By Nathan Grayson on December 20th, 2012 at 8:00 am.
What is a man? A miserable little pile of self-destructing blocks, if Polyform’s Apparatus is to be believed. I did not, however, decide to post about Apparatus only for the chance to make an out-of-place Castlevania reference – even though that sounds like something I would totally do. It’s actually quite an interesting little project in its own right. The basic idea is that your character can deconstruct his/her/its cubular conglomerate of a body at any given moment, literally falling into a heap on the hardwood floor. Other powers take further advantage of this malleability – for instance, morphing into a brick or, um, exploding. Slip through the break’s conveniently shaped cracks for a video and some quick hands-on impressions.
I had the chance to try out an early two-level demo of the IGF student project, and it certainly shows promise. The whole thing takes place in the gutted remains of a musty mansion that was once owned by a crazy inventor type. However, as he aged, he apparently “decided to abandon his invention-based pursuits and refurbish his mansion in an antique style.” Is that the mad scientist equivalent of going mad? Like, did he so thoroughly lose his mind that he looped back around to sanity again? Hm.
At any rate, all of my blocky protagonist’s powers were physics-based, and they felt nicely natural once I got my break/reform timing down. That’s right: Apparatus is probably the most realistic pile-of-blocks-that-takes-the-shape-of-a-man-and-goes-on-adventures simulator of all time. In the demo, I was limited to four main abilities: break, throw, shift into a densely compacted brick, and explode. And while explode was amusing (especially once I realized I could do it infinitely with hardly any downtime between block-scrambling booms), throw turned out to be the most useful. Aiming and hurling my “core cube” left the rest of my corporeal cube form in the dust, but allowed me to reform wherever the core landed. So instead of leaping, that’s how I reached high platforms and, er, swung around in momentum-producing circles like some kind of armless trapeze artist.
Combining throw with brick form, meanwhile, produced the most useful results. Having a swarm of blocks hurtle toward my core cube created a boost effect, rocketing me into the air and making it possible to clear a library area’s rather formidable walls. And again, the physics-based weight of it all felt hefty and satisfying, but there’s a degree of imprecision to it that gives me reason to worry. Puzzles, meanwhile, were largely rudimentary “here’s how to use your basic powers” fare, but the less hand-holdy ones weren’t afraid to toss out the odd toothpick sliver of a platform, making it all the harder to gauge where exactly I’d end up. Also – and again, this could be another result of early level syndrome – both levels felt stiflingly linear.
Apparatus definitely has a neat concept underlying it, though, and the mansion’s filled with just enough bizarre paraphernalia (Hi there, ghostly white bear statue) that I’m fascinated by what could occupy its ornately not-quite-right depths. Also, why am I made of blocks? I mean, I’m no expert on the matter, but I’m pretty sure that kind of thing doesn’t happen to people very often. So yes, I’ll be keeping an eye on this one, I think.