Forma.8 (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Tomas Barry 12.09.2017

Review for Forma.8 on Nintendo Switch

There's really no shortage of Metroidvania-style experiences these days. The sub-genre tends to focus on the exploration of large 2D or 2.5D environments, with the aid of a map, and the acquisition of new character abilities along the way to enable access to new areas. Especially amongst indie developer projects, this style of template seems an attractive and viable one, hence the quite significant volume of these games currently. MixedBag SRL, however, has tried to distinguish its take on the experience in several ways. Firstly via an exceptionally low price point, but more importantly, through its extremely well-crafted and cinematic approach toward design, particularly in terms of the progression of its colour palette across the experience. Unlike most of the competition, then, Forma.8 has a stronger emphasis on the walking simulator side of things (though you control a floating robot orb here), as well as its aesthetic values, to create an atmosphere.

Forma.8 was initially released on the Wii U back in 2015, before being made available for phones, tablets, PC and PS4 back in late February. Devoid of any real story, except the abstract outline that you're a robot drone crash-landed on an alien planet, this very visceral and atmospheric experience sets its own tone and pace with confidence.

The design of this world, while simple, really is evocative and stunning at times, especially since the title is so conscious about creating contrasts. Dark and gloomy, tight and constricted passages, with laser traps and various types of environmental puzzles, eventually give way to sprawling and colourful vistas that make no effort to box the player in, creating a palpable sense of relief in the player as they emerge into the open. These shifts seem to be central to the gameplay here, which really does help to leave a lasting impression.

Screenshot for Forma.8 on Nintendo Switch

If one were to print stills of the entire game, or just look back over the countless screen caps most players will likely chalk up throughout, they'd reveal a particularly thoughtful approach to the progression of colour, which really does leave a lasting impression across the full breadth of the game. It's likely that keeping the 2D art style so clean and simple helps to accentuate this, but the developers certainly should be applauded for making such an effort, since it ends up being such a distinct aspect of the overall experience and is often overlooked.

This attention to detail also pays off since it makes each space feel more distinct and progressive in a natural sense, rather than simply a series of smaller areas that are interconnected only through a map. Different and interesting varieties of audio textures also help to distinguish and colour each part of the world, and these mostly visceral qualities each provide a measure of gratification when a new ability or item opens a new area to be discovered.

Screenshot for Forma.8 on Nintendo Switch

Forma.8 can be quite a relaxing experience at times, then, but it's also quite challenging. There's a considerable variety of enemies encountered along the way, all of which require separate tactics and approaches, and there are also some boss and mini-boss encounters that can be tough depending on what piece of gear is required. While the puzzles, key collecting and navigating aspects are enjoyable (though sometimes overwhelming due to the lack of a map and HUD elements), the floaty movement, which implies a good deal of momentum, makes a lot of the enemy encounters that require precision very hard work.

If there's one area where the title falls short, it would have to be here, since it leads to so many frustrating moments. Granted, while some of these issues of precision are alleviated as different abilities are acquired, it seems rather gruelling to have to suffer some of these moments on a regular basis. The best illustration is the first combination of abilities, using the pulse to bounce remote bombs that the drone drops to hit enemies and surfaces, which is far more difficult than it needs to be. Additionally, it seems bemusing that you can't use the d-pad, even when playing docked with a Pro Controller.

Screenshot for Forma.8 on Nintendo Switch

Forma.8 also suffers from some rather retro-centric notions of difficulty, with one particularly annoying example of this being the lack of checkpoints. Some areas really are huge, often with environmental hazards that need to be carefully navigated to avoid an untimely demise. It's incredibly frustrating being ousted by the final step of the navigational puzzle and being returned to the entrance of the room feels like too big of a slap in the face, especially considering the demands the game makes of the player in combat. To be frank, there's really no reason these sections, where there aren't enemies, need to be punishing to that extent, especially since these moments often test the gamer's will to push on.

This leads to the last point about this game experience, which is simply that it may be too big. While there's absolutely no doubt that avid fans of the Metroidvania genre may find themselves engrossed all the way to the end, given how slowly the title's progress percentage indicator has ticked up, there's a good chance not everyone who starts it will follow it through. This is partly because an abstract story doesn't provide much incentive, but mostly because it just seems unnecessarily large. One of the key things for a game that depicts a journey in such abstract terms is knowing when to wrap things up. Unfortunately, Forma.8 loses sight of this issue a bit, being a little too long in the tooth for many to complete.

Screenshot for Forma.8 on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

It is very difficult to complain about such an affordable and aesthetically-rich package. For its price point, Forma.8 is a surprisingly long and thoughtful Metroidvania-style experience. While the overall balance is a little off, largely due to the lack of precision handling and awkward combat, this is more than made up for through the game's rich atmosphere, depth of progression, and the attention to detail paid to elements of gameplay and aesthetic contrast. The Nintendo Switch also seems an ideal home for this indie adventure, with no discernible issues with this version, granting it another opportunity to shine. While it hardly reinvents the genre, it's certainly worth adding to the library, considering the price, particularly for fans of Metroidvanias. In addition, with the tablet and mobile version suffering from touch screen controls, this version undoubtedly reigns supreme as the penultimate portable version, too.

Developer

Mixed Bag

Publisher

Mixed Bag

Genre

2D Platformer

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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