By Alec Meer on November 4th, 2011 at 4:47 pm.
Digital Arrow’s free-running racing/jumping game arrived on Steam earlier this week. We sent our least suitable candidate to try and master its high-speed abstract world – and he failed. But he can at least tell you what he made of it.
Haha, I am really bad at this.Really bad. I’m the kind of guy who, when making a model aeroplane as a child, pretty much just mashed everything into one ball of plastic and glue then optimistically stuck a wing on either side, so I am so very poorly suited to a game as exacting of control as Digital Arrow’s first-person racer/platformer InMomentum. I can feel improvement and tell how I would attain more of it, but it would take me years of training to break this game’s back. On the other hand, my cack-handedness means those momentd where I do get it right, where my hands somehow tap out the right actions and the right time and my addled takes note of what’s approaching then forms plans on how to tackle it, are all the more glorious. InMomentum is built to reward getting it right, and not in the torrent of numbers and messages about unlocks that have come to characterise so many contemporary games, but in flinging you sky-high at rapid speed as a world of cuboid colours floods the screen beneath you. You have done well, and you know it.
InMomentum is free-running as a racing game, imbued with a spot of physics-abusing absurdity. Easier levels can be beaten more or less just by running and jumping across gaps, which is in itself harder than it sounds thanks to inertia and momentum. If you want to best the later maps or bag an impressive time (the real point of InMomentum), you’ll need to master the fine art of wall-jumping, the game’s key mechanic. Hit the right mouse button to jump, and if you touch a wall during the process, you can hit the left button to jump from it. Keep chaining wall jumps together and you go can for miles and miles and miles and miles, either scaling the towering heights of InMomentum’s vast, ethereal, Unreal-powered block-worlds or soaring huge distances to access far-off platforms.
There is no prescribed route, although pick-up orbs dotted with a clan around the place highlight an fundamental A-B underneath the horizontal and vertical meandering betwixt the two. So, you’ll cobble together your own path as go along, reacting to your triumphs and disasters, using the many broken, cuboid islands as both safety and launchpad, occasionally firing a pulse at a dim and distant switch to open a looming gate. The well-practiced player will doubtless work to find the most efficient route; for the rest of us, the joy will come from making a path of our own.
Where InMomentum most soars and shines is when you manage to recover from one of the many fatal plummets that characterise a non-expert player haring across one of its maps. You’re plunging to your doom, but somehow you manage to steer your descent towards one of the thin, floating pillars that dot the sidelines and BAM and you’re a few feet up and BAM again and BAM and suddenly you’re right at the top of the world, the level laid out below you and plunging back down to what, if you time it right, is both safety and substantial progress. Or, in my case, often missing again and not managing to fluke a recovery this time.
When it happens, or even just when you chain together a couple of wall jumps deftly and suddenly finding yourself moving at five times the speed from five times the height, it’s exhilarating and incredible, and it’s what you should be chasing all the time. It’s exhilarating enough, in its rollercoaster way, that I was determined to keep on throwing myself into its unforgiving maw time and again, relishing my incremental improvement, living for the moments where I’d just keep going and going, pinballing here and there, somehow staying alive and aloft despite my endless recklessness. My resultant time was embarrassing in the extreme (and for that reason there’s no way I’d play the multiplayer mode for anything other than experimentation’s sake), but the personal achievement that came from making it, pulling it off against the odds, was immense.
Have you ever stood on top of a very high place, like the edge of a tall cliff or the top floor of the Eiffel tower, and felt, just underneath the fear your survival instinct sensibly feeds you, a rush of excitement? InMomentum is that split-second feeling- when you’re tumbling to your doom at high speed but it’s glorious as well as terrifying. And, better yet, you know there’s a chance you could come back from it. That’s why you should play it, even if your brain-hand interface is as broken as mine.
To gripe for the sake of balance, I will moan that the polished, minimalist block-world could stand to be a bit wilder (it’s a great look but it can wear thin), and the bleepy-blippy music lasted about five minutes before I grumpily headed into Settings. Those really are just gripes, though: this is a rich reward indeed.
InMomentum is out now.