By Thom Compton 17.04.2017
Oh, Metroidvanias. How you have teased over the years with nonlinear corridors and crazy boss fights. If only you could be re-invented as a little space robot floating aimlessly around a map, with interesting things tucked away to find. Wait, maybe you can. Maybe that's called forma.8.
Metroidvanias are all about exploration and backtracking once players have the means to do so… and then exploring more areas. To this end, forma.8 manages to excel like few others can. If the space bar is pressed, a simple, almost primitive map can be seen, laying out where players have been and vaguely laying out the destination.
Where forma.8 becomes almost the perfect Metroidvania, though, is that each screen feels like a map. As the little space buddy is navigated through the treacherous terrain, it's like moving the "You Are Here" blip on the mall map around the game's map. This is the absolute best feature of forma.8, as the rest of it doesn't quite capture that same level of magic.
The first faulting point, and the most obvious one, is the controls. Now, let's be frank. More realistic controls are, in fact, a cool thing to experience. It's cool to see the medium manage to achieve almost lifelike control of an avatar. In forma.8, it's like controlling a puck on an ice rink with a really long stick. For instance, when letting go of a direction to bring the little robot to a stop, this often acts more as a suggestion.
This is exceptionally annoying at times, as the planet you're on wants you dead. There's no nicer way to put that. Now, here's where the paths converge into a frustrating cocktail. Each of these enemies hunting you with Predator-like precision is incredibly interesting. From giant fly-like creatures that follow relentlessly, to monsters vomiting fire, the enemies aren't wildly creative, but their behaviour feels real. There's no easy way to predict what they'll do, and that makes the ecosystem feel more genuine.
When factoring in the often uncomfortable controls, then, players will find themselves in a bit of a loss. With that being said, though, there's still enough to keep the average player interested. Collectibles, incredibly interesting boss fights (when you figure out how to kill the first spider, it's harder to match that degree of accomplishment) and a massive world provide plenty to enjoy. The art style is absolutely, as the kids say these days, on point. By making everything, including you, in the foreground black, and the background vibrant colours, it allows the game to feel like it's got a depth of field it doesn't actually have.
forma.8 is all about exploring the environment, and to that end, it gives plenty to explore. With some clever enemies and bosses, and one of the most beautiful, yet minimalist, art styles around, it manages to set itself apart from so many other Metroidvania games. It suffers from its touchy controls, but is still worth a trip.