Short but serene.
In the days of video game rental stores and all physical media, before the Internet became prominent, one of the few ways to get information about a game was to look at the back of the box. You’d see a few screenshots and a hyperbolic description of the experience you could have if you decided to choose this particular title. While the name doesn’t give away very much, the eShop description of Refunct is honest to a fault: “a peaceful, short first-person platformer about restoring a vibrant world.” If this sounds interesting to you, well, you're already here so you might as well keep reading.
Refunct opens to a solid black title screen with only the title, the developer’s name, and a gently flashing A button prompt. Upon following said prompt, you are dropped into the world with no direction, no tutorial, and no hand-holding of any kind. Gentle background music plays as you see a light green platform at your feet and white pillars rising out of the ocean all around you. If you stand still a little longer, you’ll notice light beginning to shine down, causing shadows to move away and eventually disappear. The opening actually works really well if you just let it breathe a little bit: look around at the simple sky and ocean all around you before figuring out what to do next.
Gameplay is incredibly simple. You move with the left stick and control the camera with the right stick. You can jump with R and crouch with L. That’s basically it. Your objective is to activate beacons of red light that shoot out into the sky by stepping on them. When you step on one beacon, another one appears close by in the world, with more platforms being created around it so that you can reach it. As you step on platforms, they change from grey to green, signalling that you’ve already touched them. This reminded me a little bit of Q*bert, except you don’t seem to get any reward for turning all of the platforms green. Later beacons require you to do a series of wall jumps to reach higher spots, but they aren’t difficult to do, and you’ll automatically grab onto ledges and pull yourself up. Falling from a platform and into the water carries no penalty as you can actually swim around all the platforms and scamper back up onto one of the shorter platforms.
Some of the music tracks are more fitting than others, and they change with Refunct’s day-night cycle. The visuals are just as simplistic as the gameplay, but they do help you focus on the platforming and movement within the compact environment. Seeing the sky light up and then darken during my 20-30 minute playthrough of the game was cool and contributed nicely to the experience.
Ultimately, Refunct is incredibly simple, severely brief, and painfully easy, but this is exactly how it bills itself on eShop. The description contains a bullet list of selling points like “Peaceful,” “Relaxing,” and “Seamless,” and it certainly delivers on these promises. The controls feel good, too, with the actual platforming being very forgiving, and there are little collectables you can pick up but to no real end. If you need something to take your mind off a stressful day or an impossible Dark Souls boss, or just as a break between 30-hour RPGs, Refunct might do the trick. Just don’t jump in expecting Mirror’s Edge or Portal.