Wot I Think: Perspective

By John Walker on April 3rd, 2013 at 7:00 pm.

One of the most intriguing games to appear at this year’s GDC was unquestionably Perspective. While certainly robbed at the IGF Awards, it received much positive attention, and deservedly so. A fresh approach to perspective-arranging platforming, blurring 3D and 2D gaming in a way that you’ll not believe your brain will put up with, it’s entirely free to get hold of. Here’s wot I think:

When I first saw Perspective, my eyes rolled. They were wrong to, but they did it. They’ve been punished since. But in the world of indie platform gaming, the gimmick rules highest, and Perspective’s looked too familiar. Perhaps it’s a great testament to the state of indie gaming that a concept where line-of-sight creates new pathways for exploration feels over-used. However, getting my hands on Perspective – as you can too – revealed a game that was far more sophisticated and impossible-seeming than I’d imagined. In fact, I’m pretty sure it’s powered by witchcraft.

Watch as I attempt to describe it with words: You character is a 2D sprite, who exists on a 2D plane. However, the world he’s in is 3D, explorable by you from a first-person camera. You can walk the corridors of what is essentially a peculiarly labyrinthine arcade, freely of the 2D sprite. The magic occurs when you hit the left mouse button, your perspective freezes, and 2D chappy then moves about based on a flattened interpretation of whatever you were looking at. The 3D world is filled with blue and orange blocks, shelves and walls. Your 2D friend can only touch blue, and dies if he touches orange. So you have to create pathways for him to move from one arcade cabinet to the next, or indeed within the levels contained in the cabinets to reach their goals.

And it’s not that simple, either. Because 2D fellow gets frozen in place when you’re in 3D, it can mean moving the camera means he’s floating above nothingness until you engineer a block to be beneath him. Switch modes again and he’s now standing on said block. Or perhaps there’s an evil orange pillar blocking his way? Move around until the scenery obscures that orange from view, but leaves blue either side, and he’ll be able to jump past it unharmed. In the end, you’ve got a sort of single-player co-op game, between two dimensionally divided chums.

So we have a brilliant concept. How about the delivery? Surely something so complicated can’t be usefully limited? Seems it can. The levels of Perspective, while certainly not overly difficult once you’ve figured out the tricks, are fantastically well realised. And indeed it’s figuring out those tricks that provides the genuinely magnificent moments. Seeing your sprite at one end of a long corridor, with impassable orange walls down the entire length, seems impossible. Until you realise you can jump upward from the top of the blue wall you’re on, into the blank space of the ceiling, then freeze, rotate the view so you’re facing the other end of the corridor with your chum high above your head, let him fall a screen-length, freeze, lower the view so the blue at the far end of the corridor is beneath him, then unfreeze once more. He’s down the other end now.

I think what becomes most remarkable about it all is how it stops feeling remarkable. Yes, of course I’m lining up distant walls to match near ones, to let my character run along them both as if they’re the same flat surface, only to then run to that distant wall in a different corridor where he now stands. Sure, that’s just how things are. It becomes intuitive, despite being so outlandishly impossible and unreal.

And it keeps delivering new tricks. As you play you’ll likely have noticed that when you run toward or away from a surface the sprite (I wish they’d given him a name – I’m going to call him Charles), he stays the same size. This means getting very close to him means he’ll essentially shrink in comparison to the scenery around him, and of course appear giant the further you move away. Again, that’s a necessary device for moving young Charles about.

It’s also far bigger than I was expecting, and starts to develop its own implied story. Later levels feature many new tricks, none of which I’ll discuss since it was a pleasure to find them for myself. And it’s fair to say that later on it gets an awful lot more difficult. The sort of difficult where you think, “Right, I need to stop playing for a bit, let my brain reset.” That’s a good sort of difficult.

It’s never the prettiest game – you’ll have no trouble believing this is an expanded version of a DigiPen final project, finished in the team’s spare time. Just some anti-aliasing would have made a world of difference. A complete rebuild in a fancier engine wouldn’t be a bad thing, either. Perhaps for a commercial release. But the sheer brilliance of the concept here is enough to avoid any real worries about presentation. In fact, it’s hard to imagine a better choice for Valve to snap up for their concept for a Portal 3, really. It lost the Technical Excellence award at this year’s IGFs to, insanely, the technical nothingness of Little Inferno. A very… weird situation. However, it went on to win enormous approval from an enthused audience at the Experimental Gameplay Workshop, which features the rather splendid oddity of people applauding excellent mechanics. It received much applause. You’ll likely applaud it too.

It’s entirely free, which means there’s absolutely no reason whatsoever not to check it out. It makes your brain work in a whole new way.

, , , , , .

22 Comments »

Sponsored links by Taboola
  1. aliksy says:

    Played it last night for a while. Fun, though it crashed twice.

    Music’s a nice touch, too. It changes when you change perspective.

  2. Premium User Badge

    HicRic says:

    I remember playing this a little while back. It was a real joy to play, the mental gymnastics caused by twisting my perspective this way and that proved tricky and satisfying. The ending is nifty, too. I’d happily pay for a commercial release.

    • Berzee says:

      Same here. My mind was consistently bedazzled (until I started acquiring the eerie talent for it that Sir Walker references).
      My attention span for puzzlers is very bad though, so I didn’t beat it. Now that I hear it has a cool ending, hopefully I will! (I expected it to be a sort of “Ok, you win. Here’s some music and credits” deal, but if it’s nifty…I like nifty).

      • bjohndooh says:

        Didn’t beat it?

        I couldn’t clear the first hurdle.
        The jump sound plays, but the guy never leaves the ground.

      • Premium User Badge

        Sinomatic says:

        I played this a while ago and really enjoyed it, but never finished (I’d hit a point of mind-bending that I didn’t have the headspace for at the time). Is the ending worth going through it all again?

    • Soolseem says:

      I read your comment, then beat the game, then was disappointed by the ending, then totally wasn’t.

    • Premium User Badge

      Henke says:

      Personally the ending freaked me out. :O

  3. Zanpa says:

    I played it a few months ago, and I really enjoyed it. I gave up on it before the end, because it became too hard for me and I had other games to play and too little spare time.
    I can only recommend everyone to check it out though. It really is a marvel when you understand some of the tricks, and a seemingly impossible puzzle becomes child’s play.
    It’s not frustrating at all, either, which is a very good thing for a game that becomes quite difficult.

  4. Michael Fogg says:

    This reminds me of the perspective puzzles in Batman: AA. You know, where you had to line up your view in such a way to put together the Riddler tag sprayed on the walls.

    • Caenorhabditis says:

      I loved those things! For some reason I didn’t like the puzzles in Arkham City nearly as much.

  5. Premium User Badge

    psepho says:

    John’s roly eyes are too cynical! I also played a version of this last year (on RPS recommendation, I think?). It’s a really sharp puzzler and (as far as I got) did an excellent job of pushing the possibilities of its core concept to find new puzzles without resorting to the introduction of new mechanics. I think I would go as far as saying it is one of the best puzzle games I’ve played over the last year or so (along with the fiendish Jelly No Puzzle). John’s WIT reminds me that I must go and finish it (brain permitting).

  6. The Random One says:

    This game is really great, although I didn’t like the parts with moving walls one bit. Glad the game ended shortly afterwards.

    The level structure is particularly marvelous.

  7. Premium User Badge

    Bluerps says:

    I’ve played this last December, when Mr. Grayson wrote about it. I really enjoyed it, finished it in one go.

  8. F3ck says:

    When I was a child I used to do this “perspective” thing when bored in class…or on long car rides…

    …well, apparently my childhood is long gone as I’m pretty terrible at this…

    …but it is awesome to play and I’m grateful to play it (am playing now).

    Fuck.

  9. CaspianRoach says:

    Oh come on, free? That’s disappointing, I want it on Steam.

    • Mr. Mister says:

      Digipen owns the rights to student projects and they can’t gan’t get commercialised, in addition to Digipen never agreeing to any distribution contract (free as it may be), yaddayaddayadda.

      • Ruffian says:

        Does that apply to the concept and mechanics and art and everything though? Or just the actual specific game that was made at digipen?

        • Premium User Badge

          Henke says:

          Just the game, not the mechanics. After all Narbacular Drop turned into Portal, and Nitronic Rush is turning into Distance.

  10. lucky88shp says:

    Loved this game! Took me around 2.5hrs to complete! The music was great too! They need to make an extended version of this game soon!

  11. Curly says:

    Perspective was a delight to play, and the ending might possibly be the best thing. A thousand game industry jobs each to the kids who made it.

  12. MondSemmel says:

    My body couldn’t cope with the changes in perspective to the extent that I almost threw up, and then felt motion sickness for a whole day afterwards =(.
    Other than that, it’s a brilliant concept, though I didn’t find the act of playing particularly fun. Lack of “juiciness” etc.
    The ending is amazing, though.

  13. Wedge says:

    So, how long before Valve grabs these kids and makes a game out of it? Not that I’d mind, this was really cool.