By Thom Compton 03.01.2017
The first person perspective is, one could argue, becoming one of the most common camera angles indie creations use. While it may be a bit tedious at this point to argue whether so called "walking simulators" have any place in gaming, it's also being used more and more for exploration and parkour style gameplay. Refunct is definitely one of those, though it seems to leave the parkour for the first person jumping, while the rest can be found elsewhere.
Let's get this out of the way right now. Refunct is painfully short. It doesn't hide it, but that doesn't change that the playtime doesn't breach the hour mark, which is a little upsetting. This is, at its core, a game about finding the next button and opening up more of the world. It's essentially a time trial where the one must get through checkpoints, without the worry of having any time limits. It is here that it excels, as it's more of a breakdown of this type of gameplay.
It has a sort of polished minimalism to its art that's frankly beautiful. It's not going to stand tall against graphical juggernauts, but its pristine, stucco-like walls that transform into clearly textured blocks are so simple, yet so convincing, that they are a joy to look at. The water is the clear winner here, as the depth of it when in it is just short of mesmerizing. Even when standing at the edge of it, it's clear that this is a world where water may be the only living, breathing companion you have. Again, Refunct is just about hitting those buttons while wildly inconsistent music trades moments of easy listening, with a soundtrack John Williams may accuse of being too loud and triumphant. It's weird hearing fanfare when you're only 75% of the way through the game, for it to give way to tranquillity again.
One of the most interesting features is that anytime you touch the ground, it changes from a dull stucco to the grass texture. This plays into the larger idea that this is aiming for. If you're unaware, 'refunct' is a term that means returning to a working state after not working for a certain period of time. You are clearly not just hitting buttons, swimming through gorgeous water, or collecting a handful of interesting collectibles. You're bringing this world back to life, after it has remained dead for so long.
The gameplay is, unfortunately, a bit inconsistent. While the basic manoeuvres are all there (WASD movement plus mouse-look), and the shift button crouches and slides. The issue is with the spacebar, which is supposed to allow jumping and climbing. Climbing doesn't seem to work as intended, instead requiring taping the button repeatedly to reach the top of a structure, while only working on some of them. Otherwise, movement just seems odd.
The game allows a lot of liberties. This is good, because some of the platforms are too far apart to reach conventionally. Fortunately, as long as you're somewhat near the surface you're jumping to, it will register that you've landed on it. Pipes, jump pads, and elevators are also littered around the area, and all of these require good planning on the player's part, but this isn't used to great effect. Only a few of the pipes require using them in a unique way, and there are only a couple of the jump pads. This could be excused because this is so short, which is really the actual problem with the sparsity of the mechanics.
One of the coolest mechanics at hand is the wall jump - helpful for reaching higher areas to find a button - but even that is criminally underused due to the overall short length. While no one should avoid this because it's tiny, Refunct's biggest crime is having so many interesting mechanics that simply won't ever get fully explored.
Refunct, while a very short, and far from a smooth game, is also one that does its job is such a short period of time. It tricks you into believing it should've taken longer, and definitely makes players feel good about themselves in the process of reviving a long dead world, but It just feels like it's trying to do too much in its short time frame, and, therefore, most mechanics just feel underused. It's a beautiful world, just don't get used to it.