Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Antichromatic (Ouya)

In these golden days of independent gaming we have many ways of getting our fix of self flagellation - it's almost a hallmark of indie games in general to be harder than mere mortals can comprehend. On some occasions they cross the line a little too much and make us question if the game is to blame for our unending torture or does it come from a dark, primal place within us that begs for punishment that forces us to persevere?

My first play-through of Antichromatic was going at a fair pace initially, I had beaten a good 80% of the game with only a handful of lives lost. The scar tissue on my thumbs from Super Meat Boy & N+ went a long way to prepare me for the punishment I was now enduring but all my prior 'hardcore indie badges of honor' went flying out my window thanks to one particular room.

That one evil room. An unrelenting, hate powered, and utterly detestable pit of despair just 3 rooms from the end...

I had only fired up my Ouya for a quick blitz before bed, my wife was having a bath so I had a good hour to mess about (or so I thought) with my festively neglected wunder-box. Four hours later and I am reduced to a small puddle of nerves and I have endured 679 attempts at clearing this single room. Antichromatic is equal parts dream and nightmare.

The game-play takes place in a Metroidvania style; you gain abilities as you progress, each requiring you to backtrack to previously inaccessible areas - the gimmick being the ability (and necessity) to switch between two fractured dimensions in order to navigate the ghoulish labyrinth. Antichromatic holds your hand a little early on but soon you'll be expected to shift between dimensions rapidly - almost to the point where you question if its possible. I found the Ouya's official controller to be a poor fit for this game, normally I would sing the pads praises but with Antichromatic it simply isn't responsive enough.

The visuals are designed to be basic, in no way is it trying to 'wow' you with its simple Gameboy style graphics, and you will only encounter a handful of colours during your stay. Keeping with the minimal atmosphere, there are very few sounds on offer but the simple melody that plays on loop never grates - like the visuals little is in place to distract from the pixel perfect jumping or brain melting puzzles.

The puzzles are where the game really shines. Antichromatic starts off simple and gradually gets trickier, your brain muscle being constantly worked whilst the game throws new and challenging ideas into the mix. For a platformer the controls are good, but as I mentioned above there is no room for error - should your controller be on its way out I doubt you will be able to finish the game as the later levels have ZERO room for error.

My only grievance (other than lack of sleep) is that the Ouya version I played had some serious quirks, one room in particular would randomly kill me during wall jumps - and this is extremely annoying when the game is such a demanding master. It's hard enough when the mechanics work and simply impossible when the glitch gremlins are having their wicked way.

If I were to review this game using only the one word, that word would be sadistic. I have enjoyed my time with Antichromatic however I think that may say more about me as a masochist than the game itself. If you love challenging, puzzle platformers I strongly recommend giving it a go!

Download the Ouya version here (from the Discover store).
4 out of 5