Wot I Think: Refunct

While waiting for a video to finish uploading to YouTube, I poked through the new releases on Steam and spotted the pleasingly columnular Refunct [official site]. Green ground, blue sky, sticky-up columns – it’s what everyone wants from games. So, with no real idea what it was, I gave it a boot. And cor, it’s a lovely little half-hour-long thing. Here’s wot I think.

It’s a free-running game, in some sense. Your job is to jump from pillar to post, turning grey concreted slabs into grass-covered pleasantness, purely by the power of standing on them. And what’s so lovely here is that there’s no tiresome teaching of the skills necessary to reach the higher platforms – it nonchalantly teaches them to you purely by tempting you to try. Soon I was parkouring about like a pro, skimming off the side of one wall to scale another, leaping up between two, or just pleasingly bouncing around the place.

There’s no plot, no given purpose. Just a bucolic calmness, pleasant soundtrack, and entertaining time. There’s a thing.

It is, I think, a little too slow. A sprint option to let things get really nice and speedy once you’ve mastered the controls would have been an improvement. And it’s also extremely short. I finished the thing (well, 96%ed the thing – I’ve still no clue how to reach two final towers – but reached the ending anyway) in under half an hour. But for a £2 game, that’s half an hour very pleasingly spent – the sort of game I wouldn’t mind playing again in another spare moment later in the week.

But what I think Refunct most importantly demonstrates is the nascent skill of developer Dominique Grieshofer. This appears to be his first public project, and what’s displayed here is a rare talent for communicating what a player needs to do in a game without ever having to actually say it. That makes me want to keep a careful eye on whatever he does next. And I rather hope that might be developing Refunct into a longer project. No need to add many new elements, either. Just a series of further levels based on a similar theme, maybe some new ways to sproing yourself higher in the air, and of course some greater difficulty. That please.

In the meantime, this is a little vignette of a thing, and it’s rather lovely. It’s £2, out on Steam now.

10 Comments

  1. paranoydandroyd says:

    This game is thoroughly enjoyable. It’s just NICE. I’m happy while I’m playing it. It puts me in mind of hexcells, if only for the way it makes me feel.

    Also, reach those other platforms by jumping as the lifts near the top.

  2. Grant says:

    I also like the casual and meditative gameplay style. I think this type of cathartic experience (flower et al) is lacking in games these days. But I also wish it was longer.

  3. Capt. Bumchum McMerryweather says:

    While it undeniably looks quite nice, what is the deal with this and other developers using what I like to call the minecraft aesthetic? It hampers the game from having a unique style!

    • Text_Fish says:

      It’s an easy visual style to pull off (phwoar), so I guess in a game that’s mostly conceptual and created by one person it’s a sensible choice.

    • Scandalon says:

      That’s not “minecraft” style, and I’m rather surprised anyone would call it that.

      • Capt. Bumchum McMerryweather says:

        So you wouldn’t call the proliferation of worlds made out of squares directly after the release of Minecraft a Minecraftian style? Well I guess a spade’s a shovel then, really.

        • Boothie says:

          Yes i wouldnt, not in this case atleast, the terrain is non destructible, it has higher resolution textures (compared to minecrafts style of pixels so low res you can see the individual pixels in a dirt texture for example) it has plenty of non square elements like round buttons and pipes. It looks nothing like minecraft really.

    • Sam says:

      Ah, I remember the good old days when it would have been accused of ripping off Fez’s style.

  4. The Dark One says:

    I just saw Nick Robinson of Polygon stream this game. John didn’t mention it in this WIT, but there’s something really nice about the way the game has all the platforms sitting just under the surface of the water, waiting for you to activate them.