Many indie titles released over the years have managed to shine far above the likes of Call of Duty and other major AAA franchises, the reason for this success is the direction with which the game has taken. A unique art style, story or game mechanic will cause players to remember that particular game for far longer than its initial playtime, and because of this, the indie market has grown to be a huge part of modern gaming. One of the latest titles of this kind to be released is forma.8, which looks to possess a few quirks of its own. But is it worth delving into further?
forma.8: PS4 [Reviewed], PS Vita, Wii U, Xbox One, iOS, PC, Mac, Linux
Publisher: MixedBag Srl
Release Date: 22 February 2017
Price: £11.99 [Disclosure: Game Copy Provided by Developer/Publisher]
The oddly named forma.8 has you controlling a little round sphere of a machine unsurprisingly called a “forma”. These contraptions each began their journey in a rocket, setting course for a planet of some kind. After being shot across the planet, you take the role of the very one that happens to crash land into a large structure. From here, you explore the area and uncover new paths. forma.8 doesn’t have much of a story if any at all, and so you may find yourself wondering what this machine actually is, where it is, and most importantly why it’s there.
The context is minimal, but the main focus of forma.8 lies very much within in its gameplay. It also has an art style akin to the likes of Playdead’s Limbo but manages to make it its own, plastering a variety of light and dark colours on the screen, all of which are used to great effect.
forma.8 is quick to throw you into the action, after a very short introduction, you begin your time with the forma without any form of tutorial. Thankfully, the controls are very simple and boil down to moving around with the left stick and using a specific button for each of the abilities you periodically acquire. At first, there appears to be no exact aim given to you, but this becomes slightly clearer as you progress.
There are many areas throughout the game that are all divided up. As you go through each one, you will quickly discover that there are many branching paths that go to different areas, or even have you looping back to a previously visited location. The entire map is one huge connected level, aside from one or two isolated areas, so load times are extremely minimal. Every single area, once discovered, can also be visited again whenever you please, adding to the sense of exploration. Because of this, linearity isn’t what forma.8 is about. It regularly encourages you to search everywhere you can for hidden paths and items, so that you can overcome obstacles to find even more pathways.
As you meander through the labyrinthian world map, you will stumble across various items that will help you to progress further. forma.8 isn’t without its collectables, with artefacts and secret objects littered across the map, waiting to be discovered. There are also energy flowers that will increase your health each time you find a set of three. The most important of all the items, though, is the special keys that you find. These will unlock gateways, therefore allowing you through to a previously unexplorable pathway.
With this access also comes more rewards, secrets and keys. It’s a constant process of exploration that will present eureka moments when you finally come across a well-needed key for a gate that you stumbled across three areas ago. However, this may also cause you to feel lost on occasion. With some paths hidden behind barriers that can only be accessed with specific abilities, you may begin to wonder where you need to go to find the correct object.
With a lack of direct aim, it becomes a case of eliminating areas that provide no progression until you finally find the right one. It can be ever so slightly frustrating, but I can’t deny the feeling of accomplishment when I finally overcame a hurdle that I was stuck on for a good hour.
forma.8 may have an emphasis on exploration, but that isn’t all the game is. As mentioned previously, you will find new powers and abilities to make yourself stronger, such as a bomb, shield and turbo boost, amongst others. These will be used to tackle the enemies that chase you through areas, as well as environmental traps. They start off simple enough, but eventually, it might become easier to succumb to your death if you get overwhelmed by what feels like millions of bouncing spiked blobs. It will be second nature to spam your explosive shield through a barrage of enemies as you race to the other side of the area, but it’s when you come across bosses that your powers are truly put to the test.
Every boss you come across will appear without much warning, demanding that you figure them out before attempting to reign down your destructive power upon them. They act almost as a glorified environmental trap, and once you figure out their weakness, you will be able to use an ability to exploit the chink in their armour and eventually destroy the boss. Each boss is fairly interesting, but they aren’t the game’s strongest point. Fortunately, if you die, you start just outside of the boss encounter so it isn’t too much of a nuisance. This is also the same in any situation. Death only brings you back to the start of the current area you were in, so there’s never too much time lost.
forma.8, while possessing an unusual name at first glance, is actually an enjoyable title. The enticing art style will quickly draw you in and is regularly pleasing to the eye, and the aspect of exploration gives you plenty of breathing space as you play. The desire to find every pathway and location constantly looms, and it is this that will keep you going, even if you do occasionally get lost in the process. Enemies can be slightly frustrating if you allow them to be, but making it past them and to a brand-new boss is a reward all in itself. Although the story is extremely minimal and gives little context to the rest of the game, your forma will still have a good ride nonetheless.