Kieron prophesised that the platformer renaissance was likely drawing to a close in his Super Meatboy thought-thunk just before Christmas, but while I suspect he’s on the money in terms of breakout, mainstream-bothering hits, I don’t think platforming’s going anywhere when it comes to small, experimental games. Running, jumping and optionally shooting/thumping remains an incredibly simple and most of all effective framework for toying with other ideas, especially in terms of narrative and aesthetics. The systems are straightforward and accessible, the development time and cost is low – you just can’t have that kind of efficiency at a small scale with pretty much any other genre.
Which brings me to Armor Games’ K.O.L.M., a game nominally about the running and the jumping, but actually about something else.
We’re back in the wee land of browser-based Flash games, which is precisely why the visual trickery on show is so impressive. It’s all in the camera – slightly shifting 2D screens, fuzzy blurovision to denote impaired robo-sight, and playability (what an ugly word, sorry) retained even at minute zoom-out. Most every screen in the game offers some mildly disorientating change from the last, which makes the Metroid-esque backtrack’n’upgrade structure all the more compelling.
It’s dreamlike and unpressured for the most part too, a world away from yer VVVVVVVs and Meat Boys. This is a game about piecing together the correct order of travel (via the narrative device of piecing a broken robot back together), not pushing your reflexes and spatial awareness to inhuman levels.
Throw in a little bit of narrative GlaDOSiness, some sinisterly calm music and an elegant control scheme, and you’re onto a very smart gamette. Thanks to CMaster for the tip – and also for offering the advice that it’s perhaps best to not head to the ultimate exit until prompted to do so.