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Freeware Garden: Impulse

This picture could be a metaphor for all sorts of things.

Deck 16’s Impulse is a deceptively simple game on paper. All it asks of you is to guide a little neon circle (a.k.a. “your craft”) from point A to point B and notice how gloriously fun those ancient, physics-based propulsion mechanics still are. Intriguingly it does consider itself a mash-up of Super Meat Boy and Lunar Lander too.

The fact that it starts off with fourteen levels worth of tutorials should of course be indication enough that Impulse is not as straightforward as one would expect. Simple to grasp, yes, that it definitely is and its controls are as intuitive as these things get, but even coming close to mastering the little devil requires efforts of herculean proportions.

Your simple thruster will indeed move your craft towards your (clicked) mouse cursor. It won’t obviously be able to calculate the effects of gravity or atmospheric drag though, nor estimate the trajectories of baddies or manage to avoid all sorts of deadly collisions.

Deceptively, just to ease you in I suspect, the first twenty levels (including tutorials) will be a relatively smooth sail with, probably, less than a hundred  deaths. Another seven to eight hours and you’ll already be tackling level 49 and basking in the admiration of your fellow gamers. Throw in a month or so and you’ll beat the whole bloody game and earn my undying respect or, at the very least, have a devilishly good time trying to.

This one, not so much. It most obviously is an aquarium.

Impulse may be a tough nut to crack, but it’s brilliantly designed and never gets frustrating. Besides, you’ll never tire of dying. This is a game of a thousand deaths that keeps transforming itself.

Drag, gravity, time limits and all of its other variables are liable to change with each and every level. Gravity could be strong, weak or non-existent; it may even pull in odd directions, whereas your craft’s thrusters could be anything between powerful and puny, while environments range from the vacuum of space to super-dense seas.

Impulse, as you scholarly types must have already deduced, constantly (and fairly) plays around with its rules, missions styles and keeps mixing things up, effortlessly mutating itself from a physics-based puzzler to a frantic avoid-’em-up or anything in between. The variation in its (god and expert players only know how many) levels is simply staggering.

Obviously, equivalent amounts of versatility are also required of you. Switching from a puzzle to an arcade mindset and from precision to reflex focused gameplay is both required and deeply rewarding. As rewarding as the thing’s excellent soundtrack some would argue.

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Konstantinos Dimopoulos

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