Pulse (PC) Review

By Thom Compton 16.11.2015

Review for Pulse on PC

One of the more divisive terms to crop up as of late is “walking simulator.” Some view it as a term that indicates a game is more narrative driven, while some view it as a stab at any game that's first-person and attempts to present gameplay in a simple way. Regardless of the opinion, Pulse will inevitably draw comparisons to other “walking simulators,” such as Gone Home and The Stanley Parable, despite not really falling into the same camp as them. It's definitely more of a platformer than either of the aforementioned titles, but is that really enough to give it its own identity?

The answer is no, which is fine, because Pulse doesn't rest on that alone. It features a protagonist who is blind, and sees through echolocation. It's a fun concept that plays out pretty well, as the world around the player is constantly lit up as they move, and the screen fades to black as they stand still. It comes with definite drawbacks, however, as some of the platforming requires lining up the jump, and when the screen goes black, it becomes more annoying than exciting.

Littered upon protagonist Eva's path are little bunny creatures, who tend to either serve a purpose immediately or have no purpose at all. They are cute and, at times, they react to the things the player has done to them (after throwing one at a campfire and picking it up again, its eyes clearly indicate it is not amused). They are used to solve rather simple puzzles, and despite their occasional use, they can be distracting when there's nothing to do with them. It can be confusing when they arrive, and after a lengthy search of the surrounding area, it turns out they serve no real purpose.

The platforming, as in most first-person games, tends to be a bit on the sluggish side. That's fine - not every game can be Mirror's Edge; it just needs to work. Unfortunately, for a lot of Pulse, it doesn't. While there's nothing inherently wrong with the controls, too often, jumping from platform to platform just ends in falling, due to the poorly spaced out platforms and unclear goals. In one section, it appears a nearby cog must be jumped to, when, in fact, the point of view needs to be adjusted to focus on a different area. It's a simple thing to rectify, but it's very misleading when platforms are presented that cannot be used.

Screenshot for Pulse on PC

Furthermore, a lot of the platforms are so deceptively hidden that trying to find them is ridiculously frustrating. One spot requires crossing a beam to reach an area previously impossible to get to, and finding the way to the beam is both obtuse and, honestly, something just stumbled upon randomly. It's very much about stumbling around wildly until an issue can be resolved.

Pulse is, unfortunately, also littered with technical issues. For instance, the game features water that can be drowned in. It works fine… until falling into the water with one of the aforementioned bunnies, and, suddenly, death takes several minutes of walking around the bottom of the lakebed before it finally comes. From that point onward, Eva can walk around the floor of lakebeds, with no clear way to escape, until the game is turned off and reloaded.

There are positives, and they mostly show up in the art and the soundtrack. The art is beautifully minimalist. Almost like the visuals in Race the Sun with colour, it fits perfectly with the echolocation. It's gorgeous for how hard it is to see, and too much detail could have made the fluctuating vision even more troublesome and sections of the landscape blurry. It was a very good design decision. The music is also very lovely, soft and melodic, although quick to match the tone of the game when needed. It holds up largely through the game.

Despite this, Pulse suffers from more than a few design flaws and technical issues that eventually way it down. The biggest issue, though, despite everything above, is that it's so short. Easily cleared in less than two hours, and upon fully understanding the game, it eventually can be beaten in less than 30 minutes. Perhaps that's for the best, as the limitations this suffers from really require a short playthrough. Although, as novel an idea as the echolocation idea is, it seems odd a game would cost so much when it's so short.

Screenshot for Pulse on PC

Cubed3 Rating

4/10
Rated 4 out of 10

Subpar

Pulse, if nothing else, doesn't feel finished. It feels like an alpha build that got pushed out so early it may have upset Early Access customers. While it obviously has potential (it's walked away with awards, after all), it feels largely incomplete, and like it should have been pushed through play-testing a bit further. If it gets some more depth, or, at least, if the depth it has gets fixed up and becomes more cohesive, it may live up to a lot of the hype it's generated. Until then, it's a game that exemplifies that just because an idea is good, it doesn't mean the product will be.

Developer

Pixel Pi Games

Publisher

Pixel Pi Games

Genre

Adventure

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  4/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   

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