Bordercraft Diablo Story: Platformines Mixes All The Games

By Nathan Grayson on July 4th, 2012 at 2:00 pm.

So, Platformines. It has many, many things going for it: loot and levels that are entirely randomly generated, art that’s inspired by retro chic but not reliant on it, a construction-based metagame, plenty of charm, and of course, a just-launched free beta. So I watched a trailer and thought to myself, “Gee, I can’t wait to rigorously put the beta through its paces side-by-side with this cup containing the blended remains of Borderlands, Diablo, Terraria, Minecraft, and Cave Story.” To be sure, it’s a promising place to start, but I’m not sure Platformines has entirely figured out where to take it.

Platformines is odd. It clearly knows that its direct inspirations did great things, but I’m not sure it knows exactly what made them great. So the beta started off by letting me customize my character in all sorts of silly, delightful ways – especially with hats, because those are all the rage right now. And then it bombarded me with tutorial screens for all the simplest things, because everyone plays games these days, but – paradoxically – apparently no one’s ever played a game before. Before too terribly long, however, the hub area gave way to the colossal main cavern, which was randomly generated. Guns, similarly, were birthed into the world in a messy soup of random stats.

That giant randomized cave, though? There was hardly anything to it. Platforming, for instance, wasn’t a challenge – nor was it used to create interesting battle scenarios, ala Cave Story. Instead, it simply served as a means of movement ever onward and upward. Areas, meanwhile, were full of uninteresting, same-y enemies, loot, the occasional spike trap, and little else. Swinging platforms livened things up a bit, though, so there’s definitely hope for hopping that – taken on its own – felt fairly satisfying.

My rhythm, however, quickly devolved into “Kill dudes, collect stuff, fill inventory, warp back to hub and sell stuff, repeat.” In Platformines’ defense, the world’s full of hub portals, so the constant back-and-forth never got annoying. But it also never really hooked me. The basic mechanics of shooting just didn’t feel particularly amazing. Guns, especially, came off as wooden and hollow, with enemies’ HP meters serving as the only indication I’d actually done anything.

Further, the flow of combat became extremely awkward as soon as I took a couple hits, as I had to pause and scroll through my inventory to use health items. During more hectic moments, this killed the excitement (instead of, you know, my enemies) and left me vulnerable to more punishment the second the pause screen disappeared back into its mighty menu dimension. I have to commend Platformines, however, for minimizing frustration by throwing me right back into the thick of things post-death. That, at least, is a basis for enjoyable challenge – assuming something’s done about combat’s terminal obsession with “red light, green light.”

Weaponry, too, currently suffers from “so close, yet so far away” syndrome. Instead of following in Borderlands’ footsteps and infusing weapons with all sorts of wild fire, lightning, and poison effects, Platformines’ beta seems content to simply raise and lower base stats like damage, range, and the like. There was, in other words no reason for me to say “Hallelujah” when it started raining guns. After all, the end result would just be more of the same. Granted, the trailer makes it seem like there might be a bit more to the gun selection as time goes on.

So there’s definitely potential here, but Platformines just needs to do more with it. More level variety, more weapon effects, more enemy types, more things to build than just one tediously prearranged drill, etc, etc, etc. It’s a solid, lavishly produced foundation that seems determined to create legitimate challenge while steering clear of frustration, but I’m hoping this one bakes in beta until it’s cooked all the way through. On the upside, the beta’s totally free and available to everyone, so you can give it a shot and offer some feedback, if you’re feeling so inclined.

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24 Comments »

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  1. byteCrunch says:

    “Jeff Dragoncrack” – Now that is a name.

  2. Emeraude says:

    I’m getting a weird – and probably unwarranted – Rick Dangerous vibe from this.

    • LionsPhil says:

      I think it’s the grins. It’s also pretty Bitmap Brothers.

      16-bit! They actually call it that, rather than lumping anything with pixelart under the “8-bit” monkier!

  3. Salt says:

    I keep getting reminded why I love RPS so much. So many other places would just gush about retro style, procedural generation and great potential. Any criticism or even serious examination of the game would be dismissed by “..for an indie game” or “beta is beta” lines.

    Well actually, most other sites would just post the trailer, the link and “New indie free beta the next Minecraft? Tell us in the comments, and like us on Facebook!”

    What I’m saying is that I appreciate this kind of coverage.

  4. misterT0AST says:

    Why should they bother paying a composer that might hit or miss, when they can just adjust a melody that’s been considered great for centuries and it’s not copyrighted?
    Classical music is a cheap, perfect way to make your game’s soundtrack. I don’t know why more people don’t use it.
    For example, the Ukrainian anthem would be perfect for a “game over” screen.

    • Aemony says:

      Because of the possible repercussions? I can picture myself a bunch of Ukrainians taking issue with having their anthem playing over a Game Over screen in a video game. Just because it’s public domain doesn’t necessarily mean it’s “socially allowed” (so to speak) to use for whatever purpose you see fit.

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      FriendlyFire says:

      Because that’s not true. While the music itself is no more copyrighted, the performances are. You’d have to perform them again yourself to avoid copyright issues, and while software’s improved a lot, you’re still far away from the quality of a true orchestra. Plus, using audio synthesis software is rather complicated and would probably require hiring an expert to make music worth anything.

    • Phasma Felis says:

      Early arcade and PC games often used (bleepy renditions of) classical music.

      They stopped when they realized that people very much prefer original music that suits the game in question, enough to make it worthwhile to get a proper musician in to do it.

  5. Lobotomist says:

    Now this is a true gem :)

  6. marcusfell says:

    The sound design seems lacking. Not the soundtrack, its just the effects are rather bland.

  7. Shakes999 says:

    Sorry, I already wasted my money on Valley without Wind. Not gonna catch me twice.

  8. icupnimpn2 says:

    One of the developers is parked in our forum if you want to spout your venom directly to him… Or maybe make constructive suggestions?
    http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/forums/showthread.php?5463-Indie-Platformines

    • Shakes999 says:

      *Edit*

    • Hallgrim says:

      Not sure if trolling, or if you have been rendered illiterate by your raging devotion to a video game. Constructive criticism is included in the post. As usual, the only venom seems to be in the comment section.

  9. ludotex says:

    Hello,
    I am one of the devs for Platformines (we are a team of 2).
    First thanks for posting a review of the beta. The beta is a great way to get feedback and exposure and that’s exactly what we’re getting here.

    About too much tips showing up, we’ve had some feedback about it and we’re planing to make it much less obnoxious (less tip frequency, and disable the current tip by default once you close the tip).

    About the weapons; the beta shows the pistol, the shotgun and you might get a machine gun if you’re lucky. Later in the game you can use the bazooka which has radius blast damage (deadly but dangerous).
    One mistake we made in the beta is that the starting gun is a bit too powerful, so it takes a while to find a gun that’s better while looting (all the guns loot in the first stratum are crappier than the starting gun).

    About the lack of features in general: the beta only reflects the begining of the game.
    It lets you play in the first two stratums of the game (there are 10 total, getting harder and harder and more involving).
    The first one is rather easy so you can learn the ropes and that’s why the AI is pretty dumbed on.
    As you go further it gets smarter (NPCS jump platforms around for example).
    Also, in the full version (after the 3rd stratum) there is more types of enemies showing up, some more traps and the caves design really differs (ranging with huge caverns that you have to cross by jumping on moving platforms to tight dungeon labyrinth types with NPCs holding bazookas!).

    We have more enemy types and room designs planned for the release that are not in there yet too.

    By then we think we’ll have a pretty decent base for a great adventuring world (with seed based generation so you can play a different world every time) and where there is a lot of room for additions (new challenges, new types of weapons, loot, enemies).
    Based on our own experience and the feedback we’ve had so far, we think the full game is already pretty fun and addictive right now. Hopefully the game does well enough and we can keep on working on it and add all these cool features in.

    Anyway, feel free to ask questions here or on the beta forums, we’ll gladly answer. Any feedback is much appreciated.

    • Baines says:

      I do worry about variety. If you are using the beta as advertising as well as an actual beta test, perhaps you should throw in at least some still shots of later areas and enemies, just so people would know there is more to the game.

      I can’t help but feel that more items could help as well. In the beta at least you can buy extra inventory slots, more life (shield), and four types of guns. What about other items, though? Maybe something that reduces fall damage (or fall speed or acceleration) for the clumsy? Yes, you can save your last jump and use it right before you land, but if you miss it you can take some serious damage. Or something to protect against certain traps, environmental protection (if you have things like fire or ice), or mark even fog-covered enemies or whatever. Other weapon types might have been interesting as well, like grenades for indirect fire.

      I’d say increased maneuverability would be a good area to explore, because people tend to like stuff like grappling hooks, hovering items, jet packs and the like… But you already make the character quite maneuverable from the start with the quintuple jump…

      Speaking of maneuverability, though… Sometimes I seem to lose the ability to jump higher. I think the character can get “caught” on the side of some blocks? But I can’t be sure…

      • ludotex says:

        You can jump up to 5 times in the air, which lets you navigate in most parts easily. After 5 jumps you’ll just fall. Once you hit the ground you have 5 jumps again.

    • wavedash says:

      Have you played (or heard of) the game Spelunky? It’s an action platformer that sports procedurally-generated levels. I realize that this is a sort of unreasonable and vague request, but it’d be cool if Platformines’s levels were more like Spelunky’s. Very platforming-dependent, heavily affects combat, many options to get from point A to point B, incentive to explore, special level “features” like the pit of snakes and restless dead, etc.

      • ludotex says:

        Spelunky is great. Very tight design. I guess Platformines is more designed around a large world to explore instead of a tight little level like Spelunky is, so the constraints are a bit different.

    • LionsPhil says:

      From the trailer, at least a little bit of muzzle flash would probably help the feel of the guns immensely. A single frame of recoil wouldn’t hurt, either. At present, the only indication that they’re even firing seems to be the sound.

  10. Richeh says:

    I kind of agree, but I didn’t hate Platformines, though. It’s rough around the edges, and yeah, I’d describe it as more of a tech demo than an actual game, but it’s a preview after all. I really hope they don’t just shove it out in its current state to get it out of the way. I’m hoping they take the feedback they’re getting and make a better game with it, because I think there’s definitely one in there.