Platform: PlayStation 4
Rating: E+10, for everyone over 10 years old.
I am a firm believer that video games are a valid form of art, blurring the lines between film, prose and painting—depending on the genre, of course. However, recently many titles have adopted a cell-shaded visual style that can, at times, try too hard to be called “art.” Like in the art world, we have to discern the real deals from the forgeries. So, with this in mind, which is Forma.8?
Falling from the Stars
The story in Forma.8, or the lack thereof, is relatively simple. You take control of a tiny probe sent to investigate a strange planet. Soon after you dispatch, however, something goes awry and your little explorer is sent crashing into the unknown. Whereas some video game narratives are told through lengthy dialogues read by experienced voice actors, Forma.8 opts to tell its tale via flashy and rather rapid cutscenes, without any speech whatsoever. This is a budget, downloadable title so the way in which developer MixedBag establishes the setting and the player’s objective in a short timeframe works in the experience’s favor.
Gaining your Wings
Forma.8 is a 2D side scroller in which you play as a small sphere. If this sounds minimalistic, well that’s because it is—at least at first glance. You begin by hovering around the landscape, becoming accustomed to the controls by bumping into the walls like a stray pinball. Avoiding the surrounding environment almost becomes a game in itself. Once you gain your bearings it’s time to survey the area, like the mission intended. This alien world is chock-full of danger, luckily our droid can find and use weapons, the earliest of which is a minor shockwave emitted into the immediate vicinity. This pulse does not extend far though, so using this form of defense also leaves you open to enemy attacks. Throughout the game you will find more weapons that are not only used as protection, but also as a way to solve puzzles.
That’s right, Forma.8 is also a puzzler. Pickups, like the ability to drop bombs, can be combined with the shockwave attack to access new areas. For example, you can drop a bomb and then use the shockwave to ping the explosive across the screen, killing an inaccessible adversary or blowing up a wall to reveal different locations and hidden items. This is where I had the most fun, exploring and solving the game’s many enigmas. It’s almost reminiscent of titles such as Limbo and Nightsky, both in gameplay and art style.
Painting a Picture
Independent games have really come into in their own in the last few years, thanks mostly to the latest generation of consoles offering indie developers a platform that was once only reserved for the computer screen. Since that success, many developers seem to copy one another, attempting to create the next hallowed piece of art. Sometimes they do and sometimes they don’t. When first booting up Forma.8, it’s truly hard to discern which side of the fence it falls on. It has all the tell-tale signs of great art, yet it also shares those same signs with many who have come before it. The color pallet is a beautiful vista of sunset yellows, deep blues, blazing reds, and shadowy blacks. This mixture sets a visually pleasing tone, making the backdrops more dazzling than the objects in the foreground. While some will find the layout aesthetically pleasing, others will see it more akin to a flash game one would enjoy on a cellphone rather than on a current generation console.
Many may criticize Forma.8 for attempting faux originally—copying the innovations of others—but just because it did come first, does not make it a rip-off. It may not be as fun or as well-crafted as Limbo, but it still stands on its own, and it’s still fun. If you are a fan of this genre or just want to stray from the norm, then give Forma.8 a whirl. You never know, you may just discover your new favorite piece of art.