By John Walker on May 16th, 2011 at 1:33 pm.
I think this one is going to be big. If you’ve heard of indie developers, Digital Arrow, it’s likely because of their forthcoming Unigine RPG, Dilogus. Less known is another project, InMomentum. InMomentum is a free-running game that plays on first-person jumping. It’s a freeform platformer that lets you feel extraordinary. This is something special.
Stripping away anything that might get in the way of pure running and jumping, the minimalist design lets InMomentum focus on just being brilliant at what it needs to do. Which is letting you feel like you’re flying, purely through your own fast-paced skill.
A huge map of floating platforms hover in the sky, with you at one end, and a goal at the other. Jump there. That’s it. It’s all about gaining and maintaining momentum, and with it, executing moves that make you feel like you may just be the best person at playing games ever.
Played from a first-person perspective, the jumping is controlled on the mouse. Right clicking gives you a general jump, that will increase in length and speed the more frequently you use it in one smooth row. Left clicking lets you wall jump, which requires catching any vertical surface (or indeed any surface more than 45 degrees) and clicking as you scrape it. The momentum with which you hit it, and the bounce in your jump, defines how far it will propel you. Realism is not at play here – a well-caught wall jump can see you soaring into the air, where you hold down Shift to slow time, spot the best platform for your continued route, and steer yourself toward it, land in a jump, catch a low wall, repel into a pillar and fling yourself upward, hop, hop, bounce, soar, bounce, and checkpoint. It’s thrilling. (Make sure to watch the video below to see it for yourself.)
Along the route there’s green orbs to collect, each taking .25 of a second off your completion time. Although since it’s taken me over 20 minutes to fathom the level Digital Arrow built for RPS to try, a quarter of a second isn’t really going to show up! But collect them you must, ensuring you have the maximum amount of fun in each level.
The only other obstacle in your path are purple gates, which block progress until you shoot a button. Hit space and you fire out what looks like a stream of petals, which hit the switch and open the gates. But thankfully the developers seem to have realised that gunplay is not wanted in such a single player game, and this is a very occasional activity, easily performed, and pretty much only in there to make you feel amazing if you manage to shoot one while on the move. Even better, when you restart at a checkpoint an opened gate will stay open – no need to tediously repeat the task.
Talking of checkpoints, those in the levels we’ve played are well placed. This is about practising, learning routes, and getting better and better. To have them too frequently would rob you of the game’s greatest pleasure: feeling like you’re improving. They’re just spare enough that reaching one feels like an achievement. And crucially, the restart time from failure is absolutely instant. Hit E and you’re back at the checkpoint before your finger has registered pressing the key, already in motion, carrying on. It makes Trackmania feel tardy.
What struck me the most when playing the couple of levels in this alpha build was how despite my failing incessantly, I never minded. It was a chance to do that last bit of level again! And I mean again and again. And that offers either a chance to repeat the route I’d worked out, each time more fluidly and impressively than before, or to just try bouncing in a different direction, catching a different wall and seeing if there’s a better path. And either always felt worthwhile.
The most interesting aspect for me is climbing. One section of the RPS level required getting from the very bottom to platforms way above. Here the skills I’d learned on the way there came into action, as I used a flat surface to hop, hop, hop, and then clipped the edges of wall after wall, propelling myself upward, avoiding obstacles and feeling majestic. About thirty-seven times, admittedly, before I got it right. But wow, on getting it right, finding the checkpoint at the top, I felt like taking a victory lap of my room.
The full game has plans for power ups (I’d be interested to see how these are used – the game’s simplicity is one of its greatest strengths, it’d be a shame to see it get muddled), upgrades that let you improve your abilities such as jump height and speed, and competitive scoreboards. There’s also going to be multiplayer, which will be a race, with the aid of powerups, and here your beam used for hitting switches becomes a weapon. This will be a much more competitive experience.
Built in the Unreal UDK, it’s unrecognisably from that origin. Bold, stark colours shine brilliantly, creating a vivid game that’s visual design accurately mirrors its clear, concise game. I’m really excited about this one. That repeating one level over and over as I make mistakes can hold my attention for so many times, even becoming more fun for every repeated route, the thought of having multiple levels to play through is thrilling.
The full game will hopefully be out by the middle of July, with a demo a couple of weeks before. And there’s plans for a multiplayer beta before then. We’ll keep you posted.
You can see the game in action here: