Does this moody former Nindies@Home demo deliver on its ambient, exploration-heavy promise?
Mixedbag’s long-in-development adventure game Forma.8 is finally set to release after a number of delays. Originally planned for iOS, development started in 2011, but the developer shifted their sights in 2014 to expand the game’s scope with a release on consoles. Highlighted in the E3 2015 Nindies@Home promotion, Forma.8 has had a long road to release, but luckily it seems to have been worth the wait.
When your ship loses power at the start, you take control of an exploration probe, the titular Forma.8, that sets out to uncover a powerful energy source hidden deep within the surface. The probe is very floaty and moves even when you stop accelerating. Open areas are easy to navigate, but as you progress, corridors get tighter and more precision is needed. Mastering the movement leads to great satisfaction as you deftly traverse difficult areas with little to no problem.
Your measly little probe is powerless to start, but new abilities are gained by absorbing powers from fallen comrades. An early ability is a helpful pulse attack that hits anything within a small radius of the probe while also acting as a way to hit switches. Another is a bomb ability that can be used in conjunction with the pulse to launch bombs all over the place.The novel fusion of abilities makes for fun, interesting gameplay, both in exploration and combat. The game continues to give you neat abilities right up to the end, but unfortunately you’ll only get to use certain mechanics for a brief period of time. This is a shame because I would have loved to see more puzzles based around late game abilities.
The world you explore in Forma.8 is rife with puzzles and environmental hazards, but not all of them are winners. A number of puzzles require moving objects with your ship, which turns out to be a tedious and frustrating chore. Furthermore, you’ll often be pitted against a plethora of different enemies ranging from birds to electrified jellyfish. Standard enemies alone don’t pose too much of a threat, but confined spaces and a flying pack of enemies can lead to a quick death. Luckily the penalty for death isn’t too taxing, as you just start back at the beginning of that area with half health. Forma.8 shines brightest in combat with the boss battles. Each boss has a unique and clever way to use your abilities that left me excitedly awaiting the next boss encounter.
The art style is distinct and eye-catching. The contrast of the black foreground against the insanely colorful backgrounds is jaw dropping, accentuated more by gorgeous zoomed-out views whenever you enter a large open area. Some of the most enjoyable moments were finding small caves under the surface that exploded with color. Coupled with the visuals is a great ambient soundtrack that at times adds to the wonder of exploration and the stress of tense moments. Even collecting a number of health orbs in a row leaves you with musical notes creating a little tune that is a charming touch.
Forma.8 offers a beautiful world to explore with a fun set of abilities and an engrossing assortment of bosses. The experience lasts about six to eight hours, but easily much longer if you’re a completionist, as an abundance of hidden items and power ups are nestled throughout. Notwithstanding a few minor issues and lack of GamePad functionality (a constant map would have been greatly appreciated), Forma.8 delivers a great exploration based experience that has left me excited to see what Mixedbag has in store for us next.