By Gary Gray
Froma.8 is an early 2017 game that is available on all major platforms, but the Nintendo Switch is surely the best home for it! Gameplay lends itself perfectly to the handheld features of Switch, as Forma.8 is best played in short bursts of immersion.
As soon as you start Forma.8 you're greeted with a beautiful cut scene that sets the tone and story perfectly. As a spaceship approaches a planet, the on board computer boots up small sphere shaped droids that get fired towards the planet's surface, upon approach, your character droid crash lands which in effect sets up the start of the game.
Surrounded by the darkness, isolation and earines of planet you’re set to explore, the first room builds the ambient feeling of barren lands that forma.8 has running throughout.
Forma.8 is mainly an exploration based game that has you shifting back and forth between different sections of a beautiful world. Physics are what builds the majority of the controls as your floating probe takes time to accelerate and decelerate, making you think ahead in situations of conflict and confrontation. Further progression through the game sees you upgrading and building an arsenal of new abilities and attacks, from a small quick burst of energy to take out surrounding threats, to a timed bomb that can be propelled away from you.
Everything complies together perfectly for the feeling of emptiness yet sheer beauty that Forma.8 holds, and the controls only add to that feeling. Every small winding cave will have you bumping and scraping walls, where the jaw dropping open Vistas make it well know that you’re a small entity in this huge planet.
Combat and Puzzles require thought as opposed to just charging in. Approaching a situation carefully will be the result in a greater chance of success, and sometimes you have to make a decision to just run for the sake of survival. Main bosses are incredibly thought out, with clever ways of defeating them, whether it be something to do with the environmental surroundings or assessing their attacks to take advantage of their move set.
Sometimes however the puzzles and bosses difficulty can be a little over cooked, offering a little too much challenge at the tail end of an easier empty section.
Dialogue is none existent, instead dropping you with no instructions on what you’re doing or which direction to head, leaving the visual and audio clues to be the guide you. There's a small minimalist map that lets you know where you’ve been in each area and the exits that you can take without letting you know how to get to them, adding to the exploration.
The stunning graphical style is equally complimented by the atmospheric ambient soundtrack, which really drives home a feeling of loneliness. The music is overlain by the sounds of the wildlife, hazards and other enemies that are scattered throughout the world. While fully emerged in the feeling of emptiness, the HD rumble of the Switch can sometimes break that feeling with its loud Spring like noises breaking the quieter parts of the game, as can the juddery frame rates when entering a new area.
Forma.8 is a fantastic game if you're into the “metroidvania” style games, with its fantastic art style, perfectly fitting soundtrack and a feeling that most exploration games struggle to communicate with the player. Developer Mixed Bag have pulled off a masterpiece of artistic brilliance in a brave venture for its exploration based gameplay that builds strengths from its ambiance and beauty.