based procedural game?”. Just free-running for hours and hours through your music collection. I would pay money for the privilege.

    • Barnaby says:

      Like the idea about this being song based, that would be too much fun.

      Pretty fun game, although I wish there was a faster way to restart after you fall. Lots of falling. (just scrolled down and read that you press R to restart, whoops)

  5. DrazharLn says:

    I liked it, but the dots were annoying, they made me miss the edges of platforms half the time. Great fun.

  6. Bhazor says:

    Essentially it’s a whole game based on that Lawnmower man minigame. But better.

  7. Ricc says:

    Amazing looking game! Whenever the screen turns golden, it feels like going Super Saiyan in Tron’s computer world! :)

  8. Eclipse says:

    Awesome game, fast paced and gorgeous looking. And so addicting :]

  9. Alexander Norris says:

    I hate that I’m firmly in the can’t category. :(

  10. NPC says:

    I believe it is “Santa”, not “Satan”…

  11. Paravel says:

    I was unsure as to whether this was better or worse than Robot Unicorn Attack. Then I played this game with the sound/music muted, and Erasure playing from Youtube. Now it’s good.

  12. Tarqon says:

    Make sure to try the alternate control scheme, ‘atomic’ it’s much better. (and the tutorial actually adapts to it, which is cool)

    It feels like skiing in tribes combined with the ps2 classic Rez. It could have been amazing if the music had been slightly better.

  13. Premium User Badge

    Sunjumper says:

    I… I can’t get past the tutorial…

  14. DoucheMullet says:

    Wow, this game is really bad.

    I can barely even tell what is going on half the time due to the terrible graphics.

  15. outoffeelinsobad says:

    My favorite part is when I die because of a millisecond of browser lag.

  16. JohnnyMaverik says:

    Eh, nice idea but I dislike it.

  17. Edawan says:

    They really missed the “instant restart” part of Canabalt.

    Edit: Forget it. I didn’t pay attention to the “R to restart” instruction.

  18. shagen454 says:

    I support any game (ie. Space Giraffe) that makes the DMT experience into a game, haha!

  19. Basilicus says:

    It’s a great screensaver, but as a game, I can’t tell what’s going on most of the time.

  20. Corrupt_Tiki says:

    You only use one But ten!

  21. Cronstintein says:

    I got stuck on the 3rd level, keep missing the last jump, argh!
    Overall, I like the game. Not sure about these lag issues people are having, my laptop’s a piece of crap and it runs fine.

  22. Shiny says:

    I actually have a game concept doc from 2006 that is pretty much this, plus gliding and rope-swinging and vegetation. Funny how even the neon aesthetic is the same. It was originally done with the Xbox Live Vision in mind, but I imagine that it would be Kinect-centric if made today.

    Not sure if it could be a good game – less sure after seeing this.

  23. psycho7005 says:

    Unity won’t download for me….keeps stopping during download and the ‘Unity stopped working, Windows is trying to find a solution to this problem’ thing. I’m using Windows 7 and the Google Chrome browser but wouldn’t think either of these would affect it.. :S

  24. hosndosn says:

    Please don’t tell me “auto running” is becoming a legitimate new genre? I mean it looks very stylish, Tron-like and all… but seriously all you do is press the jump button in time? Why does it feel like gaming is going backwards when it comes to actual gameplay? I recently saw an article on games from the early 80ies (it’s not false nostalgia, that was before I was born) that showed ideas more innovative and interactive than this sort of stylish iPhone crap.

    • Premium User Badge

      VelvetFistIronGlove says:

      Have you got some more interesting game ideas? Then make a game with them, share those ideas with the world.

      Complaining about someone else’s ideas not being ideas you like is a bit silly.

    • Bhazor says:

      i reley dont wan to say this, but i have to now.
      this game is so esey. i mean, all you do is hit the spacebar. thats it! how is this an acsun adventre anyway? you cant contrail anything but what it says on the screen! what if i didnt want to go tat way? what apout quests? there is no way you can lose to the boss at the end! this game is crap! its not even an acsun adventre at all! i mean look at it! in what way is this supposed to be an acsun adventre if you can do quests and stuff? all you do is press one butten the entier time! explain to me! the athore coments al totol lies! is it supposed to be wire dudes? i dont even know how this damn game got the daily 3rd prize, or a rating of 4.26!
      pepole think this review is worthles.
      go ahead! say it! i dont care! im just trying to make a point here!
      blam this piece of crap!!!!

      P.S the only reson im giving this a 1 is beacuase the runnning where pretty good. but thats it!”

    • Corrupt_Tiki says:

      LMFAO

      @Bhazor, you win the bout by TKO

    • Nimmo says:

      Agreed, that was quite possibly the greatest take-down I’ve seen, Bhazor.

  25. Basilard says:

    Why would you love the ugly 3d of the 90′s?
    I love the pretty 3D of the 90′s, the ugly graphics I can do without, thanks.

  26. Bhazor says:

    Speaking of Mirror’s Edge.

    EA announced a sequel to Mirror’s Edge using the BF3 engine.
    http://www.pcgamer.com/2011/06/08/ea-2011-mirrors-edge-2-to-be-powered-by-frostbite-2/

    So yay!